Downing is Not Moneyball

Downing Could Be A 'Moneyball' Buy | F365 Says
In some respects, Downing is a 'Moneyball' signing. Those of you that have read Michael Lewis's book will know that this approach is based on statistical objectivity, rather than subjective gut feelings or opinions. Instead of looking at a player's physical attributes, Billy Beane - the man around whom the book is based - would pay more attention to his statistics. Indeed, Beane would sometimes select players who his scouts actively advised against, as long as their numbers stacked up.

Beane adopted the 'sabermetrics' (a method of analysing baseball statistics objectively) approach with the Oakland A's, a baseball team towards the lower end of the financial spectrum in the MLB, because every dollar had to be spent wisely. Liverpool aren't exactly in the paupers section, but their resources are much more limited than many in the Premier League, so the same theory applies. John W. Henry and the Boston Red Sox won a couple of World Series on the back of that approach, and it looks like the theory is being carried over to Anfield.

In Downing, Liverpool are buying a statistically reliable footballer, who should in theory help get the best out of their current resources.
No, no, no.

Downing is NOT a "moneyball signing". As fashionable as it is to try to attribute that approach to Liverpool's new ownership growth that hugely misinterprets what moneyball means and what they are actually doing.

Look, it's no secret what their plan is. The article even makes the clearest case yet for what that is:
Perhaps the only attacking player that one imagines being a permanent fixture in that system is Andy Carroll, largely because at present Liverpool don't have another centre-forward capable of leading the line...

Therefore, much of Dalglish's strategy will be geared around exploiting Carroll's talents. It doesn't take a tactical genius to spot that much of Carroll's best work at Newcastle was done with Joey Barton pinging crosses onto his piratey head.
But the contention that Downing is a moneyball signing because he crosses the ball doesn't hold up because again, that's not moneyball.  First of all, that's not finding hidden value in a player based on advanced statistics as opposed to what the naked eye reveals.  That's just plain old-fashioned naked-eye work.  Downing is a winger who crosses the ball a lot.  I could tell you that and I can barely open a spreadsheet, much less interpret one. This is just team building 101.

Second, that's overlooking the "value" part of the moneyball equation.

[I]t's hard to contest that turning Downing into N'Zogbia and £10.5M doesn't represent a fantastic bit of business than a minute ago via bitly Favorite Retweet Reply

Liverpool overpaid for Downing. Explain it however you like - he's English, he solves a need, etc - 20million for Downing is over-the-odds. And it happened because it's SO CLEAR that he's English, and he solves a need. That's not moneyball.

The moneyball approach explains doesn't work for the Henderson signing either. Despite a surfeit of central midfielders Liverpool may have seen something in his cross rate when playing on the right side of midfield, or his successful pass ratio, that made them think that he can supply Carroll. But they still overpaid for Henderson. Adam too.

Looking at your needs and spending big to meet them isn't moneyball. Moneyball would have been saying that Gary McSheffrey looks statistically like another Frank Lampard and snatching him up relatively cheaply. And no, the moneyball approach doesn't always work out. But it's finding VALUE relative to more highly regarded, and paid, players and building a team around that value.

Downing isn't moneyball.



  1. Anonymous12:31 PM

    lol @ Liverpool. Henderson, Downing, Adam. Only Downing comes remotely close to filling a need, but for all his quality throwing in corners, he lacks pace, which is really what Pool need out wide. Suarez is the only player int he team with some natural pace, aside from Cole who cant get a game or stay healthy.

    Pool have spent 55m, and their reward will be leap frogging Tottenham for 5th!

    Youre REALLY going to see "moneyball" after three years without the Champions League.

  2. Dead Leg United12:42 PM

    Fabregas however, when he goes for 40 mil, will be quintessential Moneyball.

  3. Hmmm, i get the feeling that F365 haven't read Moneyball, besides maybe looking at the wiki page.

    I keep thinking about developing some sabermetrics for cricket but I never get round to it although since its statistically the same as baseball it does lend itself to number crunching

  4. Overpaid on Adam???

    Wow. Could not disagree more.

  5. @berty too many variables in cricket mate. U'd have to be really good at math to do it@berty too many variables in cricket mate. U'd have to be really good at math to do it

  6. @Adi - I think that's the point, if the math were easy, everyone would be doing it. cricket would be no harder that baseball where all this analysis started in sports. The hardest part in soccer is figuring out what and how to measure since it is a fluid game, baseball, cracker and American football are easier because there are a bunch of obviously measurable discrete events - pitches, snaps, etc

  7. @Chaos - I'm not sure I agree that Adam isn't worth the price paid but I'm positive he isn't worth that price for Pool who have plenty of other options at that spot. He'd have been great business at that price for FUL/AST/SUN/NUFC and others

  8. Well, without Gerrard out for the first 3-4 EPL games, it will be a chance for Adam mainly, and Downing (perhaps Hendo) to prove their worth immediately. One or all of them need to step up right away, and Pool have a tough start to the schedule, with their skipper gone.

    YFF-wise, I think this makes Adam more attractive, as he should get most set-pieces, at least from what I've observed in the preseason. BTW - what are they going to do with Meireles??