Moneyball in Space

Goons published their latest CEO Update on today.  There’s a lot in it that will raise eyebrows (one or both) including:  Free carriers, a rundown of who is doing what to who and where, and hints at a full-out DREAD giveaway which would be quite a windfall for the CFC folks.

What struck me was a little throwaway bit at the very bottom:

We do not do things that way: any alliance admitted to the CFC will understand our focus on both offensive war and metrics to prove collective effort.

This was what really raised my eyebrow, especially as it was thrown in with talking about recruiting newer alliances to CFC.  It brought me back to some musings I’ve had on how an Alliance so publicly and self-admittedly bad could be so GOOD at what mattered in the game.

Short version?  People like winning.  Goons have isolated the “winning” elements on a strategic level and devoted themselves to it.

Skip to the explosion if you have a short attention span.

Long version incoming so settle in or X out.  There’s two kinds of winning, tactical and strategic.  Alliances like R&K and old-skool PL¹ had isolated the surprise + leadership = victory core of tactical winning.  They used tactics their enemies couldn’t respond to to score hard fought but surprisingly bloodless victories, and pumped up their members by trumpeting their wins to the high heavens, while brushing off their losses with their ability to replace ships themselves.  They keep themselves lean, because that lies at the core of tactical brilliance, but they alone aren’t a threat to take and hold sov, they don’t have the raw mass required to weight the scales in a mass war.

Strategic Victory in EvE requires an ability to set your nose to the grindstone on two scales.  Leaders must bear an incredible weight, both leading and managing their alliance, and the rank and file have to respond to their leaders, be active and take part.  This requires something more than killboard l33tness, which is a good thing as Goonswarm’s 68.48% on EvE-kill is rather… bad as PvP alliances goes.    Yet Goonswarm Federation leads the most powerful coalition, with the most valuable nullsec space, in EvE.  How does such a bad alliance get to hold this position?  Leadership and determination.

Now how do you rate that?  Because clearly killboard efficiency doesn’t quite catch it.  So let’s dig in and catch some glimpses.  Goons use the term “Metrics” quite a bit so let’s start our search there (from

Metrics:  Standards of measurement by which efficiency, performance, progress, or quality of a plan, process, or product can be assessed.

So a metric to Goons is a tool that allows them to measure the effectiveness of a sub-unit.  They don’t hand out directorships to that cool guy who shows up all the time.  Nor do they ally themselves with people who consistently underperform by their standards.  Now to be a true “Metric” Goonswarm has to set up standards which are quantifiable, that is, they can be measured objectively, they have to be relevant to whatever they are trying to measure, and they have to be capable of being scaled for large and small entities.

So Goonswarm leadership has set up two sets of Metrics, one for leadership, to determine who can generate the best quality and quantity of useful “Leadership” and they have applied this to themselves and to their minions, I’m not sure where to begin on this.  Certainly revenue is important, driving participation is important, and filling the markets is important.  What else is important and how it is generated, measured, and compared is beyond me.  There’s a reason I fly in fleets rather than lead them.

The other set is for members as a group.  I’m even less certain how this is measured, what it measures and how it it is applied internally and externally is frankly outside of my horizon.  Clearly efficiency isn’t that big.  Raw participation has to be a factor, as well as both unique members joining fleets, and how often each person joins said fleets will likely be a factor, who brings what, what they lose etc, but how is it measured and evaluated?  What are the standards?


Moneyball was a book written in 2003 about the revolutionary new way of thinking that the Oakland A’s had been doing for a few years.  Rather than looking mostly at “counting” stats, especially ones like Steals, RBIs, and Strikeouts for hitters, which often didn’t have as much impact as conventional wisdom would lead one to believe.  Instead the A’s went with “rate stats” focusing in on new stats generated by the SABR community, which served as indicators of overall contribution, like OPS (On Base Plus Slugging) for hitters and ERA+ for pitchers, or simply stats like VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) for anyone.  This gave them a competitive advantage over other teams over the course of a season, as they could find bargains on players who weren’t highly regarded, but generated wins.  Most leaders in EvE are the old-skool types.  They equate pure l33t PVPness as espoused by killboard stats, big shiny fleets and vaunted FCs as the be all and end all of EvE success.  The new leaders in the game are people who have cut away the traditional stats, and look for what wins.

