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Moneyball and Moneypuck

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I went to see Moneyball on Wednesday, and even though I was predisposed to liking it, it was better than I expected. But it still had to make the story much more black-and-white than it really was - on the dark side, you had the elderly scouts who said they wouldn't sign a guy with an ugly girlfriend because it showed he "lacked confidence", and on the other side, you had pre-weight loss Jonah Hill really getting into playing the part of a Yalie nerdlinger. Reality, as usual, is much more complex, but the long-and-short of it is that a lot more guys who look like Jonah Hill have been allowed into baseball's club over the last few years as teams look for any edge to win.

If you read James Mirtle's article today, you'll see that professional hockey is in a different place right now. But the great irony is that hockey embraced advanced statistics a long time ago - the Montreal Canadiens invented +/- long before Dallas Mavericks Director of Analytics Roland Beech introduced it to the NBA; when Jim Corsi was still a teenager, Harry Sinden was using what ultimately became the "Corsi Number" to evaluate Team Canada when they played against the Russians. But scoring chances are the best example: they've been collected by coaching staffs and TV crews perhaps since the dawn of time. Unlike in baseball, where it took an outsider like Bill James to change the way insiders thought, in hockey, insiders already think about the right things - they just haven't taken the next logical step and started collecting all the data they need to evaluate players outside of their own organization. (Baseball's revolution came from more and better data, not more and better regression analysis.) But as you can see from the article, there are lots of teams that are dipping their toes into this sphere, so it's only a matter of time before some team finds a bit of that "Moneypuck" advantage.

One last note on the Moneyball movie - and I'm not giving anything away here...It's funny that an over-arching theme is that Billy Beane is going to get fired. First of all, GMs almost never get fired, and certainly not in the season after they win 102 games. It is never mentioned in the movie, but Beane was coming off three-straight successful seasons, and had taken the team from well below .500 to serious contention. The Giants let Brian Sabean muddle through five consecutive losing seasons and still renewed his contract, so there's no way Oakland's owner was going to get rid of the guy who was winning within the confines of his revenues.