NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Would the Great Recession in 2008 have been as catastrophic if Wall Street traders implemented more of the tactics Major League Baseball managers use? That’s the fundamental question veteran Lehman trader Joe Peta chews on in the book Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball (Random House, 2013).
The fanfare around sabermetrics took off after Moneyball’s excavation of Billy Beane’s statistics-driven management style, and Peta gained renewed interest in the statistical applications to Wall Street by chance.
Chance in the form of a fluky accident.
An ambulance plowed into Peta as he crossed the street in New York City’s TriBeCa at the beginning of 2011. The leg injury, which left him wheelchair-ridden and stranded from his family in San Francisco, effectively curtailed his decade and a half career on Wall Street. But his convalescence allowed for a renewed interest in the interconnectivity of sports management and Wall Street. His interest in gambling theory — particularly Andrew Beyer’s Picking Winners, an examination of horse racing handicapping — and Trading Bases becomes an exegesis on using Big Data to increase one’s chances of success and an indictment on Wall Street’s inability to mimic Big League strategy.
Tell us about the genesis of this book and how your injury led to a new clarity of ideas?
Peta: Bored and bitter that spring, with nothing but time on my hands, as I recuperated and rehabilitated my leg I threw myself into the baseball season for the first time in many years. I started building my own sabermetric based models to project team performance for the 2011 season, and I quickly began to see abundant similarities between baseball and the financial industry, between trading stocks and betting games, and between probability-based decisions made by both managers on the baseball field and traders on the trading floor.