By creating their own metrics, the Goons have done what SABR did for statistics.  Creating their own methods of reporting information gathered, and doing so in a way that contributes to the overall success of their coalition.  Moreover they have done what Billy Beane did for the A’s, by using those stats to build both an alliance that wins, and train other alliances to contribute as part of their “team.”  Goons were successful before OTEC.  Sure their current success is greatly aided by Tech, but they didn’t get Tech to get successful, they got successful to get Tech.

¹New-Skool PL manages to do both with rather admirable success.

I'm using it every time I can

I’m using it every time I can

About Corelin

An Eve playing Fool who occasionally writes about the shenanigans he and his minions get up to.

Posted on February 16, 2013, in Meta, Politics, Things I think I think. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Killboard efficiency is a worthless metric, both for individuals and for corps/alliances. Full stop. It’s a better measure of risk aversion and play style than anything. Even ‘tactical’ groups like RnK should be more concerned with actual observed success than with numbers on a killboard. And I think the genuinely good ones do – just like Goons, they’ve got their own metrics they care about (even if they don’t necessarily collect statistics like Goons). ‘Killboards are green’ alliances have proven to be unable to actually evaluate and correct their failures, and it shows.

  2. It’s easy to look at Mittani and think goons are brilliantly led and always have been but they managed to do well under some frankly shocking leaders in the past – Remedial, Kartoon, Darius Johnson. What they’ve always done well is diplomacy, including joining up with Red Alliance back in the day when most alliances wouldn’t have wanted a Russian partner.

    They’ve also been very effective at spin and infiltration, often against people who aren’t even trying to fight back in those arenas.

  3. I am not arguing with your basic premise about the organizational skills of Goonswarm, but this whole Moneyball thing is both overrated as a concept and a bad comparison to Goons. Sure the A’s had a few good seasons from ’00 to ’06, and won their division several times, but they only made it out of the first round of the playoffs once, and then got swept by the Tigers in the ALCS (in 2006). Also, Goons are the richest alliance in the game, whereas the A’s utilized Moneyball (aka sabermetrics) to compensate for their lack of funds.

    • What you ignore is that every organization in baseball now uses moneyball principles (finding inefficiencies in the market, currently speed and starting pitching) and using their money to fix that. The Red Sox used moneyball principles to win in 04 and 07. So did the Rays. Heck the Yankees have done it, though they’ve also just spent Money (as have the Sox) which has allowed teams like the nationals, reds, rangers and even the pirates to start looking relevant.

      In EvE Goons found people who could do valuable things that no one else considered valuable. That’s moneyball.

      • The Red Sox imploded and dumped hundreds of millions in salary last season, most of which was picked up by the Dodgers, who didn’t win anything with it either. Rays can’t put two seasons in a row together because they don’t have any “money” to play “ball”. Yankees owe A-rod 114 mil that he isn’t worth. Nats owe Jason Werth 100 mil that he isn’t “werth”. Rangers couldn’t keep Hamilton’s heroin habit funded and he is now an Angel. The Reds and Pirates? Really? What have they won? MLB is foolish following these principles. Are there performance standards that many people overlook? Absolutely. Is “wins above replacement” one of them, where the “replacement” is a hypothetical person that doesn’t exist? Nope.

      • “MLB is foolish following these principles”

        Which you justify by pointing to a few bad decisions made by each team.

