Ball Park Figures or Brad Pitt Does Maths

November 21, 2011

MONEYBALL is a film starring Brad Pitt and  Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah HIll on current release in Australia. It is based on the true story of Oakland A’s Baseball team manager, Billy Beane (Pitt), who along with Ivy League Economics graduate and Uber Maths Nerd Peter Brand (Hill) used player stats to save the Oakland A’s baseball team in 2002. 


Not only does Billy Beane have to deal with enormous budget restraints ( Oakland A’s budget was $4o million compared with the Yankee’s $125 million), he showed that the statistics were more effective than experience ie. the  stats BEAT the club selector’s know-how.



Mathspig, who played softball in Australia – bigger ball, similar rules – saw the film and lerved the maths. Basically, Billy Beane bought up players with one particular skill – holding first base, stealing bases and the like – thus boosting the overall stats for the team. But Mathspig found some of the calculations weird.

This equation is called the Pythagorean Expectation. The wha? Mathspig is sooooo confused.


Mathpig went searching for an expert opinion and found it at MATHS GOES POP, an awesome blog linking maths with pop culture and written by a mathematics PhD student at UCLA.

Mathspig won’t give a spoiler for the film, but found the maths is BASEBALL MATHS. It’s a formula used for baseball only and named after Pythagoras because it sorta looks – chew gum here and try a Brad Pitt drawl- like the Theorem of that Greek Math Guy. You do not need to use this EQUATION unless, perhaps, you are going to coach the New York Yankees.

Even IF YOU DO COACH THE NEW YORK YANKEES this equation, doesn’t give you that much information.  We will fix ‘runs allowed’. OK. If ‘runs scored’ is high Win is high; it ‘runs scored’ is low Win is low. Um, this means SCORING RUNS is GOOD. Yeah! We knew that without the maths.

If you are interested in the maths, have a look at MONEYBALL MATH on the Math Goes Pop blog otherwise just keep eating your popcorn and enjoy the film.


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