Moneyball, 2011, USA
I need to be honest: I’m not a baseball fan. This is probably the first baseball film I’ve ever seen. But I truly enjoyed it, and my lack of detailed sporting knowledge didn’t hinder the experience too much.
The Oakland Athletics are a lower budget baseball team and cannot afford the top players and the salaries they come with. Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is their General Manager and has to find a way to replace their best players who have signed contracts with more lucrative teams. He meets Peter (Jonah Hill), an economics major who uses statistics to determine which players are the best, instead of the traditional scouting system. His claim: many players are undervalued because of quirks in their playing style or their personal life. Billy hires Peter and together they come up with a new roster of undervalued players. Their strategy is an unpopular one, and they face opposition from the team’s coach (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
The film does use statistics at times throughout the film, and of course, those all went over my head. I don’t know a thing about batting averages or on plate averages. But that wasn’t a big deal as the filmmakers were careful to make it accessible to everyone. If our protagonists were happy with the players they were picking, I just assumed they had good averages.
I’m not the biggest Brad Pitt fan, admittedly, but he did a decent job with the film. Him and Jonah Hill had good chemistry and worked well together. Hill is playing the same awkward sort of character he often plays, but he was a charming sidekick. The story itself was very interesting. I had no idea that this sort of analysis was possible in baseball, and is apparently pretty commonplace today. I often underestimate the amount of skill it takes to put together a sports team. The folks who build a team (whether professional or not) need to look at the skill of the players and work to complement all of the people on the field (or ice) at any given time. It must be a ton of work.
Would it be possible to adapt this sort of analysis for other sports, such as hockey? I thought of the Winnipeg Jets as I watched this film. We must have one of the smaller budgets in the league, so if we were able to sign talent that has been “undervalued”, that would be great for the team.
While Moneyball definitely isn’t the sort of movie I see often, I really enjoyed it. It was a nice surprise.