Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: Baseball Prospectus (2016)

Edited by Patrick Dubuque, Sam Miller and Jason Wojciechowski

You have to give the people who put out Baseball Prospectus credit. They apparently listen to their customers.

Last year, those people made some changes in a book that had been widely successful with a certain segment of the baseball-loving community. The writing was still smart, and the comments were on target. But graphically, the new package didn't really work well. Some of it was simply hardly to read. It was also smaller than "normal" in terms of number of pages. It all wasn't enough to drive me away, but the danger signs were there.

Others had the same observation, and the word must have gotten out. This is back to the old normal, which is why it's been a favorite for more than two decades.

The formula remains in place. Each team has a chapter. It starts with an essay illustrated with some charts, and the words about the team are all over the map in terms of style and information during the course of the book. Most work well. Then every significant player in the organization receives a statistical box and some analysis. Yes, some of those boxes contain statistics that aren't found in your daily newspaper (although it's interesting that some writers usually things like WARP pretty casually these days). The end of each chapter goes over some other prospects; you'd probably have to be at a minor league game to care about most of them. Then there are a few paragraphs on each manager.

Finally, after 552 pages, you get to a few essays on random subjects. Then there's the popular list of the 100 top prospects in the game.

Want a complaint? Here's one. The cover got boring. Someone designed it in about 10 minutes. The others jumped out a lot more.

So what? If baseball is one of the biggest things in your life, Baseball Prospectus should be part of your life. Again. No extra-powerful eyeglasses are needed to read it this time.

Five stars

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: This is Your Brain on Sports (2016)

By L. Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers

The Buffalo News published my updated review of this book. You can find it by clicking here.

Since I read the book, it went through a little rewriting about a section on following losing teams. The catch was that it was about the New York Mets, who became winners last season.

Otherwise, though, this is still a sharp look at a variety of subjects in the world, from psychology to human behavior. Just don't be intimidated by that statement, because the authors take you through all sorts of situations - starting with why people fight to get a free, flimsy t-shirt shot out of an air cannon at games.

Four stars

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