Posted by: Jerry Garrett | September 24, 2011

Moneyball’s Peter Brand: aka Paul DePodesta

The baseball-themed movie “Moneyball” is based on a true story, about real people – with one exception: Peter Brand.

Jonah Hill portrays Brand, a Yale-educated research geek, who can crunch numbers and come up with canny suggestions about finding true baseball diamonds in the rough.

The beneficiary of Brand’s wisdom is the general manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt).

The character of Brand is an invention by the filmmakers; in the excellent Michael Lewis non-fiction book upon which the movie is based, the real-life “Brand” is identified as Paul DePodesta. Unlike Brand, DePodesta is slender, fit and handsome. He’s also Harvard-educated (not a Yalie – screenwriter Aaron Sorkin‘s private joke).

Currently, DePodesta is a Vice President of player development with the New York Mets – having also made stops with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, after splitting from Beane and the A’s 18 months after the 2002 season upon which “Moneyball” is based.

DePodesta, who prefers to stay in the background, was the only real-life individual depicted in the movie who refused to allow his name to be used.

Those are the bullet-points, now here’s the “rest of the story”, as old-time radioman Paul Harvey used to say.

In the movie, Brand comes off as something of an unsung hero.

Paul DePodesta

But in real life, DePodesta actually had his moment in the spotlight – when at the tender age of 31, in February 2004, he was named general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The glare proved to be too harsh. He lasted just two seasons, and was unceremoniously canned after the 2005 season – during which the injury-riddled Dodgers compiled their worst record in 11 years. (They did, however, go to the playoffs in 2004.)

The pontifical judgment of sportswriters in L.A., and indeed most of baseball at the time, was that young Mr. DePodesta was “in over his head”, and his “Moneyball” sabermetric theories were a flop.

But the judgment of history plays out over a longer period of time. Look at the players DePodesta brought in – usually for little or no significant outlay in cash – and what has subsequently happened to them:

Jayson Werth – Hired by DePodesta for peanuts, but let go by the Dodgers after his firing, Werth went on to become an All-Star outfielder with the Philadelphia Phillies  – who not coincidentally also won two World Series titles while he was there. While with the Dodgers, however, Werth was beset by one injury after another.

He now is with the Washington Nationals, after signing a seven-year, $126 million deal.

Cody Ross – Also dumped by Ned Colletti, DePodesta’s replacement as Dodgers’ G.M., Ross has since become known and respected for his clutch hitting and fielding prowess.

Though manager Jim Tracy let him warm the Dodgers’ bench for two years after DePodesta acquired him, now Ross is a popular star outfielder for the World Champion San Francisco Giants; he was MVP of the 2010 N.L. Pennant playoff series.

Milton Bradley – A gifted player with some off-field problems, and challenging interpersonal skills, Bradley was a solid hitter in two seasons with the Dodgers after DePodesta traded to get him from Cleveland. When it became clear Bradley had to be let go, because of his personality clashes (among other issues), the Dodgers traded him along with Antonio Perez, another top DePodesta acquisition, to Oakland for Andre Ethier (who had been drafted & signed by Oakland while DePodesta was there).

Andre Ethier – Amazingly, after DePodesta left, the Dodgers’ braintrust wasted almost two years of Ethier’s career by contending they couldn’t find a place in the lineup to play him. They even sent him to the minors. When Ethier finally got a chance to play, he was a .300+ hitter. In 2011, he was elected to the All-Star team. Interestingly, Colletti seems to suggest Ethier, whose season was cut short by knee surgery, is a malingerer. Colletti treated injured catcher Russell Martin similarly in 2010, and let him leave without compensation.

Jeff Kent – A former MVP with the Giants, possibly a future Hall of Famer, DePodesta convinced Kent to switch to the Dodgers as a free agent. The RBI machine would start at  second base for the Dodgers for four productive years, before retiring.

Current Dodger G.M. Colletti encouraged the sore-kneed Kent to step aside, so younger players could move into his spot in the lineup.

J.D. Drew – Although Drew was accused of never playing up to his potential with the Dodgers (expectations of him were unrealistically high), since current Dodgers management lost him in a free agency debacle to the Boston Red Sox – where he was (and still is) an integral part of that World Championship club.

Drew was so anxious to bolt the Dodgers, he opted out of a contract that guaranteed him three more years and $33 million.

Derek Lowe – A powerhouse pitcher with legendary durability (13 seasons without going on the disabled list), DePodesta brought in Lowe in 2005, fresh off pitching the Red Sox to their first World Championship. Despite four strong seasons as the Dodgers’ ace, the post-DePodesta Dodgers let Lowe go (to the Atlanta Braves). The Dodgers’ holier-than-thou owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, were reportedly offended that he had had an affair with a local television cupcake. How ironic, considering the allegations being thrown around now in the McCourt divorce case.

