The Simpsons — MoneyBART

The local little league team has a new coach, and she plans on using statistical analysis to improve their chances of winning. She tracks player tendencies and digs into the work of Bill James to bring a Moneyball approach to the Isotots. Bart laments that she has taken the fun out of the game, which begs the question of the team’s objective function. Are sports teams win-maximizers or should some teams focus on having fun?

At the end of the segment, Bart has a choice to make. Should he take the statistical approach to win the game or should he swing and try to preserve his hot streak. The hot hand fallacy is the belief that previous observations are correlated with upcoming observations. This fallacy leads us to believe batters “get hot” even though the probability of the next hit is independent of the previous ones.

Brooklyn 99 — Moneyball

Captain Holt and Lieutenant Jeffords want to streamline the department and improve efficiency across the precinct. Jeffords is concerned that Capt. Holt is getting to greedy and can’t make many more improvements, but Capt. Holt believes he’s taking a Moneyball approach to the department. The film is his favorite and he finds the statistical analysis beautiful.

While he may be improving efficiency through his new statistical approach, the two should be concerned about diminishing returns. Productivity can increase with revised strategies, but additional productivity may require a significant increase in cost. In order to determine the optimal outcome, the two should focus on marginal analysis.

Moneyball — What’s the Problem?

In Greg Mankiw’s favorite textbook (and one of the best-selling principles textbooks worldwide), he introduces students to the notion of “thinking like an economist.” Across the start of most economics textbooks exists a section about thinking strategically by using the notions of opportunity costs, scarcity, and rationality. Moneyball can be used as a starting point for discussing the assumptions of economic thinking.

In a scene from the movie, Billy Beane is seen in a boardroom full of scouts discussing replacing former players and evaluating potential draft picks. This scene serves as a great opening dialogue to economic issues of scarcity and rationality. While the A’s would like to keep Jeremy Giambi, they do not have enough space in their budget to keep him and must let him sign with other teams who are willing and able to pay more for his services. The resounding question that Beane poses to his scouts is a question that can be integrated throughout almost any economics course, “what’s the problem?”

Moneyball — Prospect Theory


In his attempt to transform the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane tries a revolutionary new approach to scouting players based on their productivity rather than purely on how they look on the field. During one of the montages, Beane expresses that his desire to win is dwarfed by his hatred of losing. He keenly tells his player that there is a difference between the two. His attitude is the mindset of prospect theory and loss aversion.

Moneyball — Breaking Biases

While focused on how to improve team performance, this clip does a great job thinking about labor as being a derived demand and focusing on the production of inputs rather than the inputs themselves.

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