The movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt is about Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and his use of sophisticated statistical methods to hire new players. Mathematics professor and baseball aficionado Gerald Kruse talks about the methods the film is based on:
What sort of statistical analysis was Beane using?
It’s called sabermetrics in the sports world and it refers to the application of statistics in making management decisions- especially in baseball. It started in the ’80s with baseball, as the story ofMoneyball shows. They used really sophisticated techniques. The idea was to use statistics to find good players on other teams that didn’t have much profile, so the team didn’t value them. That way they could build a winning team on a budget.
Now all the big teams use it. Base runners matter now, not home runs. The joke is: All you have to do now is just keep the players healthy.
Do other sports use it now?
Yes, I know it’s big in basketball. Football too, but to a lesser degree.
Aren’t some player qualities hard to quantify though?
There are some trickier things, more art than science. Fielding- anything that’s not batting or running- is very hard to quantify. A joke between us baseball fans is that the Golden Glove (award given to the best fielder) is given to the best hitter.
So the big question is: does it work?
Past performance never guarantees future results. A guy might have the best stats in the world, but maybe he’s going through a breakup and doesn’t play well. But you can predict general trends, and it is possible to build a pretty good picture of a player’s performance in statistics.
-Joe Aultman-Moore, 2012, Juniata Online Journalist