It’s not so much the sport of baseball that captivates me; it’s the math

MIT Sloan Prof. Dimitris Bertsimas

I came to baseball later in life. As a kid growing up in Greece, I played soccer, which is very popular in Europe. I then got interested in American football, and basketball, and I also followed track and field. Even after living years in Boston – a rabid Red Sox town – I never gave baseball much of a thought.

Then, a while back, a friend gave me a copy of the book Money Ball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, because he knew I was interested in analytics. (You see, I have a passion for sports, but my greater passion is analytics.) The book, by Michael Lewis, is the story of how Billy Beane – a former player who later became general manager of the Oakland A’s – used an analytical, sabermetric approach to create a winning team. The A’s were the first team to heavily depend on quantitative methods, and at the time – we’re talking 2002 here – many considered Beane’s approach very radical, even foolish. But he made believers out of his skeptics. Even with the third smallest payroll in major league baseball, the A’s were able to use quantitative methods to gain an edge.

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