Now that I've awoken from the two hour daze that staring into Brad Pitt's baby-blues can provoke in even the most hardened cowboy, I am ready to assess Moneyball fairly. It was a good movie (and Rotten Tomatoes agrees), but apparently the directors decided that it could only be a good if it skipped the facts.
Let's start with the things the movie got right:
In the movie, Brad Pitt chews tobacco. In real life, Billy Beane also chews tobacco (see above picture).
Former Oakland As manager Art Howe is probably dumber than Steve Nass.
The Oakland As are one of the poorest teams in baseball.
Billy Beane and some numbers geeks fundamentally changed the way the baseball establishment thinks about hitting. As is thoroughly demonstrated in the movie, people began to think more about On-Base-Percentage, for instance.
Billy Beane did assemble a remarkably productive team with very little money, largely due to his ability to get very effective but under-appreciated players for very little money. Relief pitcher Chad Bradford and first baseman Scott Hatteberg are the best examples.
What the movie left out:
The names "Barry Zito," "Tim Hudson," and "Mark Mulder." They were three of the best pitchers in baseball when the story was taking place, yet at no point did they seem to play a role in their team's rise to glory in the movie. In fact, I don't think there was ever one mention of starting pitching in the movie. The only mention of pitching focused on relief pitchers. So that's an average of six innings of every ball game that the movie neglected.
There's no mention of college players. One of Oakland's big ideas was to minimize risky investments by drafting college players instead of high school players. The thinking, as explained in the book, is that high school stars have yet to prove themselves against good competition and they are much more likely to get injured because they're not used to the wear & tear of a pro schedule.
College players, in contrast, have had several years of experience against good competitors, have learned how to take care of their bodies (perhaps with needles) and have proven that they have the mental capacity to compete in high pressure situations. And, if they attended a non-SEC school, there's an outside chance that college helped them develop intellectually.
As a movie, Moneyball gets a B. As a historical account, it gets a D+.
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