free read Astroball: The New Way to Win It All
Gut FeelsIn the late s when people got too drunk and were kicked out of the other casinos in Lake Tahoe they ended up at Del Webbs High Sierra a place where there was no such thing as too drunk Sometimes they staggered by indifferent security guards who were costumed as Wild West deputies past stages adorned with fake tumbleweeds and over to a blackjack table manned by a tall thin young dealer with thick black hairSig they would say suinting at the tag pinned to his chest What kind of name is that Sig Mejdal was an undergraduate at the University of California Davis studying mechanical engineering and aeronautical engineering During the summers hed head miles east clip an oversize bow tie to his collar and sling cards at Tahoes seediest betting house He thought the tie made him looklike someone with a dead cat draped around his neck than a Dodge City barmanor like a Dodge City barman who hunted house pets best casebut he loved the job anyway It wasfun than the internships his classmates at Davis pursued andlucrative too He would spend the day at the beach deal all night fling the hundred bucks hed made in tips onto the steadily accumulating pile on his dresser in the morning and head back to the beachAt the High Sierra he learned things he knew he couldnt have in a lab The best way to get someone to stop smoking at his table for example When a gambler rested his cigarette on the edge of his ashtray Sig would subtly put a little extra on the next card he dealt to him so that it hit the cigarette and knocked it onto the felt or the ground in a shower of sparks The player embarrassed and believing it to have been an accident usually didnt light up againSig also learned something that he would usefreuently during his future professional career He learned that human beings do not always make decisions that serve their own long term self interest even when they are euipped with a wealth of experience and knowledge of the mathematical probabilities that ought to guide their choicesBlackjack is a probabilistic game For any combination of cards the players and the dealers there is an optimal action for the player to take in order to increase his chances of winningor generally of losing less Sometimes the action is both easy and obvious You hit a against anything Often though players know what they ought to do from a probabilistic perspective but they do something else because their intuition tells them toEven the sober patrons of the High Sierra usually declined to hit on a against a dealers because it sucked to bust especially with a big bet on the table The mathematically sound move was to take another card though It was a bad hand no matter what but standing led to a loss rate of percentthe chances were that the dealer would pull a at minimumwhile hitting decreased that to percent even factoring in the busts a big difference in the long run Sometimes even other dealers who sawthan hands a year with immediate feedback advised players to standThis to Sig illustrated the limitations of human judgment Just because it feels right he told himself doesnt mean it is right Human beings tended to trust the combination of experience intuition and emotion that comprised their gut Their gut certainly had value Sometimes their gut was wrongWhen he wasnt spending his free time at the beach Sig spread his wrinkled tip money onto the blackjack table himself He rarely won The houses advantage was the houses advantage Playing the right way though he lost slowly and when he factored in the complimentary drinks he consumed in the process he considered it a financial washSig and the other dealers marveled at the way gamblers they had wiped out would unuestioningly follow the custom of tossing their last few chips to them for the trouble sparing the casino the burden of paying themthan minimum wage A hundred bucks a day was good money and many dealers decided to make a career out of their summer gig Sig did notHe graduated from Davis and went on to earn two masters degrees in operations research and cognitive psychology from San Jose State He took a job at Lockheed Martin where he helped launch satellites into orbit Then he performed research for NASAs Fatigue Countermeasures Group where among other things he revealed the relative uselessness of napping Even though tired subjects believed that naps fully restored their ability to perform that turned out to be empirically untrue unless they had gone through a full nights sleep cycleSig was initially inspired to undertake that study not by astronauts but by a different type of American hero baseball players He had wondered how the performance of major leaguers from the East Coast was affected when they traveled to play in different time zones interrupting their circadian rhythms In fact the entirety of Sigs mathematically driven career had stemmed from his passion for our most mathematically driven sportUnlike many American boys Sig did not inherit his love of baseball from his parents His father Svend came from Denmark and his mother Norma grew up in Colombia They each arrived in the United States in the.
