Friday, May 27, 2016

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work

Baseball is the sport that most appeals to the dreamers among us, those who lack the talent to play the game at a high level but who have such a deeply felt love of the sport that we are willing to take just about any baseball related job that comes along.  Until recently, such dreamers were limited to jobs in the front office or to positions that could never even remotely impact what was happening down on the field.  But then along came Money Ball, and everything changed.  It hasn’t been easy, but baseball’s statistical nerds are finally in position to contribute to the game in ways that used to be impossible.

Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller are two of those dreamers – and they managed to make their own dream come true by convincing the owner of a small-time professional baseball team to hand them the keys to his team for an entire season.  As Lindbergh and Miller describe them, the Sonoma Stompers, members of a four-team league known as the Pacific Association, are pretty much astride the bottom rung of the professional baseball ladder.  But that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that the Stompers and the three teams they play over and over again are comprised of real, living and breathing baseball players – young men who grew up dominating the baseball fields of their youth, all the while believing that one day they would make it to the major leagues.  But although that hasn’t happened for any of them so far, and probably never will, they are not ready yet to call baseball a day.  And as long as they can afford to play the game for the $500 a month or so that the Stompers can offer, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller want to help them make their dreams come true.

Lindbergh and Miller are baseball writer/editors (Lindbergh for FiveThirtyEight and Miller for Baseball Prospectus) with lots of theories about how best to play the game.  They use intricately designed spreadsheets to identify players that may have slipped through the cracks of major league baseball’s comprehensive player draft system.  They dream of using a five-man infield against players who almost never hit a fly ball, and they wonder what would happen if they ask their hitters not to swing the bat any time they jump in front on a two-ball, no strike count.  They wonder why managers insist upon saving their “closers” exclusively for ninth inning save situations instead of using them in critical situations that happen an inning or two earlier when a game is so often lost.

 Now it’s time to see what happens when theory becomes reality.  The Only Rule Is It Has to Work – and there’s only one way to find out.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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