Author:Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
Title: The Only Rule Is It Has to Work
Narrator: Kirby Heyborne and John Pruden
Publication Info: Tantor Audio (2016)
A pair of stats geeks with a podcast are given the opportunity to run a baseball team to see if they can test the concepts of sabermetrics – the empirical analysis of baseball – in a real world setting. The team they get to try this on is the 2015 Sonoma Stompers who play in the low-level independent league, the Pacific Association. They face challenges of having a manager and players go along with their unorthodox suggestions for playing baseball, as well finding talented players to sign to the team, since the Pacific Association doesn’t attract the best talent. To surprise of many, the Stompers do very well, dominating the league in the first half. The authors are honest enough to admit that it wasn’t always their ideas that contributed to the overall success. But success has its downside as it leads to many of the Stompers’ best players getting signed to contracts on teams in better leagues, leaving the Stompers weakened for the second half and postseason. Nevertheless, I did find myself drawn into their account and caring very deeply about how the Stompers would do that season. The book is an interesting case study of putting sabermetrics into action and the real life challenges it may face, as well as just being an interesting baseball story.
Recommended books: The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan, Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball’s Minor Leagues by David Lamb, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, and Wild and Outside: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America’s Heartland by Stefan Fatsis