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Astroball

The New Way to Win It All
Narrated by: Ben Reiter
Length: 7 hrs and 51 mins
Categories: Sport, Other
4.5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Summary

New York Times Best Seller

When Sports Illustrated declared on the cover of a June 2014 issue that the Houston Astros would win the World Series in 2017, people thought Ben Reiter, the article’s author, was crazy. The Astros were the worst baseball team in half a century, but they were more than just bad. They were an embarrassment, a club that didn’t even appear to be trying to win. The cover story, combined with the specificity of Reiter’s claim, met instant and nearly universal derision. But three years later, the critics were proved improbably, astonishingly wrong. How had Reiter predicted it so accurately? And, more important, how had the Astros pulled off the impossible? 

Astroball is the inside story of how a gang of outsiders went beyond the stats to find a new way to win - and not just in baseball. When new Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and his top analyst, the former rocket scientist Sig Mejdal, arrived in Houston in 2011, they had already spent more than half a decade trying to understand how human instinct and expertise could be blended with hard numbers such as on-base percentage and strikeout rate to guide their decision-making. In Houston, they had free rein to remake the club. No longer would scouts, with all their subjective, hard-to-quantify opinions, be forced into opposition with the stats guys. Instead, Luhnow and Sig wanted to correct for the biases inherent in human observation, and then roll their scouts’ critical thoughts into their process. The numbers had value - but so did the gut. 

The strategy paid off brilliantly, and surprisingly quickly. It pointed the Astros toward key draft picks like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman; offered a path for developing George Springer, José Altuve, and Dallas Keuchel; and showed them how veterans like Carlos Beltrán and Justin Verlander represented the last piece in the puzzle of fielding a championship team. 

Sitting at the nexus of sports, business, and innovation - and written with years of access to the team’s stars and executives - Astroball is the story of the next wave of thinking in baseball and beyond, at once a remarkable underdog story and a fascinating look at the cutting edge of evaluating and optimizing human potential.

©2018 Ben Reiter (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“Reiter’s superb narrative of how the team got there provides powerful insights into how organizations - not just baseball clubs - work best.” (Wall Street Journal

"Colorful...Astroball plays like a giant crossword puzzle as pieces of the team are slotted in leading up to the franchise's historic moment." (USA Today

 
"Astroball is the baseball book of the year, essential for baseball executives at every level, accessible and fun for fans." (Star Tribune

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Profile Image for Boyd Tschaggeny
  • Boyd Tschaggeny
  • 16-07-18

More About the Story than the Process

This book focuses on the individuals who made the Astro's 2017 World Series win possible. 50% of the book is focused on the general manager and the analysts. 50% of the book is focused on the baseball players. The story of these individuals is told as their backgrounds, baseball experiences, and what they contributed to the Astros are covered. This person driven narrative makes for a great story.

This book doesn't spend much time actually covering the system that the Astro's employed to ultimately win the World Series. You will learn the basic principle (pair Moneyball's statistics with the scouts intuition), but that principle isn't developed much further than that. You will hear about how this principle was applied each time a major player was signed or developed as an Astro's player, so you do get a sense for how it improved the Astros.

This is a great book about people and their achievements. I'd recommend listening to this book in a handful of long sessions.

4 people found this helpful

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  • a. g.
  • 14-05-19

The future of baseball has begun!

If you are an Astros fan, this is a must listen. Astroball is a fantastic narrative of the Astros journey to become a World Series winner. For Baseball fans, this story details the next step in the evolution of our favorite sport.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ammon
  • 18-07-18

For Baseball Fans, Houstonians, and ... Math Geeks

A peak behind the curtains of one the biggest turnarounds in recent sports history.

It hasn’t even been a year since the Astro’s seeming overnight success during the 2017 World Series and Astroball proves that it was neither an accident nor an overnight happenstance.

A must read for baseball fans, Houstonians, and ... math geeks.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Crex
  • 08-11-19

So good

Loved this book. I’m actually not a huge baseball fan but after listening to the book it has totally changed my perspective and interest in baseball. It’s also got me thinking about how to apply the lessons learned in everyday life.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-10-19

Great Book!

This an amazing book, I will let my freinds know about it and I plan on reading it again.

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  • Robert
  • 14-09-19

Great book on Astro baseball

Tremendous insight on ownership, management & chmmoradre of Astos baseball after the "killer Bs" era !!

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  • Brian Pennisi
  • 21-08-19

Moneyball 2.0: Man + Machine

Moneyball cleared the hedges for a data driven approach to baseball. Astroball took it to the next level, recognizing the limitations of data that make the man and machine approach so important.

For example, signing an expensive, 34 year old Justin Verlander late in the 2017 season flashed models red because it probably wouldn't give good value. But the models couldn't account for where team moral was from an injury to Correa and a city devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

Another cool component of the process was the way Sig Mejdal and his team adjusted the scout's ratings based on their biases. Since Moneyball, controlling for human biases has emerged as an important dimension in decision making.

As the author recognized, many teams have since caught on to the Astros just as they did with the Oakland A's. A competitive edge requires novelty. Already have we begun to try to quantify clubhouse chemistry and other intangibles that are currently evaluated imperfectly by people. It's exciting to imagine what the next big feature in the process will be!

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  • Jeremy
  • 03-08-19

Great Baseball Insight

This is a great book whether you are a Astros fan or one of the other 29 MLB clubs. It details the long process that it took Jeff Luhnow (the General Manager) and company to rebuild a struggling Astros club and win the World Series 5 years later.

This is a great book for MLB teams that are going through a rebuild who hopes don't look good. It shows the long process of rebuilding the Astros farm system that was ranked dead last in 2010 to being the best in 2014 by the draft or trading veterans for prospects.

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  • MargMoe
  • 22-07-19

I can’t believe

It took me this long to listen to this. I’m a huge Astros fan. But a bigger fan of baseball itself. Thank you for this book.

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  • Sam in Houston
  • 23-06-19

Best business book of the year?

This Book was recommended to me as “best business book I’ve read this year”. I couldn’t wrap my head around how a book about baseball could be a business book. Turned out to be a great listen. In these days of analytics and artificial intelligence it’s great to learn that a team which may go down in history as one of the best teams ever was a result of using the analytics along with the human influence that just can’t be quantified by the “nerd cave”. Reiter explains the unconscious bias that existed in scouts, but how their input was important to the equation. So yes, this is very much a business book. Human Resources decisions that led to a very successful team.