        I notice you didn’t talk about any of the Giants recent bad decisions, of which there have been plenty. Is that because they’ve won 2 of the past 3 World Series, and so they didn’t fit in with your egregious cherry-picking? Baseball teams have all made thousands of personnel decisions over the past decade, and of those thousands, many turn out to be bad. Quoting the ones that turn out famously badly is not a substitute for an actual logical argument, it’s just meaningless bellowing.

        Ironically, you’re arguing against rate stats by using a ‘counting stats’ approach to measuring baseball decisions, which I’m pointing out is utter garbage by making a ‘rate stats’ rebuttal to measuring baseball decisions. So meta. Your counting stats approach is hilariously bad though, so it’s not a fair comparison. The analogy to baseball performance would be condemning players for how they did in their at-bat in the ninth inning of the one game you saw them play in person this year, with some additional cherry-picking thrown in to make your methodology even worse.

  4. reminds me of the episode of numb3r where they use sabermetric

  5. Didn’t mention the Giants because I was responding to Corelin’s post, and he didn’t mention them. Would you like to talk about them in the context of Moneyball? Their payroll was the 6th highest in baseball last year. Have at it.

    • You seem to think Moneyball means not spending money. It means not spending money BADLY. It’s not about just refusing to spend money, it’s refusing to pay a 30 year old 26+ million a year for 10 years. It’s about refusing to pay tens of millions for bullpen arms. The Red Sox were 100% a moneyball team in 2004 and I think they were the 2nd or 3rd highest paid team in baseball. Moneyball is about market inefficiencies, it’s about finding out where other people are spending money poorly, and taking advantage of their mistakes. That’s where I make the connection to EvE. Goons (and other successful alliances) use a different set of yardsticks to measure success and effectiveness than most other folks in EvE. They understand which alliances “Look” successful and which alliances actually ARE, as well as which leaders can really lead. They certainly aren’t perfect at it, but now they DO have money to fall back on, and, like the 2012 Red Sox they can throw away a lot, whole regions even (or hall of fame caliber players, pick your metaphor) and still continue on. I’ve seen predictions for this year ranging from 90 wins to 90 losses. Neither would surprise me. Goons can and have lost all their sov. They’ve retreated to NPC null and Empire. They know what it takes to win, and even if they don’t have it at any given moment, they know how to acquire it, cultivate it and use it.

      • Corelin said: “Goons (and other successful alliances) use a different set of yardsticks to measure success and effectiveness than most other folks in EvE. They understand which alliances “Look” successful and which alliances actually ARE, as well as which leaders can really lead.”

        Yep. Agree. As I said in my first response, I’m not disagreeing with your assessment of the Goons’ success. I just think Moneyball, or sabermetrics more specifically, is bullshit.

      • You do know Bill James is a wholehearted believer in Moneyball theories right?

  6. Bill James basically invented sabermetrics, of course he believes in it. He also became an advisor to the Red Sox a couple of years ago. That worked magically, didn’t it?

  7. Except they hired him in 2010.

  8. OK, I misread the Wikipedia entry you just looked up. They mention 2010 in the sentence right after they mention his hiring by the Red Sox. My other points stand. And you can’t realistically judge someone against someone else who doesn’t exist. Baseball players have individual skills. WAR is crap.

    By the way, isn’t it great that spring training is up and running and we have baseball to talk about again?

    • WAR and VORP are certainly of limited use judging a player next year, but the kinds of regression analysis he did that led to them going after guys like Ortiz, Lowe, Foulke, (Belhorn… REALLY?) Certainly some of his less arcane stats (Things like OPS, ERA+ etc) have a lot more value is looking at a pitcher today and saying “Ok this is what we think he’ll do next year, more or less” unless of course your all-star CF subluxes his shoulder going into second, your pitching staff forgets how to pitch and your manager sits there with a stupefied look on his face when he was hired to be a firebrand. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

      I think the day pitchers and catchers report should be a national holiday.

  9. Amen, I was counting down the days ever since the Phils got mathematically eliminated last year. (It was later than you may think, but still far too long.)

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