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
Brand said he
people
Sport
Adam Lallana, Juan Cala, Andy Carroll and Cameron Jerome
sportThe latest news and scores
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit