Never before has a movie properly showcased what is one of the most interesting parts of professional sports, the management. Then in 2011, “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt was released and at last people got to see a portrayal of behind the scenes baseball set to screen.
A lot of professional sports competition is done not on the field, but in an office. Pitt plays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, a former player whose career didn’t work out the way he wanted.
The A’s are a small market team in baseball and for that reason, Beane’s job to build a consistent winner is challenging. As soon as his team gets good led by Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Jason Isringhausen, all three players are lured away with massive contracts by big markets organizations.
This left Beane in a tough spot where his team was likely to fail and he had no way to fix it. He lashed out on scouts who simply began to find replacements for these players.
After all, they weren’t going to be able to replace those players on their budget.
On a trip to Cleveland, Beane discovers Peter Brand, who is the character designed to portray an analytical approach to sports. Brand says Beane has the ability to really dive into analytics and can get players cheaply because the rest of the league undervalues them.
He coins it as “An island of misfit toys”.
At first the A’s struggle with with new strategy. The scouts fight back against Beane, who devalues their importance in finding talent. The manager doesn’t believe the philosophy can work and clashes with Beane because of this.
All the while, the team starts off slow adding to the pressure for Beane. After the slow start, Beane makes drastic moves to make sure the team operates the way he designed according to analytics.
The approach works perfectly as the A’s players start to buy into the new philosophy. They don’t bunt, they draw walks and they play disciplined baseball.
This leads to an incredible winning streak for the A’s, who win 19 straight games. In the 20th game, the A’s start off with an 11-0 lead against the Kansas City Royals, but slowly the lead is blown.
The Royals eventually tie the game, but Scott Hatteberg, one of the players the A’s brought in due to analytics hits the home run to seal the win for the A’s.
In the playoffs, however, the Minnesota Twins knocked out the A’s leaving Beane to question whether his method is truly useful.
Well, the other teams in baseball begin to adopt the analytical approach proving that Beane did in fact change the game.
The analytical approach to sports has grown for years and now almost every team uses it to identify talent and build their rosters. The debate has raged on discussing how much each team should invest or trust in analytics. However, it’s clear that the philosophy is here to stay in sports for the long haul.