Moneyball Lessons

A recent airline trip lead me to do something I rarely do: watch a baseball movie. But “Moneyball: Winning at an Unfair Game” is not your usual sports flick, and the lessons it teaches about trusting analysis over instinct and overcoming established habits to move ahead apply perfectly to our trade.

In the movie, the Oakland A’s can’t compete effectively against the big budget teams until they abandon traditional approaches to team building based on gut instinct and batting averages. After switching to an innovative system of meaningful statistics ignored by other teams ,they go on the the longest winning streak in history with a rag-tag team of misfits, but not before facing doubt and skepticism from old timers within their own organization.

The conflicts in “Moneyball” were so familiar to me that the movie could have been made about the graphic arts industry, except for the complete lack of glamour in our business.

Just as in the movie, printing has been dominated by two persistent errors: trusting instinct over analysis, and placing too much faith in the wrong statistics. And just as in the movie, changing these old habits can mean hurting some feelings  and taking chances on a new approach.

“Eyeballing” color on press is the exact equivalent of judging player’s potential by their looks, and an overemphasis on density as a control metric is just as unsuccessful as relying on batting average as the determining statistic for ball players.

In “Moneyball” a new system of statistics called Sabermetrics replaces unhelpful batting average statistics with more meaningful measurements such as On Base, Speed Score and Fielding-Independent Pitching. In the new approach to printing, the old metric of Ink Density is replaced by L*a*b* values, TVI and Gray balance.

The Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane found that change was difficult, but worthwhile. Change is tough in printing too, but when done right it can lead to impressive winning streaks

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