It is amazing how the game of baseball evolves right in front of our eyes. Players get stronger, equipment and playing conditions get better, fan experiences are more enhanced and the basic business model of a baseball team changes dramatically. These are all things that have happened through the last several decades that change the end product fans see out on the field. Today’s book takes a look at how one of the longest losing streaks in professional sports history was ended by evolving with the times and changing a teams basic business approach.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were a team that could not catch a break. The owners of bad team morale and essentially no end in sight to the losing streak no matter what moves they made. Baseball history is full of superstitions, so you could almost call them cursed. The Pittsburgh Pirates was desperate to break this cycle and decided a fundamental change was needed in their approach to the game to help end their misery.
Big Data Baseball walks the reader step by step through the Pirates plan. Showing how they saw the need for fundamental change and how they implemented it into their system. By following charts and data analysis they were able to play the numbers for batter tendencies and apply essential Sabermetric principles to their on the field game.
By implementing this new culture within the franchise, they started at the lowest level of the minors and installed in their up and coming players how these moves were beneficial to the team. By doing this they were able to establish some credibility to their new system that carried over to higher levels of play which essentially created a winning culture that spilled over to the field.
Travis Sawchik does a real nice job of showing the reader how the Pirates fostered the change in their system and how they have now built a consistent winner. While they are not steam rolling all of baseball this system is good enough for the second best record in all of baseball this season. It has ushered in the winds of change in Pittsburgh and breathed new life into that struggling franchise.
Even if you are not a fan of the Pirates or the new numbers game within baseball you will still like this book. It is a good story of how hard work and outside the box thinking leads to great results for an ailing franchise.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Flatiron Books
In Baseball you always have to stay one step ahead of the competition. Both on the field and behind the scenes that same principle applies. You need to find the edge to beat your competitors because even if you keep the status quo, in reality you are falling behind. Sabermetrics and the Moneyball theory have turned baseball on its head and changed the way teams address their needs. So who really started that revolution and is it really a good thing after all?
Sandy Alderson is the current General Manager of the New York Mets and the man in charge of reviving that struggling franchise. While all has not been golden in the Mets re-birth, he has done a commendable job in restoring some dignity to the franchise. But is Sandy Alderson really the baseball genius everyone says he is, or is it just sometimes thinking outside the box that gets him some acclaim. That is what Baseball Maverick tries to figure out for the reader.
The book starts with Alderson’s upbringing and distinguished military career. It paints a nice picture of a man with courage and dedication. Two traits that come in very handy in the baseball world. You follow his professional career starting with the Oakland Athletics where he mentored current GM Billy Beane. It shows how Alderson got his reputation for thinking outside the box in regards to evaluating his team. Many of these ideas were born of necessity due to ownership and money constraints. It is during this stop in his career that Billy Beane gained most of the knowledge that he uses running the Oakland A’s.
The next stop for Alderson was San Diego where he again got the team back to respectability, but was unable to pull of a World Series triumph. After the Padres he put down roots with the New York Mets. Hi current home of Citi Field shows the reader in-depth how he has attempted to turn that franchise back into a winner. Attempting to overcome the Madoff scandal that has handcuffed the team financially has been an obstacle he has had to figure out how to overcome along with some bad player deals of the past. The 2015 season has brought them hopefully the start of lasting success, along with players they have developed finally reaching their expected potential.
After all this is Sandy Alderson the Baseball Maverick the book suggests he is? My thought is no. While he is a very talented General Manager, he is not the reason that Oakland has been able to compete on a shoe string budget. Billy Beane has been able to work with some of Alderson’s fundamental ideas and make them his own. That is what has made Oakland a success. Alderson may have planted the seed, but Beane made it grow. San Diego has been up and down so many times since the start of Alderson’s tenure there, that they should be a roller coaster not a baseball team. Finally the Mets were a train wreck when Alderson signed on, and it has to his own admission taken much longer for that team to make a substantial turn around than even he anticipated.
The book tries to make it seem that Alderson is responsible for the birth of Moneyball theories and I just don’t see that connection to just him. I see pieces of it in the way he has operated at certain stops, but it is a far cry from him being the one that designed it for the world to use. That being said, this is a very well written and entertaining book. It keeps the reader’s interest but it is very Mets heavy in subject matter.
Sandy Alderson is almost a mystery man in the baseball world. He has always worked behind the scenes and low-key, so this book gives you some insight on his personality. Again, I don’t agree with the Maverick term in the title, but he has made some substantial contributions to his teams and the game as a whole. Mets fans will love this book, and general baseball fans will like it. It gives us a glimpse of the man behind the curtain once and for all.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Atlantic Monthly Press