I saw Moneyball over the weekend. This movie gives a fictionalized account of the how the general manager of the 2002 Oakland A's used the right kind of statistics to build a strong team with a low budget. This article on the GM Billy Beane gives a nice follow-up to the movie.
A bit surprising one can get a good movie about the math in baseball. Moneyball was based on the book by Michael Lewis with a screenplay co-written by Aaron Sorkin who also wrote the screenplay to the Social Network. Sorkin writes nerdy things well.
Moneyball is really a computer science movie. It's not about the computers themselves which play a small role, but its about taking a large amount of data and deriving the conclusions that help make the crucial decisions in developing the team.
You can also see the difference in computer science over the last decade. At the time of Moneyball, people would try many statistical models and test them out. These days via Machine Learning we give the computer the data and the results and the computer determines the right models.
Oddly enough Billy Beane's actions led to an even greater separation between the large and small market teams. The statistical ideas that Beane pushed have been adopted by the other teams. Now we've hit an equilibrium so the teams that spend more win more as well.
Oddly the New York Times ran an editorial piece Not-So-Smart Cities by Greg Lindsey yesterday arguing that cities shouldn't rely on these kinds of statistics for planning because of a failed project from the 60's. Sounds like Lindsey needs to see Moneyball.