The Next Moneyball

Michael Lewis’s Moneyball changed baseball forever. He described the progress from seat-of-the-pants player selection to a metrics-driven approach.

A thoughtful team owner would like to know how much it costs to win a game. More importantly, how much does it cost to win the number of games necessary to make the most amount of money.

Our thoughtful team owner quickly discovers that injured players, no matter how expensive, make a little contribution to increasing the number of wins.

What then is the value of the medical training staff to a professional team, or even to an amateur (college sports) team in a revenue producing sport? It is, after all, the training staff that keeps the players on the field.

The star players are paid huge amounts of money to contribute wins especially in post season play off competition.

Those highly paid players can’t deliver wins if they are injured, hence there is a value to reducing the number of games lost to injury. That is a statistic easily measured and it could be refined to avoid cheating the system by putting subpar players on the field when they should be recovering.

Whatever the measures eventually determined to be relevant, the performance of a team’s athletic training staff can be measured and its value, in terms of games won or important games won, could be calculated.

If a baseball team is willing to pay a pitcher $30 million to win 20 regular season games and five postseason games, why not pay the training staff the same amount to contribute an equal number of wins?

In reality, the pitcher is not solely responsible for a win. He has teammates who contribute. Nor would the training staff be solely responsible for the additional games won by players who would otherwise be subpar or on the disabled list.

That does not mean that the value of their contribution cannot be determined.

At present, many team trainers are paid very little in cash but given the opportunity to boast that they are trainers for such and so team.

If I were a trainer or a physical therapist (better still, the head of their trade association), I might seek to have an end-of-season award for the team staff that avoided the most games lost to injury. The MVT or Most Valuable Trainer.

That would certainly enhance the value of my profession.

Moneyball analysis changed baseball. Are training staffs just another step in optimizing team performance and should they be paid for it? Are they the next Moneyball?




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