The Power of Data: Author Michael Lewis Tells the Story Behind MoneyBall

By Margaret Harrist

Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, Liar's Poker, and The Blind Side, took the stage at the Oracle OpenWorld final keynote on Thursday morning to discuss the stories behind his books—with a focus on how data analytics proved invaluable for the Oakland A's.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game was made into a movie that garnered multiple Academy Award nominations. "I thought it was insane when they bought it for the movies," Lewis told the crowd. Billy Bean, the Oakland A's general manager who used data analysis to build a winning team on a relatively small budget, thought Lewis’ interest in the data analysis side of the Oakland A’s story was strange, he said.

When researching Moneyball, Lewis was in the Oakland A’s locker room after a game, and “If you lined up the team, you would never guess they were athletes. You might think they worked in technology,” he said, eliciting laughter from the Oracle OpenWorld crowd. “But they were consciously building a team out of defective parts, using data on what made a great team.”

In fact, he said, Bean doesn’t watch the Oakland A’s play their games because he doesn’t want that to influence his judgment.

Lewis started his career as a trader at Solomon Brothers. “When I told my bosses I was leaving to write a book, they thought I was insane,” he said. His first book, Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage of Wall Street, spent 62 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

As an extra reward for attending the final keynote session of Oracle OpenWorld, 150 lucky attendees got red cards that invited them to a private book signing with Lewis after the talk ended.

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