Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Only Rule is it Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller was an entertaining and fast read about two baseball writers who for a summer take over baseball operations for the independent minor league Sonoma Stompers.

Lindbergh and Miller write of how they're apostles of sabermetrics, coined by Bill James as "the search for objective knowledge about baseball" and their goal for the season to apply statistical based input and decision making to the team, impacting things including player evaluation and selection, lineup and pitching change decisions, and positioning of fielders.

The two work during the season with Stompers GM Theo Fightmaster, Manager and outfielder, Fehlandt Lentini, Assistant Manager turned Manager Yoshi Miyoshi, and of course the players themselves. It's an extremely entertaining read for anyone who likes baseball and while many of the goals Lindbergh and Miller set out with around the payoff of advanced statistics, or even the utilization of them, don't get fully realized, the book reveals how it's not always easy to do the things you'd like as you have to work through others to do them, and sometimes they just don't work. For example, their use of statistical analysis in evaluating players sight unseen turned out to much more effective when evaluating pitchers than position players.

Additionally, in the second half of the season, the Stompers lost many of the best players on their roster to teams in higher level leagues, and to this point, I found profound from the book the notion that "the other guy lives in a big house, too" and how that has a big impact on winning and losing. In addition, Lindbergh and Miller cover well how baseball can be a fickle game. Between things like what park a game played in or whether it's at night or during the day with the ball carrying out, events can have radically different results. Whether the end result of the season was what Lindbergh and Miller set out for or expected to happen, it's an interesting tale of how it all progresses.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was a novel I was drawn to after reading (and then reviewing) How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia from Hamid and while this latest book didn't resonate with me quite as much as the first, it's definitely lyrically written and interesting.

The cover jacket for Exit West notes it telling the story of Nadia and Saeed, two young people who meet and fall in love in a country on the brink of civil war. The book then turns mystical with doors being available that people can enter through to far away places in the world. The result of these doors is a world of refugees, people fleeing one conflict-filled land in search of somewhere better, with that arrived at place torn by conflict being natives and immigrants.

Hamid writes of these conflicts, and how societies form and orbiting societies coexist, through the prism of two people finding their way together in an ever changing and dangerous world, all the while with exceptional prose, like about Saeed's father, and the arc of a parent's life along with the arc of their child's.

Two of the phrases from Mohsin that stood out to me from the book were around how the world featured "religions pulling away from nations, and cities pulling away from hinterlands, and it seemed that as everyone was coming together everyone was also moving apart" and "depression is a failure to imagine a plausible desirable future for oneself." While the first of the phrases was at a macro level, the second very much about individuals and how they react to their circumstances, both negatively, and in many places throughout the book, positively.