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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Moneyball – Pitt Hill Hoffman Sabremetrics Baseball

The duties of a general manager of a Major League Baseball team negotiates all the player contracts, makes the trades and ensures the best available players are playing for his ball club. What does a big league general manager do when his team cannot afford to hire any quality players?

In “Moneyball”, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics or the A’s as they are called, are a good ball team but exist in a small baseball market where there is little money to spend for big money baseball players. To compete with wealthy teams like the New York Yankees, Beane decides to hire ball players that have talents that are undervalued by the rest of major league baseball. He avoids players that have high RBI’s and great base stealing ability which are attributes that can cost a team millions of dollars. Instead, Beane strictly looks at a player’s ability to get on base. On base percentage and walks rule in Beane’s thinking. The more guys that get to first base, the more runs will eventually score. Sounds easy enough but few in his organization agree.

Brad Pitt is immensely driven and charismatic as the underdog general manager Billy Beane. He seems to glide through one scene to the next flawlessly as the classic work-a-holic character with a purpose as well as daughter he loves. Pitt brings all his charm and it comes through so naturally as if he was designed to play this role.

Jonah Hill is, Peter Brandt. Brandt is a math genius who is working his first job ever with the Cleveland Indians and he has a problem. No one believes his theory that baseball is fundamentally flawed in the way it measures player ability statistically. Brandt argues that great players you see on TV really aren’t that great. Yes, they generate big plays but those plays do not translate to scoring runs. They get big hits and steal some bases but they aren’t actually winning games for their teams. Beane, realizing himself and the young Brandt are the only two people that see eye to eye, buys Brandt from the Indians so he can work as assistant GM for the A’s.
Jonah Hill is perfect as Brandt. It would be easy to make this character annoyingly nerdy or overly heroic but instead Hill plays the part as a competent, yet still slightly naïve young man. He is immensely earnest and likeable. Brandt is nerdy, yes, but only in an awkward way and not repulsive at all.

The dialog between Beane and Brandt was so enjoyable, I watched the movie twice. Some scenes are completely soul bearing and others are utterly hilarious. There is a subtle of awkwardness between the two that I just loved. Pitt and Hill have great on screen chemistry. In a way, it felt like the "Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid" of baseball films.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is always a pleasure to see on screen. Hoffman plays the uncooperative and dumbfounded A’s manager Art Howe (who many think is unfairly portrayed in this film.) Howe is weary, disgruntled and and wants nothing of Beane’s system. Hoffman seethes beautifully throughout the film.

If you enjoyed the book, “Moneyball” you’ll find this movie to be fairly faithful to the book.. There are some notable differences though.  The book gets more into the nuts and bolts of Beane’s statistical rationale while the movie is more of a story. The most glariing difference is that the real-life assistant GM to Billy Beane, Paul Deposta, is not in the movie at all.  Instead, a fictional Peter Brandt (Jonah Hill), who in not way resembles Deposta's looks or personality, plays the assistant GM instead.  It has been said that Deposta wanted his name stricken from the film once he found out 'his' character was nothing like himself.

This is a terrific film that does justice to both the book and the big-screen. Check it out.

Please Check Out Some of My Other Posts Below

What is it Like to Be a Minor League Player?  "Sugar" is a Film About Just That

Di Nero Plays a Dying Catcher - Does The Film Live Up to The Story?

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