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Cause he was fascinated not by dry engineering problems like how to keep a rocket on course but by how math and science intersected with people how they could help humans understand and overcome their natural limitations Still NASA was just a job too He had always maxed out his vacation days at Lockheed and at NASA he insisted on working on short term contracts so that for a month or two each year he could pursue another passion travel He called it high concentrate living in his value focused waySeeking out adventure he met people throughout Europe and South America In he published an article in the Los Angeles Times headlined Climbing the Stairway to Heaven in which he chronicled his experiences as the novice member of an expedition that ascended Mount Chimborazo Sig mischievously asserted that factoring in Earths ellipsoid shape the Ecuadorean peak was actually its highest feet farther from the planets center than Everests To the south I could see the mountains of Peru to the west the blues of the Pacific Ocean and to the north snowcapped Cotopaxi he wrote of the vista from the hypoxemic summit I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of what my eyes could take in Exhaustion and emotion are a volatile combination for an oxygen starved brain Some climbers collapsed in the snow Some cried Others hugged I did a little of each before turning my attention to the view before me the view from the top of the worldAfter that it was back down to the lab where he continued to dream of a job that would unite his mathematical expertise with his passion for figuring out what made humans their best selves a job in which he wouldnt feel as if each year amounted to working for months in order to live for oneTwo years after Chimborazo he thought hed found itSig was when in he read Michael Lewiss Moneyball a book that described how people with his skill set in the Oakland Athletics front office were reimagining the underpinnings of baseball by harnessing the power of data to take advantage of inefficiencies in the evaluation of players They were in other words making a living by using math to get better at the thing hed always loved most While he had remained an engaged fan and a member of SABR he now realized there might be a place inside the game for someone like him I thought hey that job would be better than NASA he saidBen Reiter has written the definitive untold story of the biggest turnaround in recent baseball history This riveting behind the scenes account offers fresh insight into the executives who built the World Series championsand the players who delivered Astroball is Moneyball for the next generation not just the baseball book of the year but the business and ideas book of the year as well KEN ROSENTHAL two time Sports Emmy winner for Outstanding Sports Reporter Ben Reiters incredible access to the World Series champions makes for narrative as riveting as a Game But Astroball is so muchIt is a look at the future and not just of baseball For all the talk of computers replacing human judgment the most complex problems are often best addressed when computers supplement human judgment rather than supplant it The Astros human algorithm partnership turned a historically bad team into a champion in six years Other industries take note DAVID EPSTEIN bestselling author of The Sports Gene Reading Astroball is like being part of the Astros Decision Sciences team or having a seat and a laptop in their Nerd Cave Ben Reiter gives us an inside look at the state of the art of winning baseball packed with cutting edge technology psychology and analytics but allowing for the human element TOM VERDUCCI bestselling author of The Yankee Years with Joe Torre and The Cubs Way This book is the definitive look at the recent history of the Houston Astros and how they became the model franchise for the present and future of MLB Ben takes you through the evolving blueprint that delivered both a championship in the fall of and a roster built to win for years to come Reiter called it first on the cover of SI in I wish he would pick my stocks JOE BUCK three time National Sportscaster of the Year and bestselling author of Lucky Bastard Astroball is a superb and unfettered look at how a championship baseball team is constructed Analysis and algorithms might be the new baseball card numbers but Ben gets close enough to Jeff Luhnow and his staff to understand their incredible forward thinking when it comes to the human factor This book is readable rocket science RON DARLING former New York Mets All Star and bestselling author of Game Astroball is Moneyball a fascinating dissection of the processes by which the Houston Astros rose from perennial cellar dwellers to World Series champions Ben Reiter systematically uncovers the crucial elements to success in baseball as a fan of the game and as a major league pitcher this book forced me to look at my sport through a wider lens Detailing the ascension of the Astros while entertaining with colorful anecdotes Astroball is a must read for those looking to improve in any industry CRAIG BRESLOW twelve year Major League pitche.
