Investors who are fans of baseball realized some time ago that there are quite a few similarities -- that run deeper than cliches -- between baseball and investing. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, is an excellent book on baseball that covers a number of these similarities. Few books have helped me as much in forming a more value-focused investment strategy. For more on Moneyball, I recommend reading commentaries by Whitney Tilson and Zeke Ashton.
With my baseball cap on, instead of my jester's cap, I like to comb through the statistics of my favorite team every couple of weeks. Last week I noticed that a journeyman starting pitcher and a perennial All-Star starting pitcher had performed nearly identically -- except for wins and losses -- this year. With a little more support from the hitters, the journeyman might very well have a similar win total as well. The pitchers' statistics are below, and the names will be given at the end. Extra points to those who can guess each one's name without looking!
ERA is earned runs allowed per nine innings; Avg. is hitters' batting average against the pitcher; HR/Inning is home runs per inning; and BB/Inning is bases on balls per inning.
Looking at these statistics makes me think of businesses that slowly start putting the pieces of success together to become solid performers and businesses that repeatedly deliver outstanding growth. It's easy to get wrapped up in the aura of the All-Star and ignore the journeyman, but it's important to remember we're paying for future performance, not what was accomplished the last few years.
The restaurant industry offers up some excellent parallels to our baseball example. P.F. Chang's China Bistro
Lone Star Steakhouse
Investing in all-star businesses and ballplayers can be tricky at best. The all-star pitcher above earned his salary over the years, but just as often a star can quickly fade. Oddly enough, we never expect as much of the journeyman pitcher or investment. Perhaps that's because neither may gain the fanfare of an All-Star, but investors might find that both can deliver an above-average performance at a reasonable price.
Fool contributor Nathan Parmelee does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. In the example above, the journeyman is Bronson Arroyo and the All-Star is Pedro Martinez; both are starting pitchers for the Boston Red Sox.