• Andy Marston

From Oakland A's to Oakwell Stadium... Barnsley's Moneyball-driven assault on the Championship

After an impressive run of form, Barnsley have stormed up the Championship table and into the playoff places. With a budget that is dwarfed by many of the traditionally ‘bigger’ clubs, you may wonder how they’ve managed this feat.

The answer, at least in part, can be traced back to the takeover of the club by Chinese-American entrepreneur Chien Lee in December 2017. As part of the deal, former Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, became a minority stakeholder.

Once this is known, it’s hard to dismiss Barnsley’s assault on the Championship as a result of luck or chance.

Chien Lee said in a recent interview with the BBC that, "Since we bought Barnsley three years ago we have been heavily using data. We use it mainly to identify talented young players and coaches as well. It is proving very successful."

Beane (as is well documented in the 2011 film Moneyball) was at the forefront of popularising sabermetrics – an empirical analysis of baseball statistics that measures in-game activity.

Adopting the approach in 2002, he assembled the Oakland A’s on a shoe-string budget and led them on a remarkable run of 20 consecutive victories.

20 years on and it would seem that the application of data analytics continues to result in favourable outcomes for Billy Beane.

However, unlike in 2002, there is a much wider appreciation for the power of data today. As majority owner, Chien Lee, has acknowledged, with technological advancements such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the possibilities for data analysis are extensive - from scouting, to analysing players' decision making processes.