Billy Beane: The number-cruncher whose methods could revolutionise Liverpool

His approach to stats helped the Red Sox find success. He tells Glenn Moore it would work in football too

Calamity. It is the last week of the transfer window and Glen Johnson breaks a leg. A replacement is required. Roy Hodgson, using the club scouting network, his own Continent-wide contacts, and the knowledge gleaned from decades in the game, draws up a shortlist of replacements and presents them to the board. A new American director looks over the paper, then tosses it away. "We've got our own list," he says, handing over a neatly-printed spreadsheet. "These are the players the Recruitment Operative recommends. Their stats are a fit for Johnson. Which one do you want?" The list has been drawn up by the young college grad with the computer who sits down the corridor from Hodgson crunching numbers. "So this," thinks the veteran manager, "is what he has been doing, this is what it has come to."

Inconceivable? Not at all. Liverpool's prospective new owners believe in metrics, the application of statistical analysis in sport made famous by the book Moneyball, Michael Lewis's bestseller about the Oakland Athletics' baseball club and their innovative general manager, Billy Beane.

The As are one of the poorest clubs in baseball, but have consistently performed way above their financial level. As Lewis revealed, Beane has achieved this by ignoring traditional recruitment processes, instead using detailed statistical analysis to pick up players on the cheap and to formulate a playing philosophy which debunked accepted notions of how to win baseball matches. In doing so he blew a hole in the old canard that only people who had played the game to Major League status were capable of identifying talent and managing it. Moneyball's publication in 2003 drew much criticism from traditional baseball men, but also prompted several owners to rethink their strategy. Maybe they did not have to keep hiring grizzled old tobacco-chewing trainers who wasted their millions in a fruitless pursuit of success.

John William Henry, the man behind Liverpool's putative new owners, the New England Sports Venture (NESV), was already ahead of the curve. When he bought the Boston Red Sox in 2002 he offered Beane a five-year, $12.5 m contract to move to Boston. Beane, reluctant to uproot his family, said no. The Red Sox did the next best thing. They hired Bill James, the iconoclastic analyst whose ideas initially inspired Beane, and 28-year-old Yale graduate Theo Epstein, who would have been Beane's No 2 if he had joined, was given the lead role. "Billy Beane is a sharp mind," said Larry Lucchino, CEO of the Red Sox and NESV. "We tried to hire him, but what we've done since Theo took over is to take some of the quantitative analysis approaches and overlay them with the resource advantages of our market."

In English that means use the stats and add the financial muscle the Red Sox has to buy the best rather than just the best-value players. It worked, Boston twice winning the World Series. Coincidentally Beane was in London yesterday, appearing with Arsène Wenger on stage at the "Leaders in Performance" conference at Stamford Bridge. Their presence together, at an event attended by a impressive cast including Martin Johnson, the England rugby coach, underlined how seriously British sport now takes metrics. So, too, the five stands in the exhibition hall taken by companies like Pro-Zone and Opta who are now selling recruitment analysis as well as match statistics.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent, Beane said: "You would have a hard time finding any major sport in the world which is not using metrics in some way. Performances in baseball are much more easily measured than in soccer but each sport has a metric which is relevant, it is identifying it. Basketball is much more similar to soccer and many NBA teams are using metrics."

Beane became a fan of English football some years ago when he watched a match while in London and now rises at 5.30am each weekend to follow the Premier League on TV. He has worked with Spurs, is friends with Chelsea's performance director Mike Forde, and has had discussions with young managers like Aidy Bothroyd and veterans such as Sir Alex Ferguson. Confidentiality meant he could not go into details, but he said the use of metrics is growing in the English game.

It could increase dramatically with the Red Sox involvement at Anfield but before Liverpool fans despair Beane had only praise for NESV. He said: "I know John Henry and the ownership group, they are one of the brightest, most innovative and successful sports franchises in the US. Boston is not a dissimilar franchise to Liverpool. It has a passionate fanbase and a history. They combined efficiency on the field with a great team and incredibly increased the awareness of the brand. The Red Sox are as popular in the States as the [New York] Yankees, which once seemed impossible. They have been good for the game."

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn