Saturday, April 30, 2016

A good book with an interesting Yankees connection

I'm about one-third of the way through a book that deserves to be on your shelf next to "O Holy Cow." 

It's called "The Only Rule Is It Has to Work," by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, two self-described statheads besotted by sabermetrics, who last year or the year before acted as GMs of the Sonoma Stompers in a podunk independent (very) minor league.

I've never been a huge fan of the stat-crazed crowd, but something about the whole idea has always intrigued me. Baseball is historically all about numbers, so there's a connection there I can relate to. Plus, it's kind of nerdy, and I guess I am, too. On top of that, "Moneyball" was a great freaking movie.

"The Only Rule" is important not just for a look into the heads of two of the biggest statters out there, nor just for the way it dissects what they did and what worked and what didn't, nor for the way it casually tells you things that are happening in the majors that maybe you haven't heard about.

No, you have to read this because Ben Lindbergh was a stat-crunching intern for the New York Yankees in 2009 and knows a bit about how Cashman's office works. Not that he goes into great detail about it, but let's just say you can see into Cash's brain a bit better because of the reflected light.

The Yankees are one of a handful of teams that have embraced statistical analysis in a big, big way, and since 2010 they haven't exactly been poster children for it. Girardi's little black binders are not an accident or a personal quirk. They're likely an organizational mandate. Cashman's trash heap shopping? You got it. Shades of Billy Beane. And you have to wonder if the signings of McCann, Headley, Ellsbury, Beltran and even Didi and Castro were somehow inspired by number crunching (gone wrong, in most cases).

Anyway, if you're one of the small minority of Americans who still reads books, even if it's on a Kindle, check it out. The weird stuff the Yankees do--you know, the stuff that has all of us shaking our heads in disbelief--isn't an accident, at least a lot of it, I'm guessing. It makes me wonder, though...how can they do what they're doing so badly?


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

JOHN M, REMEMBER WHEN BILLY MARTIN PICKED THE LINEUP OUT OF A HAT IN THE 70'S?.....I REMEMBER IT HELPED RIGHT AWAY, AND THE LINEUP STAYED THAT WAY FOR 2 OR 3 GAMES, AND IT RIGHTED THE SHIP, I THINK WE WON 5 IN A ROW......IF GIRARDI DOESN'T TRY SOMETHING LIKE THIS SOON, I AM AFRAID LIKE YOGI SAYS, "IT'S GOING TO GET LATE, EARLY" FOR US.............ANOTHER BOOK TO CHECK OUT THAT GIVES A GLIMPSE OF BRIAN CASHMAN'S BRAIN IS JOE TORRE'S "THE YANKEE YEARS".......THEY HAD SOME CLASHES, MOST NOTABLY CASHMAN WANTING TO REPLACE A STILL PRETTY GOOD, BUT AGING, BERNIE WILLIAMS WITH 2 PLAYERS, DOUG MANCIEWICZ, AND SOME OTHER BUM,I FORGOT HIS NAME....TORRE ARGUED THAT KEEPING WILLIAMS MADE MORE SENSE AND CASHMAN WOULDN'T BUDGE,USING HIS ANALYTICS, AND GOT HIS WAY....NOT SURPRISINGLY, CASHMAN AGAIN WAS WRONG.

John M said...

I've come around to think that there is some real value in SABR numbers, but like a lot of things that look like a lock at first glance, there's a real skill...maybe even a type of art...to how you apply the results. And that, of course, is predicated on getting the results of your analysis correct.

Plus I'm always reminded that the A's never won championships and Series during the Moneyball years. Really good teams, but not champs.