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.