Brad Pitt, Billy Beane, and Baseball…er…Moneyball

They don't play much baseball or cricket here, but the artist figures in this blog.

Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill was released September 23, and will take you out to the ballpark in almost-as-thrilling a way as a ticket to a playoff game or even World Series. In addition to being immersed in some great games as they were played (through replays of old games that are melded to the story in an Impressionistic manner worthy of a Seurat or Debussy) you will find yourself in a debate that continues over the role of statistics versus old-time talent-scout intuition, the revered tradition of signing baseball prospects out of high school, and a business practice that increasingly views players as short-term commodities with the life-expectancy of a fruit fly being moved around on a chessboard. (Yes a mixed metaphor but the juxtaposition of the sedentary with the iconoclastic is a feature of the movie.)

The relationship of the players in the Moneyball game is so complex and enthralling that Brad Pitt doesn’t even need a romantic partner to attract and sustain our attention. As Billy Beane, he is the general manager of an Oakland Athletics team of nearly a decade ago. Jonah Hill stars beside him aa just-out-of-college statistical whiz (Peter Brand) who claims clairvoyant powers in predicting the future performance of players–not on concepts and stats such as BA, HR, or EPA, but by mundane (on base-percentage) and other more-hidden formulae as well.

Even someone with a doctorate in chemistry would have a hard time describing how two utterly dissimilar characters as Beane and Brand could create their own inseparable and winning bond. Beane–who could just as easily step in or out of Taft High School as character Danny in Grease, socially adroit, charming and even-slick-turning-to-smarmy–recognizes the savvy in Brand, an Ivy League guy who incidentally might have won the science fair in cryptography at The Bronx High School of Science.

You’ll enjoy the baseball and you’ll be touched by Billy Beane/Brad Pitt and how his tween-age daughter remains #1 in his life. Many who see this movie will become introspective later and wonder about the evolving role of statistical prediction in fields like education, medicine, government, and even the dearest and closest to our heart avocations like baseball and how we spend our free time.

(This blog/film review is written by our regular contributor, Dr. William Van Ornum)

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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