How a Baseball team used Numbers to Win

Call it coincidence, but over the past couple of days, I’ve discovered that the sporting “greats” use numbers to win.

What do I mean by this? Well, let’s look at the example of the Oakland A’s.

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Moneyball – Focus on One Number

Moneyball is a movie based on a true story of an underdog baseball team in 2002.

The movie follows the true story that the Oakland Athletics baseball team assembled a team of undervalued players, based on player statistics.

The reason was that the coach Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt in the movie, was handicapped with one of the lowest salary constraints in the league.  He had to innovate with how he put together his team.

So instead of hiring the expensive ‘A players’, Billy hired the players in the team, ironically, based on one number.  He hired them based on their ‘On Base Average’, or ‘OBA’.

After a bumpy start, the team ended up winning 20 consecutive games – and they credit this to the way that the team was formed.  All based on this one number that matters in baseball.


How does baseball relate to business?

We can compare this to business, where we need to get the whole business focused on one number.  A good lead indicator or key predictive indicator at that, rather than things like revenue or profit – which are made up of multiple inputs.

Examples of this one number could be customer related, sales related, cash flow, or other metrics that matter to your business. (I have gone into a bit more detail with examples in this article.)


So how do you find your “On Base Average” equivalent?

Finding what you should focus on is really a process of determining what matters in your business.

What are the biggest problems at the moment? Cash flow? Lack of leads? Your customer retention rate?

Ron Baker wrote a book in 2006 called “Measure What Matters to Customers“.  He writes with the belief that if you focus on what truly matters to your customers, then the financial numbers in your business will work themselves out for the best.

An analogy in the first chapter is of a canary in a coal mine.  An early warning system for the miners that carbon monoxide was in the air, and to high-tail it out of there.

What numbers really matter to your customers? (And do have a read of Ron’s book too, some brilliant ideas to help you.)


Here is more on Michael Jordan’s player statistics 

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