Thursday, November 04, 2010

Moneyball in the English Premier League?

John Henry is going to try to employ Moneyball tactics at Liverpool, according to today's Irish Independent. Henry is a hedge fund manager so he's clearly comfortable with numbers and his GM at Boston, Theo Epstein, is of the Moneyball generation.

Moneyball was all about Oakland's Billy Beane and the 'genius' he was, but truthfully I always thought more of Epstein than Beane. Beane's teams were competitive, but always seemed to lack the winner's instinct, whereas Esptein built winners. Beane's teams seemed a bit 'soft' in crunch time. And, yes, I know their budgets were vastly different, but still big budget doesn't guarantee much (see NY Mets for all the proof you need). Epstein built good & tough teams - and the Red Sox had to be tough to overcome the curse, the failure of 2003 and the deficit they faced in the 2004 playoffs against the Yankees.

I know nothing of Damien Comolli, who the Independent says is expert at spotting young talent AND "close to Beane." That closeness means Comolli believes in statistics. I guess we're going to learn whether a similar appliance of science can be made in soccer. {I heard the guys on Off the Ball discussing this very subject on Monday, but didn't hear the name of the MLS man they were speaking to about the application of stats in American soccer.}

One thing I admired about Epstein is that, unlike a certain General Manager who used to work in Queens, he recognized that the introduction of drugs testing in baseball would turn a lot of older star players into has beens almost overnight. His team got young quickly, which resulted in their championship in 2008.

Today Liverpool and the Mets are a lot alike. Spending lots of money for little in return. Henry's goal is to make them more like the Red Sox than the Mets. It's an experiment, but I suspect Henry will get Liverpool winning titles again.

{And we Met fans can hope that our new GM will mean a rapid rise back to success.}