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A whole new ballgame

"Moneyball," which is to be released this Friday Sept. 23 will present viewers with a different kind of sports film. Typically, American sports films present the possibilities that superior athletic prowess can bestow on individuals, teams and even nations lucky enough to encounter them. This notion, while giving rise to classics like "Rudy," "Miracle" and "Remember the Titans," does little to suggest that there are alternative ways of creating success outside of the traditional places like natural talent and strong leadership. Baseball lovers everywhere can look forward to finally getting a taste of something different with this film, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Based on a true story, "Moneyball" tells the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's and his struggle to revive a franchise that has fallen on hard financial times. Through the use of "sabermetrics," a system of statistical analysis that he pioneered, Beane and his staff circumvent traditional scouting to create a competitive team at a fraction of the normal cost. While Beane's use of sabermetrics helped propel the A's to better standings, it raises an important issue of whether or not teams should be founded on individual empirical data rather than achievement as a whole. Although this method was employed at a professional level, athletes everywhere have different opinions about whether or not is should be used at the college level. Robert Podhurst, a professor of Sociology and Anthropology offered his view on the matter. "Unlike the pros, where superior athletes are routinely cut, colleges compete for talented youth," he said. "Stats are invaluable to empirically identify specific types of talent: speed, power, velocity. Managers are expected to have and use this information to maximize their chances to win." Statistical analysis also provides certain intangibles that, as Podhurst said, "have to do with ‘gut' feelings about particular situations and the overall strength and quality of your team. A team with awesome fire power affords the manager opportunities to manage more aggressively." Sabermetrics may seem impersonal, but certain benefits have led to some professional teams employ in-house statisticians like Bill James of the Boston Red Sox. However, opinions of those directly affected by this system differ from those making the calculations. When asked about sabermetrics' effect on scouting, SHU baseball player Dillon Hamlin remarked, "It doesn't take into account late starts [to the season]. Some people bat under .200, but are now Division 1 athletes." While mainly focusing on the life of Beane, "Moneyball" also provides valuable insight on sabermetrics for those who may not know of its implications for players. Click here to watch the 'Moneyball' trailer! Christopher Spall may be reached at


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