MONEYBALL Sunday 27 November, 2011

Is it wrong that I was excited to see a film about the proper analysis of statistics in regard to managing a baseball team? Well, if it is wrong I don’t want to be right.

Let’s just start by saying that if you have no interest in the theory of sports management you are probably going to find this film exceptionally boring. Don’t let the fact that Brad Pitt is in it fool you. Don’t let the fact that Jonah Hill is in it fool you. This film is about sports theory. It is a story of struggle and of the strive for vindication but this story is couched a baseball management story.

You might be thinking “well, I liked Bull Durham” and right you would have been to like that but this is no Bull Durham. There’s no frisson of sexual tension here. There’s very little knock about dialogue here and there is very little in the way of comedy. So what is actually here then? This is a measured and contemplative film about a few men who tried to find a different way to do things.

Moneyball is the story of Billy Beane (charismatically portrayed by Brad Pitt), the General Manager of the Oakland A’s baseball franchise. The Oakland A’s are not a rich team. They don’t have the money of the New York Yankee’s. For those of you who don’t know too much about the way baseball is structured the General Manager is not the equivalent of the Manager in football. In the football world a similar role would be that of the Director of Football that is popular on the continent. The GM find the players and brings them to the franchise and in doing so steers the way the team plays. In baseball the equivalent role of manager is the head coach. The head coach here is played by an unusually (but welcomely) understated Philip Seymour Hoffman.

After watching his A’s team flop out of another end of season game against the financially superior New York Yankees, GM Billy Beane decides that he has to find a different way to compete against the financial might of his opponents. He stumbles upon Sabermetrics, a revolutionary system of statistical analysis developed by Bill James and so the struggle begins. Sabermetrics changes the factors upon which players are evaluated. It tries to move away from the emotive kind of evaluations and looks only at the measurable performance statistics of a player.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Pitt is typically excellent and supported well by Jonah Hill who is, himself, shaping up to be an excellent actor in his own right. The film is wonderfully paced and the statistical bent never seems to be a chore. Admittedly I am also partial to watching the odd baseball game so I did not find the terminology too bewildering. I suspect that if you have no understanding of baseball you might have a different experience.

I cannot stress enough that this is a film for sports fans and people who like to drool over Brad Pitt. If you’re a Liverpool fan it is probably of added relevance. The new owner of LFC, John W. Henry is portrayed in the film because of his involvement with the Sabermetrics movement with his other team The Boston Red Sox. These are the practices that he wants LFC to adopt and Damien Comolli (LFC head scout) is eager to put this into practice.

I would have no qualms recommending this film although I would be very choosy about who I recommend it to.

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