The movie Moneyball detailed the story of the Oakland A’s successful use of sabermetrics – a statistical analysis of baseball based upon objective evidence rather than gut-feelings and human observation – to determine the value of players.Starring Brad Pitt, Moneyball was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. For stat geeks (or Brad Pitt fans), the movie was a home run. At the end of last season, Iowa State men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg got accolades for being the “best timeout tactician” in college basketball in a story by SI.com’s Luke Winn. The author – citing several innocuous statistical measures – concluded that Hoiberg did more with possessions after TOs than anyone in the nation. That’s coaching. In the movie, there is a scene in which the Assistant General Manager tells Pitt’s character that “people are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws. Mathematics cuts straight through that.” When Hoiberg was hired at ISU, the skeptics spoke loudly about his lack of head coaching experience. That generalization was based upon perceived shortcomings. Although some crazy formula said Hoiberg was the nation’s best tactician after timeouts, any Cyclone observer would note that 23 wins certified his coaching abilities even more. It didn’t really take a Pythagorean calculation or a correlated Gaussian methodology to state that case.
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