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Ben Reiter

Award-winning Sports IIlustrated writer and author of Astroball

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  • About Ben Reiter

    Ben Reiter is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, which he joined in 2004. He has written 25 cover stories for the magazine, including the June 30, 2014 piece for which he embedded inside the Houston Astros’ front office and emerged with the prediction that what was then baseball’s worst team would win the World Series just three years later. Reiter’s prediction came true, and his account of the savvy decisions and innovative analysis that took a team from the bottom of the league to the absolute top introduced the world to a new kind of data science that utilized both sophisticated analytical tools and the occasionally unreliable but crucial observations of individuals in equal measure. The story of the Astros, chronicled in Reiter’s book Astroball, isn’t just the story of a team rising to the top of the ranks, but an account of how connecting human and technological insights can have astonishing results.

    As a journalist, Reiter has also contributed to Time and The Village Voice, among other publications. Reiter’s SI feature ‘The Seeker: The Complicated Life and Death of Hideki Irabu’ won the 2018 Deadline Award for Magazine Profile, and his work has twice been named a notable selection in the annual The Best American Sportswriting series. He frequently appears on radio and television stations across the United States and around the world, and is a regular commentator on the MLB Network. Reiter is a graduate of Yale and Cambridge. He is also a proud bronze medalist on Jeopardy!, done in by the final question, and will now never forget who entered the Devils Island penal colony to serve a life sentence on April 13, 1895, only to be out by 1899. He lives in New York City with his family. Astroball is his first book.

  • Speaking Topics

    Miles Beyond Moneyball

    It is now widely known as one of the greatest predictions in the history of sports. Ben Reiter explains why he made the then mocked prognostication on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2014 that the Houston Astros, then the worst baseball team in 50 years, would win the World Series exactly three years later, but mostly he guides audiences deep inside the Astros’ front office and clubhouse to reveal how they accomplished the impossible. They did it by ingeniously combining analytical tools that were far more advanced than those used by Billy Beane in Michael Lewis’s Moneyball with a recently overlooked source of predictive information: humans, with their unreliable – but equally powerful – observational skills and gut instincts. And, unlike Beane’s Oakland A’s, the Astros actually won. In an age in which we are deluged by data, with the specter of job-killing artificial intelligence on the horizon, the Astros are proof of concept for a new way of thinking about how humans and computers can bring the best out of each other. Audiences will learn lessons that apply not just to baseball, but to all modern industries and endeavors: that success is not a matter of man or machine, but of man plus machine, as long as man remains in charge.

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  • Praise for Ben Reiter

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    We were thrilled to have Ben speak at our annual corporate conference this past May. From the first planning call, it was apparent that Ben really understood the message we were trying to tie in between the Houston Astros story, and the story we see every day with our B2B customers – a story of chances, a story of risks, and a story of triumph. Ben’s passion for the Houston Astros’ journey is infectious. It’s clear he loves the game, and loves sharing his insights with others. The attendees found the talk extremely entertaining and useful, and most importantly, unique. Said one, ‘I’ve seen sports-related talks before, but none with this type of actionable business tie-in. Thanks!’  Ben was a true professional, and just an all-around great person to work with. We couldn’t have been more pleased having him speak at our event.

    Katy Fritz, Director, Global Events, Zilliant

    Praise for Astroball

    Astroball is Moneyball 2.0, a fascinating dissection of the processes by which the Houston Astros rose from perennial cellar dwellers to World Series champions. Ben Reiter systematically uncovers the crucial elements to success in baseball; as a fan of the game and as a major league pitcher, this book forced me to look at my sport through a wider lens. Detailing the ascension of the Astros while entertaining with colorful anecdotes, Astroball is a must-read for those looking to improve in any industry.

    Craig Breslow, twelve-year Major League pitcher

    Astroball is a superb and unfettered look at how a championship baseball team is constructed. Analysis and algorithms might be the new baseball card numbers but Ben gets close enough to Jeff Luhnow and his staff to understand their incredible forward thinking when it comes to the human factor. This book is readable rocket science.

    Ron Darling, former New York Mets All-Star and bestselling author of Game 7, 1986

    This book is the definitive look at the recent history of the Houston Astros and how they became the model franchise for the present and future of MLB. Ben takes you through the evolving blueprint that delivered both a championship in the fall of 2017 and a roster built to win for years to come. Reiter called it first, on the cover of SI in 2014. I wish he would pick my stocks.

    Joe Buck, three-time National Sportscaster of the Year and bestselling author of Lucky Bastard

    Reading Astroball is like being part of the Astros’ Decision Sciences team or having a seat and a laptop in their Nerd Cave. Ben Reiter gives us an inside look at the state of the art of winning baseball: packed with cutting-edge technology, psychology and analytics, but allowing for the human element.

    Tom Verducci, bestselling author of The Yankee Years (with Joe Torre) and The Cubs Way

    Ben Reiter’s incredible access to the World Series champions makes for narrative as riveting as a Game 7. But Astroball is so much more. It is a look at the future, and not just of baseball. For all the talk of computers replacing human judgment, the most complex problems are often best addressed when computers supplement human judgment, rather than supplant it. The Astros’ human/algorithm partnership turned a historically bad team into a champion in six years. Other industries, take note.

    David Epstein, bestselling author of The Sports Gene
  • Books by Ben Reiter

  • Media About Ben Reiter

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