Brad Penny – The hulking Penny would supplant Lowe as the Dodger ace, before he too was let go by post-DePodesta management. (See a pattern developing here?) DePodesta picked up Penny, a key component of the Florida Marlins’ World Championship-winning 2003 club, in a controversial mid-2004 season trade.

DePodesta was roasted by L.A. sportswriters for disturbing a first place Dodgers team by trading away its catcher, Paul LoDuca, and middle relief stalwart Guillermo Mota for Penny and the walk specialist Hee-Seop Choi (manager Jim Tracy loathed giving him playing time).

(Hot Stove NY)

What DePodesta was never given credit for was ridding the Dodgers of two players who would later be implicated as drug cheats. LoDuca, since retired, was named in the Mitchell Report; Mota was banned from the game for a time.

DePodesta also used additional players he picked up from the Marlins to acquire centerfielder Steve Finley, whose dramatic final game, ninth-inning, walk-off grand slam would clinch the Dodgers a playoff berth.

(Of course, there were plenty of other trades, large and small that DePodesta orchestrated. I won’t mention them all here. But it seems for every star – or future star – DePodesta brought in, he shipped out two or more failures. Tracy, an old school baseball manager like Art Howe in Oakland, often disagreed with his G.M.’s Moneyball moves – and that eventually cost Tracy his job.)

DePodesta was also criticized for losing third baseman Adrian Beltre (more ‘roids rumors) to free agency, not hiring a new manager fast enough to replace the fired Tracy, and being an unrepentant computer geek. A sportswriter nicknamed him “Google Boy.”

Despite clashes with Dodgers’ chief scout Logan White, DePodesta’s Dodger draft picks included pitcher Scott Elbert, infielders Blake DeWitt and Ivan DeJesus, closer Javy Guerra and reliever Cory Wade; he also drafted pitching aces David Price and Luke Hochevar but lacked the resources needed to sign them.

DePodesta was also wise with his limited resources. He never overpaid for a free agent, or a draft pick. Compare that to Colletti’s subsequent squandering of $127 million on Jason Schmidt, Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre.

As the years go by, and the Dodgers continue to slowly sink in the West, DePodesta’s star rises again in the East. I watch his efforts to rebuild the Mets now, with interest.

Moneyball works. That’s the true legacy of agents of change, like Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta. It’s unfortunate DePodesta didn’t want his name used in the movie; for his role in changing baseball, he deserves more credit, not less.

So, watch Moneyball, and take some satisfaction in knowing the real Peter Brand, and “the rest of the story.”

Jerry Garrett

September 24, 2011

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Responses

  1. Philadelphia (and Jayson Werth) won one world series title, in 2008 and not two. In 2009 they were defeated by the NY Yankees in the World Series.

    • Yes, you are correct. Thanks for pointing that out. One World Series, two National League Pennants.

    • Yeah. Thanks. Here is a lit cigarette, burn that into my other scar plz.

  2. Very good article! Thank you.

  3. Thanks for gathering the PDP facts here. A very good read for anyone curious after seeing Moneyball.

  4. Andre Ethier was actually acquired by Ned Colletti, a couple months after DePodesta was fired. And Brad Penny didn’t supplant Lowe; he was done as a Dodger before Lowe. He didn’t even start a game in the 2008 playoffs, while Derek Lowe started three.

    • Ethier was actually a DePodesta choice not once, but TWICE. When DePodesta was at Oakland, they drafted him TWICE, and finally signed him on the second try. Colletti may claim credit for the Bradley trade, but it was in the works before he arrived. Penny did replace Lowe as an opening day starter, although you are correct that Penny didn’t ever eclipse Lowe overall. Getting rid of Lowe was a real Think Blue blunder.

      • Losing Lowe to free agency wasn’t really that bad. He was good for the Dodgers, but he made 15 million last year and posted an ERA above 5.00. He’s also making 15 million next year and Frank Wren said he isn’t even guaranteed to crack the starting rotation for the Braves.

  5. More on Ethier–he only played 25 games in the minors for the Dodgers before being promoted to the bigs, and he’s been up ever since then.

    • But he did warm the bench for way too long, because they claimed not to have a place to play him….

      • I’m not sure where you are getting your stats, because Ethier had 441 plate appearances in 126 games in his first season as a Dodger, and that’s after playing only a couple
        dozen in the minors.

        Cool article, and I’m definitely no Colletti fan, but some of the facts are a little iffy.

      • Thanks. I just recall the day to day, as you would watch the games, wondering why they didn’t start Ethier more. He would sit the whole game, then be called in to base-run, or pinch-hit, or be a late-inning replacement in the field for one of the outfielders. He would be hitting .300+ and there would always be lame excuses for why he wasn’t starting. Amazing he got 441 plate appearances. As I recall it wasn’t until he finally got a start, and had a 5-for-5 day that it was begrudingly decided to make room for him in the lineup. He had to fight his way in, past some real Palookas.

