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Moneyball: why it’s IE/OR at our best

The movie “Moneyball” stars Brad Pitt as the general manager of the Oakland Athletics who is compelled to find a new way to put together a winning team because of his shoestring budget. Industrial Engineering, Operations Research and Analytics save the day.

Although the A’s never won a championship in this era, Oakland did overcome their payroll disadvantage to make the playoffs each year from 2000-03 at a time when writers, fans, and even the commissioner of the league were all lamenting the inability of smaller-market teams to compete with the big-budget teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

The statistical analysis used as the basis for Oakland’s decision making was not all original. Much of it was drawn from work by baseball statistician Bill James and others that began at least two decades earlier. This research reexamined the game down to its foundation in an attempt to quantify the true value of the skills that lead to winning in baseball.

The real stars of the movie are math — and those who had the audacity of using it as the basis for baseball decisions. The movie is based on the 2003 book by Michael Lewis, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.”

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