2011, 133 min., directed by Bennett Miller.
Co-written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Steve Zaillan, and based on the best-selling book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. On one level, one could say this is a film about baseball, but on another level it’s about David taking on Goliath – how small-market teams evaluate talent in new and different ways to exploit market inefficiencies, in order to survive and compete against larger-market teams with far greater resources. View the record for Moneyball.
Billy Beane (portrayed by Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland A’s, has just watched his team lose in the 2001 playoffs to the New York Yankees. Beane has lost three key players to other teams in free agency. During a visit to the Cleveland Indians, he spots a young Ivy Leaguer there, Peter Brand (portrayed by Jonah Hill), who displays a talent for evaluating players using statistical analysis (Sabremetrics). Beane hires Brand to assist him in reshaping the A’s.
They encounter resistance from the scouts and coach, who cling to the traditional ways of evaluating baseball talent. Beane wheels and deals during the 2002 season, making trades to acquire players who are seemingly undervalued, but who excel at getting on base. The A’s go on to set an American League record for consecutive wins, winning 20 games.
The film does oversimplify and overplays the sabremetrics angle, as it fails to focus on these real life facts – the A’s were fortunate to have an MVP year from shortstop, Tejada, a stellar year from third baseman, Chavez, and phenomenal years from their big three starting pitchers (Zito, Hudson, and Mulder). Nevertheless, the success of the A’s Moneyball approach has proven to be highly influential, as most Major League teams today employ statistical experts on their staffs to evaluate talent. The screenwriters perform the unthinkable, in successfully transforming a potentially dry story into one with drama and wit.
Les Kong, Coordinator of the Library Multi Media Center (PL-5005), and longtime Alfred Hitchcock fan, reviews movies from the library’s collection. The opinions expressed are his alone.