  6. [...] to have spotted twirling on the poles at a Bronx nightclub?) The basis of my picks? A little bit Peter Brand and a little bit riding the hot [...]

  7. i thought Jonah did a great job being you–you kind of needed
    a nerd type to pull it off—we have lived here for 45 years and I
    don’t remember 2e002 A’s—not sure Billy is as handsome as Brad
    but a good movie over all–what has happened to the A’s since??

    • Billy is a good-looking guy – athletic, fit, personable. Brad Pitt, however, is Brad Pitt. Billy’s A’s are finding it tougher to be competitive, as other teams have figured out the “Moneyball” tricks. So the playing field has been leveled somewhat. Billy remains, though, one of the better General Managers in all of baseball. Now that his daughter has grown up, I wonder if he will be as committed to staying in Oakland.

      • Signed through 2019. I think the A’s will be fine with the kids and the soon to be new stadium. Beane rules!

  8. [...] Look at the data that really matters; it may not be obvious at first. In Moneyball, Beane relied on Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to help him make sense of all of the stats. It was Brand who took the core data and [...]

  9. This movie knocked me out! I hate sports . . . and now I know why. Sports fans are just as bad, but what great men are Billy Beane and Peter Brand . . . that was the story. I dragged my husband to this movie and we’ve been talking about it for two days. The world is all about money and that SUCKS! Especially when we could feed the world, sports, movies, meaningless . . . but I’m just as bad. I love movies I pay the huge prices to see the movies.

    Anyway . . . I’d like a sequel all about Peter Brand. Facinating. I’m glad he changed baseball!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Peter Brand…the Dodger Years. That would be a sequel I’d pay to see!

      • Me too!!!

      • Yes, but the Dodger years would mean Frank and Jamie McCourt…and the cost of teaching two rats to speak so they could properly play the roles would be expensive.

      • They’d probably file lawsuits to play themselves and write separate versions of the script.

    • Seriously? You are going to feed the world with someone else’s money? Great aspiration!

  10. Moneyball is a good and interesting movie, although I still think the 2002 A’s were more about great pitching (Hudson, Zito and Muldor, none of whom were “Moneyball” low-dollar acquisitions), and about weeding out the bad players (Jeremy Giambi especially) than about sabermetrics. I could win with Hatteberg at 1b two with three #1-caliber aces!

    • The A’s looked like garbage before Howe had no choice but to start the team Beane wanted him to start from the get-go. Hudson, Zito and Mulder were a big part of the A’s. But they didn’t start winning until Beane’s team looked like Beane’s team.

      • That’s true enough. The overlooked part of the equation in the movie, of course, was the contribution of the starting pitchers. Somehow the A’s managed to get career years out of those arms.

  11. [...] because the team is doing poorly. So Beane goes out on a limb and hires a recent college graduate, Peter Brand (a composite character based largely on Paul DePodesta), for his ability to think differently. [...]

  12. Great movie not about baseball only, but also about the world of statistics.

    I got here intrigued by wanting to know who Peter Brand was.

    I really love it.

  13. [...] is the one character not based on a real person. The nearest equivalent to him  in real life is Paul DePodesta who refused to allow his name to be used in the film. His snub probably works to the movie’s advantage as the contrast between the confident and [...]

  14. 8-1 not to shabby for Ned? By the way how are the Mets doing? Frank McCheap was the problem as was the A’s ownership. You still have to pay to get good players. The Yankee system is not flawed, 27 championships put money ball to shame.

  15. I just watched that “Fell Good” Movie Moneyball and I loved it…I just wonder if Mr. DePodesta could implement the same theories for The Toronto Maple Leafs…?

  16. [...] our schools and districts have some Billy Beane’s sitting at their desks. Or at least some Jonah Hill’s whispering in their ears. Share [...]

  17. Also forgotten by the movie along with the pitching….AL MVP Miguel Tejada….great movie, but missing many pieces.

  18. I just got done watching this movie and wow!!! Billy Beane and Peter Brand have have the same philosophy in that…get on base!!! I had a very high batting average in high school for that reason, .426 i believe, because my mindset every time at the plate was get on base and the runs will come…1000% more than if u dont…the only thing i didnt agree with was dont steal bases, i loved stealing bases and i was really good at it!!! I wish i would have stuck with or became a scout…if theres anything i know best its basesball and true athletes!!!

  19. I just watched Moneyball too. I thought it was FANTASTIC and hopped on to read more about Mr. DePodesta. Your post is brilliant and I very much enjoyed reading, “the rest of the story”. Thank you for sharing it!

  20. Found this article in 2013. Mets haven’t had a winning season in five years, and the Dodgers just steamrolled their way to a division title and look to be a major contender in the next few years.

    Face it. In the long run, Colletti is a better GM than PDP could ever hope to be. Colletti signed Yasiel Puig. DePodesta signed Hee-Seop Choi.

    • Colletti got better when new ownership gave him some pointers and a bottomless checkbook.


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