Moneyball and Football Pools

It’s interesting that people are treating the movie Moneyball like it’s full of radical new ideas. The statistical revolution in baseball wasn’t even new at the time the book was written. But the core idea of the book – taking advantage of market inefficiencies – has been around forever, since the first time someone made a lopsided trade at the local bazaar.

I, like thousands of other baseball geeks, was aware of all the statistical analysis described in Moneyball back in the ’80s from reading Bill James’ Baseball Abstracts. I was practicing law at the time, but I applied for a job with the Kansas City Royals’ scouting department with the idea to apply some of these methods. I was rejected as overqualified, which in the case of the Royals was probably true. They have been arguably the most stat-unfriendly organization in baseball, which is a losing strategy for a small market team. I’m not even sure they truly believe in the modern statistics that are in common use in major league baseball today.

But Moneyball is not really about stats vs. scouts or old vs. new. Sure, there was some disagreement on which stats are the most important, but everybody in baseball has always used statistics. What Billy Beane was really trying to do was what every business tries to do: take advantage of market inefficiencies. Because Beane  การเดิมพันบนมือถือ UFABETthought other organizations were utilizing the wrong stats, he figured he could get players who were just as good, albeit in a non-traditional way, for less money. On base percentage was undervalued, so he focused on that. Athletes who didn’t “look the part” were undervalued, so he focused on that. But all he was really trying to do was get more bang for his buck.

The exact same philosophy can be applied to football pools. There are all kinds of market inefficiencies in sports, situations where players are valued incorrectly because of bias or a misunderstanding of the statistics. Short quarterbacks (too low, see Drew Brees), high-scoring basketball players (too high, see Allen Iverson), baseball players who walk a lot (too low, see Moneyball). So what’s the market inefficiency in a football pool?

Each week in an NFL season, there are a number of games where virtually everyone picks the same team. If you go along with the pack, even if the pick is correct, you gain nothing. You’re just treading water. To win the pool in that given week, you have to pick the most games correctly of everybody in the pool. You can’t just pick the teams everyone else is picking. So the key to winning football pools is to identify the games each week where the public is almost unanimously predicting victory for one team, but in actuality the other team has an excellent chance to win. Your goal each week should be to find every 50-50 game you can that the public thinks is going to be a blowout and take the underdog.

For example, in week 3 of the 2011 season, if we used a Moneyball system, we would pick Buffalo over New England, something practically no one else on earth would do. This would take advantage of a huge market inefficiency to pick up two games (our win plus their loss) on everyone else in the pool on a game that we rated as a virtual toss-up. Sure, if the Patriots had won, we would have looked foolish. But we’re not trying to impress people with our picks. We’re trying to win the pool. And you don’t win pools by picking a team that every single other person in your pool is also picking. A Moneyball system is specifically designed to identify those games where everyone and their mother are on one side, but the game is actually fairly even.