Who Is Theo Epstein and Why Should You Care?
Hired in 2011 as the general manager (GM) of the Chicago Cubs, Theo Epstein rebuilt the team, bringing them from the cellar to the top of the game with their 2016 World Series win, and broke the 108-year-old curse of the Cubs. Before his Cubs turnaround, Theo did much the same for the Red Sox, helping them win the World Series in 2004 and 2007, breaking their 86-year old Curse of the Bambino. How did he do it? It’s well-known that Theo Epstein invented new analytical tools, metrics, insights, and tactics to create unheard of turnarounds in both teams.
Many wondered why John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox in 2002, hired then 28-year-old Theo, a man who had never played competitive baseball, to be his general manager. John Henry had several good reasons:
- Henry had made billions using analytics in his hedge fund business.
- He believed in the upside potential of analytics for baseball.
- He had already hired Bill James, the sabermetrics pioneer.
- Billy Bean turned down Henry’s offer of the GM spot (Bean was then GM of the Oakland Athletics from 1997 to 2002. His teams won more games for the least payroll cost due to analytics-guided decisions. The movie Moneyball tells this story.)
In 2002, most veteran baseball owners and managers thought Henry’s move was crazy. Today, of the 30 GMs in the league, 26 have been hired since the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. Most of this new crop have never played competitive baseball, but all increasingly use analytics.
The Curious Beat the Incurious
This analytics war wasn’t a struggle between gut-instinct veterans and the math experts, but rather between the curious and the incurious. Fact-free, conventional wisdom was improved. Questioning and inventing analytical tactics to find hidden inefficiencies, which are then exploited with smart experiments.
The league has closed the analytics gap with Theo. And so, the war has broadened and continues, and has spawned its own field, known as sabermetrics. The statistical analysis of baseball using sabermetrics has created a growing list of insights that have been uncovered.
Theo Epstein invented new analytical tools, metrics, insights, and tactics for his team… Who is your Theo?
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