Ten Things You Need To Know About Moneyball

Moneyball is Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill's next film. It starts its release cycle in the US on 23rd September before heading over to the UK and other territories in November. It is about baseball. If you're not in the US that probably means you know very little about it. Here's a quick guide to what you need to know about the non-fiction book the film is based on and why you should care about the big screen adaptation.

1 - The film will focus on Billy Beane (Pitt), General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball club from 1998 until the present day. In the book, Beane is a major player but really it is more about the attempts of several individuals and teams to unlock 'the secret' of baseball through different types of analysis and statistical interpretation. It's more thrilling than that sounds.

2 - The book was written by Michael Lewis who, far from being a sports reporter or famed baseball pundit, is actually a financial journalist from New Orleans. Lewis brings an authoritative and analytical air to Moneyball and addresses the narrative with the eye of someone uncovering a big coup. His natural talent for 'sniffing out a story' is part of what makes the book great: it is an expose of an industry (which in this case just happens to be a sport) in the process of a seismic shift.

3 - As with any industry in the process of major change, Lewis gets great mileage from presenting the narrative as an 'old vs new' conflict. The 'old' in Moneyball is represented by baseball's hierarchy of ageing scouts, ex-players and managers who 'know' when something is good and rely on things like their gut, their eye and their chewing tobacco. The 'new' is represented by Beane and his legion of new age statistical analysts.

4 - One of these statistical tools is something called sabermetrics, which gets its name from the Society for American Baseball Research (or SABR). The general idea behind it is that numbers can definitively tell you anything if you just look at them in the right way (another connection to Lewis' financial background) and draw the right conclusions. It is basically a maths geek's wet dream.

5 - The recently-released trailer is fantastic.

6 - Beane and the book have become part of baseball legend. The book's title is often referenced in baseball conversation as a label for teams who play a certain way. It became so influential in the sport that many teams tried (successfully) to adopt the methods it describes. Beane is still a part of baseball today and the battle between new and old methodologies still wages.

7 - As well as Pitt and Hill the film features Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Athletics' Manager. In baseball, general managers (such as Beane) control what is known as the 'front office' - taking decision on who to sign and sell, business strategy and retaining overall control over team activities - whilst day-to-day playing decisions are taken by field managers such as Hoffman's character. The book explores the tensions that this situation can create.

8 - It features a script which was originally drafted by Aaron Sorkin. Yes that's right, this Aaron Sorkin. And this Aaron Sorkin. Now you're interested, aren't you?

9 - On first glance it perhaps doesn't look like your typical Oscar-friendly release but it is being released fairly near to prime Oscar season. Sports films have a fair history at The Academy Awards and Moneyball has some pedigree. The director, Bennett Miller, directed Capote, which won Hoffman his Oscar for Best Actor and was nominated in four other categories (including Best Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay). It is Miller's first film since Capote and will be Sorkin's first since he won the Oscar for The Social Network's script last year.

10 - Many of the events the film looks to depict are completely factual on-field happenings which occurred during the Athletics' 2002 season. If you want to know the sort of thing that happened during this time you could do worse than read Scott Hatteberg's Wikipedia page, specifically the section which details his time at the Athletics, but be warned: this is a spoiler if you don't already know about the real life events.


  1. Great list. I loved the book and can't wait for the movie, probably my most anticipated of the year. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brad Pitt, Aaron Sorkin, Bennett Miller... yeah, I don't see how this won't be awesome.

  2. I loved the book too. Had a bit of a baseball book binge one summer; MONEYBALL, GAME OF SHADOWS and EIGHT MEN OUT. All wonderful. And yeah, after that trailer I really can't wait.

  3. 'Now you're interested, aren't you?'. Yes, yes I am. Didn't he rewrite the script or something?

  4. I think Sorkin might have re-written Steven Zaillian's script (to one degree or another) and then Zaillian was re-hired to re-work that script (to one degree or another). They've both got screenplay credits: depends on which article you read as to which writer did the most work and/or the first work on it!