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Ir s and met in the US Army an officer and a nurse Sigs older brother Svend Jr was born in France while his parents were stationed there Norma gave birth to SigSigurd actuallyin California in when Svend Sr was in VietnamNobody could ever pronounce the familys last name Mejdal until a friend of Sigs came up with a mnemonic chant Whose dell the friend asked My dell Sig shouted If some of his peers still stumbled on his surname Sig had little trouble connecting with them via a pastime neither of his parents much understoodHe spent great swaths of his childhood flicking the spinners of All Star Baseball a board game that allowed players to simulate major league contests Each year the games maker Cadaco Ellis released a new set of circular insertable cards representing players both current and past Each card was divided into fourteen zones sized to correspond with the players statistics on which the spinner might land A sluggers card might have had large zones for No Home Run and No Strikeout while slap hitters cards featuredroom for the spinner to end up on No Single or No Double Sig favored the latter He loved the Balti Orioles of Dan Brouthers and Wee Willie KeelerHe began subscribing to newsletters produced by the Society of American Baseball Research or SABR When he was in sixth grade he read a paper that included a formula that could predict how many runs and runs batted in a given player should amass based on the number and type of hits he had The analyst had worked backward from real run totals to determine how much each constituent part contributed to them This was called regression analysisSig wrote a rudimentary program on his Atari computer that allowed him to project those results for his All Star Baseball players like Brouthers and Keeler and he recorded his players stats in reams of notebooks It seemed magical he said It was why I liked mathHe played simulated season after simulated season competing against not only his buddy from across the street but after responding to an ad in a newsletter retirees across the country by mail on the honor system In his imagination his living room became the site of nerve rattling championships won by legendary players under his control These heroic actions would be taking place whenever you wanted in your living room he said Youd keep track of the statistics and get excited by the drama as if this was importantTo the even deeper mystification of his parents Sig also played six years of Little League from the fourth grade through the ninth He was so skinny that he could rarely lift the ball out of the infield His mother inadvertently sat in the wrong bleachers and cheered whenever the umpire called him out which was almost alwaysSig loved it anyway especially after he began reading the annual Baseball Abstract self published by Bill James the godfather of sabermetricsthe statistical analysis of baseball data When he wasnt in right fieldwhere the coaches always played him hoping that a ball wouldnt be suibbed his wayhe calculated Jamess pioneering statistics designed to capture a players value better than batting average or home run totals could for each one of his teammates Every member of the Papagallos of San Joses Union Little League had a Runs Created whether he knew it or notEven so as a teenager there was only one career path Sig could imagine following I have immigrant parents he said They wanted their son to make it in this country I was brainwashed since grade school to be an engineer and I dont think I ever rethought it His one minor rebellion the summers hed spent at the High Sierra rather than buttressing his rsum with internships turned out to be his best piece of luck The hiring manager at Lockheed loved blackjackI wanted a job Sig said This was fine In fact it was undeniably cool to become an expert in subsystems that controlled a rocket and to be responsible for averting mistakes that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars Still to Sig it felt remote bloodless The rockets and satellites were thousands of miles away and success meant they stayed on course They always didFor most engineers a well paid job like that would have been enough It wasnt for Sig The trouble was that unlike many of those with his uantitative background Sig was a people person tooa humanist The stereotype of the introverted analyst I guess I dont fit it so well he saidIn the early s he realized that he was spending much of every weekend standing in line at Macys waiting to get another gift wrapped to tote to the weddings to which he kept being invited He began to keep track of them A uarter century later he had attended That he knew the precise number was itself remarkableonly someone who uantifies everything would keep countbut so is the number itself How many of us are so invested in people and relationships that couples couldnt imagine observing their happiest of days without us there His greatest regret as he got older was that the freuency of invitations slowed downHis tasks at NASA like the sleep cycle research weresatisfying He had studied cognitive psychology in graduate school be.