'Moneyball' is a home run

Social scientists will tell you that most so-called experts — say, baseball scouts — are often wrong. In fact, many rules of thumb are wrong, based on intuition rather than reality.

Moneyball is the story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, who in 2002 was faced with competing with the New York Yankees, whose payroll was three times that of his small-market team. And he was losing three all-stars to free agency.

Normally, GMs look for comparable replacements, but Beane knew he couldn't. The advice from his scouts and evaluators made no sense to him, and their reasoning was based on suspect perceptions. (He has an ugly girlfriend, a scout reasoned about a player, therefore he lacks confidence at the plate.)

Seeking a new method, Beane — Brad Pitt at his most charming — happens upon Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a computer whiz with an economics degree from Yale whose advice is mostly ignored by the team he's working for. He sizes up players using statistics other than batting average and runs batted in.

They start putting together a team no one else wants: a pitcher with an unusual delivery who the experts think is weird; a catcher with a bad arm who becomes a first baseman.

Directed by Bennett Miller, from a script by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin that is based on Michael Lewis' book of the same name, Moneyball — like the A's of 2002 — is surprisingly entertaining.

Beane knew that things don't always turn out the way people say. He turned down a full scholarship to Stanford for what became a frustrating baseball career, eventually quitting to become a scout. Pitt's shows us Beane's regret, and his grit and tenacity in staying with his plan, even when his manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman with a permanent scowl), defies him and fans turn against him.

Moneyball has a few needless flourishes, but it's a fun way to be reminded that "experts" can be wrong.

Moneyball retails for $30.99 or $35.99 Blu-ray.