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Astroball The New Way to Win it All By Ben Reiter

Release date: 20th July, 2019
Publisher: Backpage

List Price: £12.98
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As the sports industry becomes more professional and the rewards on offer grow to almost unimaginable levels, so the use and analysis of data increases exponentially.

Whenever we think of sports analysis, Moneyball comes to mind, but the use and application of data has become widespread across a number of different areas. The sports industry uses data analysis to increase revenue, improve player performance, team quality and to prevent injury, among other things.

Not surprisingly, analysts capable of interpreting this data are in demand as sporting institutions develop entire departments devoted to statistical analysis; their modus operandi is to help establish a competitive advantage.

We should assume that Ben Reiter’s new book, Astroball: The New Way to Win It All will be required reading among sports analysts, for it describes how the Houston Astros went from worst team in baseball to World Series champions.

Astroball feels like the logical follow-up to Moneyball , the captivating tale of Billy Beane and his willingness to embrace statistical analysis. Jeff Luhnow and former NASA researcher Sig Mejdal, architects of the Astros' success, designed a system which both analysed and supplemented traditional scouting data.

While working at the St. Louis Cardinals, the pair developed a system which combined scouting data with statistics relating to a player's family history and personality.

In 2011, the pair arrived at the Astros with a brief to purge the franchise of its older, expensive playing staff and restock it with younger, exciting prospects. As they were perennial losers, the Astros secured the No.1 draft pick three years in a row and it was here they enjoyed some good fortune: their first pick was Carlos Correa, a man who became an instant superstar.

Initially, Mejdal’s system failed to incorporate data that couldn't be quantified, such as team chemistry. This is where traditional methodology came to the fore: Luhnow realized he needed a veteran around which he could build a team and the Astros signed Carlos Beltran, an invaluable addition off the field capable of mentoring younger players.

Working for Sports Illustrated in 2014, Reiter wrote a cover story predicting the Astros would win the World Series (for the first time) in 2017, which they did.

This book version is an extension of that prediction and while it may have baseball at its heart, the methods he describes are already being used by Europe’s leading football – and several rugby - clubs. Astroball is not a book for geeks; it’s a great story of how the application of data helped build a winning team, which is why we can expect the methods described here to be on display closer to home.

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