The real-life inspiration behind the upcoming movie, “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill will be at Tennessee Tech University as part of the College of Business Distinguished Lecture series at 7 p.m. Sept. 15.
Paul DePodesta helped revolutionize the way Major League Baseball teams select players, relying on data analysis of a player’s performance, rather than more traditional scouting methods. Fortune magazine named him one of the Top 10 innovators under 40. The movie, which is scheduled to come out in theaters later this month, was based on a 2003 book, “Moneyball: The art of winning an unfair game,” by Michael Lewis.
Though DePodesta is a baseball executive – he has worked for the New York Mets since 1996 – his work and methods can be applied to any aspect of business.
“Oftentimes when people read the book, they sort of mistake it for a book about baseball statistics. It’s much, much more than that,” DePodesta said. “I think it’s really encouraging people to be creative and observant about the world around them, not just accept things the way they are because that’s always the way they’ve been.”
At TTU, the book is used in management professor Tom Timmerman’s special topics course in sports management. However, the story and lesson can apply beyond the sports field.
DePodesta graduated from Harvard University with a degree in economics and was the third youngest person to be a general manager for an MLB team. By using the principles of sabermetrics, which is analysis through objective and empirical evidence like baseball statistics, to determine relative worth of players, DePodesta helped the Oakland A’s contend with top teams like the New York Yankees with less than a third of their budget.
“It’s a story about how you can take knowledge and use it to do something new, rather than what everybody else is doing,” Timmerman, who also directs TTU’s MBA program, said. “The more we can get people using what works instead of what everybody else does, the better companies will run. Using evidence-based knowledge benefits everybody; that’s the lesson.”
The COB Distinguished Lecture Series is held annually and brings prominent business executives to campus to speak to students and community members. The event is free and open to the general public. DePodesta is the third of four speakers for the 2011 series. The talk will be held in the Ervin Auditorium on the first floor of Johnson Hall.
“We want to bring big names to inspire our students and Paul DePodesta is one of those,” Timmerman said. “If I could have picked anybody, he’s the one I would have picked.”