Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, is hurt by the team’s loss to the New York Yankees in the 2001 American League Division Series. With the impending departure of star players Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen to free agency, Beane needs to assemble a competitive team for 2002 with Oakland’s limited budget.
During a scouting visit to the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate with radical ideas about how to assess player value. Beane tests Brand’s theory by asking whether he would have drafted Beane out of high school; though scouts considered Beane promising, his career in the major leagues was disappointing. Brand admits that, based on his method of assessing player value, he would not have drafted him until the ninth round. Impressed, Beane hires Brand as his assistant GM.
Rather than relying on the Oakland scouts’ experience and intuition, Brand uses sabermetrics, selecting players based on their on-base percentage. Brand and Beane use this methodology to acquire undervalued players such as unorthodox submarine pitcher Chad Bradford, aging outfielder David Justice, and injured catcher Scott Hatteberg.
The scouts are hostile toward the strategy, and Beane fires head scout Grady Fuson after he accuses Beane of destroying the team. Beane also faces opposition from Art Howe, the Athletics’ manager. With tensions already high between them due to a contract dispute, Howe disregards Beane’s and Brand’s strategy and plays a more traditional lineup that he prefers.
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