The Math Behind Moneyball: True Story

Apr 23, 2021 | Stone Oak

Billy Beane, the once general manager for the Oakland A’s, had an epiphany when it came to math and its role in baseball. Faced with a limited budget, Billy needed to reinvent his tem by outsmarting his wealthy opponents at rivaling baseball clubs. Joining forces with Ivy League graduate Peter Brand, Billy prepared to challenge old-school traditions. He decides to recruit “bargain bin” players whom the scouts have deemed flawed, but potentially could be game winning players. 


This true story was developed into a movie, Moneyball (2011). In this movie, Peter Brand analyzes baseball players using equations and statistics to demonstrate their value, as well as project their potential accomplishments. By ignoring appearance and focusing on actual numbers, Peter uses math to save money for the professional baseball program. 


In one important scene, Peter uses equations once again to project just how many wins are needed to reach the postseason, how many runs can be allowed, and how many runs must be scored throughout the entire season. After discovering these statistics, Peter uses other equations to determine which players can assist the team accomplish these projected numbers. By using math as a resource, Peter is able to get players for $200,000 that accomplish the same as players that cost $3 million. 


Peter states that in order to receive a playoff spot the following year, the team would have to win 99 games. As 99/162 = 61.1%, the team would have to win 61.1% to make the playoffs. 


In order to determine how many runs must be scored and how many runs can be allowed, Brand uses the Pythagorean expectation equation, which is based off of the original Pythagorean theorem (a2 + b2 = c2).


Math is alive in every sphere of life and as described here, has the potential to cut right through biases. 

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