Wednesday, May 19, 2010


In 1997 the Oakland A's named 35 year-old Billy Beane their new General Manager. Beane was a new-age thinker, a sabermetrician who identified under-valued skills and quickly exploited those inefficiencies in the baseball player market. In Oakland, Beane implemented a statistically-based shift in baseball philosophy and consistently produced contending teams with a payroll that was in the bottom-third of the league.

If you've read Moneyball you're saying 'yes, we know'. Well...I promise you I'm going somewhere with this, so stick with me.

Boston began following Oakland's principles in 2002 when the Red Sox made 28 year-old Theo Epstein the youngest GM in baseball history. Epstein ended 85 years of Red Sox frustration by making several astute pick-ups and delivering a championship in 2004. A year later both Texas (Jon Daniels, 28) and Arizona (Josh Byrnes, 35) got with the program and then Tampa Bay hired 30 year-old Andrew Friedman in 2007. Collectively they have learned from the OBP boom, are thriving in the WHIP era and fully understand that the VORP needs to be with you.

That year the NBA finally noticed what was happening in baseball that and soon the Houston Rockets made 34 year-old Daryl Morey their GM and Sam Presti (31) took over in Seattle/Oklahoma City. Morey and Presti have adopted new ways of valuing players and their output. They've helped usher some of the new basketball statistics (Offensive/Defensive Efficiency, True Shooting Percentage, and Player Efficiency Rating) into the mainstream but more importantly they've used it for their advantage. Morey paid 50 cents on the dollar in a trade for Kevin Martin in February and has Houston in excellent salary-cap position to add a big name next summer. It's only with a tiny bit of hyperbole that I say Oklahoma City resembles the 1981 Edmonton Oilers - at worst they're a poor man's version. (Durant is Gretzky, Westbrook is Messier, Green is Lowe, Presti is actually works pretty well, you know...assuming the Thunder now go out and win four championships in five years.)

All of the aforementioned GM's share several qualities, namely: 1) age (clearly)...very young by comparison to the rest of their colleagues; 2) it was the first GM job for each of them; 3) they all embraced non-traditional statistical information; and 4) none are former elite players or come from famous sporting families. Epstein went to Yale. Friedman was a securities analyst. Byrnes began as a 24 year-old intern for Cleveland. They're college educated and/or have made there way up the ladder with smarts and hard work. Oh, and every one of their teams have an enviable roster stocked with homegrown talent and free of any ridiculously long-term contracts that can kill you.

And then there is the NHL, where Florida just hired 59 year-old Dale Tallon and back in November, Pierre Gauthier (57) took over in Montreal. Of the 30 NHL GM's, an overwhelming majority are on their second opportunity. Or they're a former high-profile player. Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman, who will turn 37 in June, is the youngest manager in the NHL and one of only seven current GM's under the age of 50.

This is by no means meant to be an ageist attack, nor a judgment on the capability of Tallon or Gauthier to run NHL teams. But the fact is that owners, specifically NHL owners, continue to hire the same types of GM's despite mounting evidence in other professional sports that this updated model is indeed better. Who will be the team that first embraces the MoneyPuck philosophy, and why in the world is it taking so long?

Back in Major League Baseball, two more teams joined the new-age trend this past offseason when San Diego put Jed Hoyer (36) in charge and the Toronto Blue Jays handed the keys to Alex Anthopoulos (32).

Both teams are off to surprising starts.


  1. Nice article. I assume you've got your resume ready to submit to MLSE?

  2. CSJ,
    Very good observations. I guess my question would be: what moneyball style of statistics could be undervalued in hockey? Everything is more or less controlled by the ice time given by the Coach. Plus/Minus is really the only stat i can think of the is a relatively fair representation of a players effectiveness regardless of ice time. Even that stat is not entirely accurate. How many times do you see a guy goign for a change when his team scores and he does the big U-turn back to cangratulate the goal scorer with his back turned to scorekeeper ensuring he gets the plus. The exact opposite happens too.

    I do agree though that the shift towards younger GMs seems to be very succesful in baseball. I don't follow basketball but your article seems to support that too. In hockey it seems to working for Chicago, so maybe this is the beginning your looking for. I hope so.
    I thought the Jays were nuts goign with AA, but you have to admit his pickups are all looking good so far!

    thanks for the read....


  3. Takeaways/Giveaways is a solid stat in hockey ... somehow combine that with points per minute and you have some sort of efficiency ratio ... and by that measure Datsyuk is probably the best player in the league.


  4. Well then, since all it takes is one counter example to invalidate a theory, the one that places Datsyuk at the top must be false.

  5. Points per minute would be the type of stat money puck would try to avoid. That would be the overvalued statistics imo. What type of minute? PP/PK, against the fourth line or the first,whats the players roll? I think its to finite-if that word works. Takeaways/giveaways though is right up money puck avenue. I didn't realize they kept this stat individually. Blocked shots/time would be a good one too.Penatly minutes/time also. Face off %.

    I am not sure this whole money puck theory appplies to hockey players. I think you have to come up with a measure for heart, courage and dedication if you want to succeed with money puck. But if you think about it furrher you would just end up with a whole team of third/fourth liners. Maybe it works for defenceman but you need your forwards to score and their is no getting around those stats.

    Maybe Billy Beanes assistant whos Name escapes me, harvard grad who created the mathematical approach to finding draft picks could figure something out. Might be a valuable piece of software!


  6. Where does Colangelo the spender fit into all of this?? Is he a moneyball 'tweener'???

    Also, "I am not sure this whole money puck theory appplies to hockey players. I think you have to come up with a measure for heart, courage and dedication if you want to succeed with money puck."

    Something tells me that if Darryl Morey can statitically determine the worth of Chuck Hayes, NHL GM's should be able to figure out what a 4th line banger means to their defense.