Moneyball: A New-School Approach to Baseball

Brad Pitt in Moneyball. Courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Moneyball takes us into the front office by bringing a new school approach of utilizing sabermetrics in how the game of baseball is played.

Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), a former baseball player, would go one to become one of the game’s greatest innovators.  It’s not sure yet as to whether he’ll eventually enter the Baseball Hall of Fame.  However, his legacy will live on by way of the sabermetric system as proven by what we see in the film.

The 2002 Oakland Athletics didn’t have the best start to their season.  Billy Beane decides to make some changes to the roster and they didn’t play well for manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  Working with assistant GM Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), the duo would make some changes to the roster.  Again, what they were doing was not seen as the traditional way to build a team.  The Yale-educated Brand used his economic background in bringing a different approach than the old-school baseball scouts.  If it works, it works, right?

It’s because of Brand’s theories that lead the Athletics to acquire David Justice, Chad Bradford, and Scott Hatteberg.  Other teams weren’t exactly going after these players.  Hell, the New York Yankees would pay half of Justice’s salary for him to play against them.  It doesn’t play well with Howe nor head scout Grady Fuson.  Howe plays his own lineup, which would prove to be detrimental later on.

More teams are utilizing the sabermetrics system because of the 2002 Athletics.  Beane would land some interview opportunities because of their performance.  One such interview was with the Boston Red Sox.  In the end, Beane would make a decision to stay with the Athletics.  He’s still working for Oakland almost twenty years later.

Pitt delivers one of the strongest acting performances in 2011.  As evidenced by the Blu-ray’s blooper reel, I can report to you that Pitt is human.  Moreover, Jonah Hill’s performance as Peter Brand turns out to the biggest surprise.  Going into this film, Hill was known for his comedy.  Nobody could have ever predicted that we’d be seeing Oscar nominee Jonah Hill but here we are.  This isn’t a slight on the actor because he certainly deserves it.

Hoffman plays third wheel to the duo but he makes it count in every scene.  The look on his face when Beane informs him of the trades is priceless.  This also speaks Hoffman’s abilities as an actor.  With the way Hoffman performs the role, you really do believe that he’s a baseball manager.

Much of the Athletics’ season is portrayed by way of a montage.  Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay can only do so much when it comes to telling the story.  They tell a story that focuses more so on the behind-the-scenes than the action on the diamond.

Yet for all the good in the film, there’s still some issues with the storytelling.  They may be minor or major depending on one’s point of view.  Outside of Chad Bradford, the film ignore’s the Athletics core pitching trio of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder.  Zito would go on to take home the AL Cy Young for 2002!  Baseball fans would also know that Jeremy Giambi was acquired earlier.  Even with Bradford, he was traded to the As in 2000 so clearly there’s something going on here.  In the long-term, it doesn’t distract too much from the main story.  However, it’s recommended that one makes sure to read Moneyball by Michael Lewis.

Moneyball isn’t a traditional baseball film but it doesn’t need to be.  In utilizing the old school vs. new school approach, Moneyball manages to become one of the best baseball movies ever.

DIRECTOR:  Bennett MIller
SCREENWRITERS:  Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin
CAST:  Brad Pitt, Jonah HIll, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop

Columbia Pictures opened Moneyball in theaters on September 23, 2011. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.