Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Moneyball Does Not Play Well

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 5, 2011

  “Moneyball” is not a good movie, but it is a good story. It is a story of aging arrogance; how hard it is to believe that what you have been doing for thirty years can easily be outdone by a computer. We all know this to be true, but we also want to believe that there is something to be said for experience and intuition. As a lover of math, I know this not to be true, yet at the same time I am in a field which is almost completely based on sensitivity and speculation. The limits of this method is shown well in the story, but the great actors, Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill all disappoint in telling this tale. Baseball is a romance, the movie tells us, mostly because we do not understand why teams win or lose. Money has something to do with it, but that is not complete. Reducing players to their statistics predicts who can make a comeback and who should retire. That makes sense, but how do you tell people this when they have believed in their guessing skills for their entire career without making the scouts feel worthless and old. In the end, it does not matter who feels what, what matters is having a winning team which sells more tickets which makes the team more likely to win in the future. Yet, feelings do matter as the story continues. The main character has a relationship with his twelve-year old daughter. This turns out to be his game-changer, despite all of his rhetoric about getting ahead. The problem is that the opportunity to see a father love his daughter is missed in this movie. The opportunity to see a General Manager plow ahead despite the odds is portrayed better, but still without the emotional texture of  pursuing an idea against strong resistance. Maybe, as usual, the book  is a lot better.

2 Responses to “Moneyball Does Not Play Well”

  1. I disagree. I think they did a great job of getting the audience to root for the chubby, nerdy statistician versus the old-school weather-beaten coaches. It’s a total switch for movies (which usually chalk baseball savvy up to “the human factor”) so I salute them. Especially Jonah Hill (underdog stats guy).

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