Moneyball is a 2011 American sports drama film directed by Bennett Miller and written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. The film is based on the 2003 nonfiction book by Michael Lewis, an account of the Oakland Athletics baseball team's 2002 season and their general manager Billy Beane's attempts to assemble a competitive team. In the film, Beane (Brad Pitt) and assistant general manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), faced with the franchise's limited budget for players, build a team of undervalued talent by taking a sophisticated sabermetric approach to scouting and analyzing players.
Columbia Pictures bought the rights to Lewis's book in 2004, hiring Stan Chervin to write the screenplay. David Frankel was initially set to direct with Zaillian now writing the screenplay, but was soon replaced by Steven Soderbergh, who planned to make the film in a semi-documentary style featuring interviews from real athletes, and having the real players and coaches on the team portray themselves. But before its July 2009 filming start, the film was put in turnaround due to creative differences between Soderbergh and Sony over a last-minute script rewrite. Soderbergh exited, and Miller was hired to direct, with Pitt becoming a producer and Sorkin hired for rewrites. Filming began in July 2010 at various stadiums such as Dodger Stadium and Oakland Coliseum. Moneyball premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was released on September 23, 2011, to box office success and critical acclaim, particularly for its acting and screenplay. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Pitt and Best Supporting Actor for Hill.
Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, is devastated by the team's loss to the New York Yankees in the 2001 American League Division Series. With the impending departure of star players Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen to free agency, Beane needs to assemble a competitive team for 2002 with Oakland's limited budget.
During a scouting visit to the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand, a young Yale economics graduate with radical ideas about player value. Beane tests Brand's theory by asking whether he would have drafted Beane out of high school; though scouts considered Beane promising, his career in the major leagues was disappointing. Brand admits that he would not have drafted him until the ninth round based on his method of assessing player value. Impressed, Beane hires Brand as his assistant general manager.
Using Brand's method, Beane signs undervalued players such as Chad Bradford, Jeremy Giambi and Scott Hatteberg and also trades for David Justice. The Athletics' scouts are hostile toward the strategy, and Beane fires head scout Grady Fuson after a heated confrontation during which he accuses Beane of destroying the team. Beane also faces opposition from Art Howe, the Athletics' manager. With tensions already high between them due to a contract dispute, Howe disregards Beane's and Brand's strategy and plays a more traditional lineup that he prefers.
Early in the season, the Athletics are already ten games behind first, leading critics to dismiss the new method as a failure. Brand argues their sample size is too small to conclude the method does not work, and Beane convinces team owner Stephen Schott to stay the course. To get help on defense, Beane trades Giambi to the Phillies for John Mabry and his only traditional first baseman, Carlos Peña, to the Tigers, leaving Howe no choice but to play the team Beane and Brand have designed. Three weeks later, the Athletics are only four games behind first.
Before the trade deadline, Beane acquires relief pitcher Ricardo Rincón from the Indians, and on August 13, the team starts a winning streak. Beane, superstitiously, does not watch games, but when they tie the American League record of 19 consecutive wins, his daughter persuades him to attend the next game against the Kansas City Royals. Oakland is leading 11–0 when Beane arrives in the fourth inning, only to watch the Royals even the score. Thanks to a walk-off home run by Hatteberg, the Athletics achieve a record-breaking 20th consecutive win. Beane tells Brand he will not be satisfied until they have changed baseball by winning the World Series using their system.
The Athletics eventually win the 2002 American League West title but lose to the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series. Beane is contacted by the owner of the Boston Red Sox, John W. Henry, who realizes that sabermetrics is the future of baseball. Beane declines an offer to become the Red Sox general manager, despite the $12.5 million salary, which would have made him the highest-paid general manager in professional sports history. He returns to Oakland, and while disclosing the offer to Brand, says that he ultimately sees it all as a failure. Brand reassures him by showing a video of a heavyset batter who hits a home run but doesn't realize it at first and tells Beane that he did the same.
Later, Beane is driving in his car and listens to a CD made by his daughter. The CD starts with a message from her mentioning his decision on whether he will stay in California and that he's a great dad. She sings "The Show" by Lenka but changes the final lyrics to "you're such a loser, Dad, just enjoy the show."
A textual epilogue reveals that Beane declined the Red Sox offer to remain with the A's and that the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series using the model the Athletics pioneered, breaking the team's 86-year drought.