Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review of "The Arm"

Being that it is World Series time, it is only appropriate that a baseball book review appears during the Fall Classic.  This book is considered by many to be one of the best baseball books of 2016, and it is hard to argue against it, as I enjoyed this one a lot.  Here is my review of "The Arm."

“The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports” by Jeff Passan, narrated by Kevin Pierce

Baseball, professional, injuries, youth sports, audio book

Publish date:
April 5, 2016

376 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Those who follow the game of baseball have notices that lately the workloads of pitchers have decreased, but the number and severity of injuries suffered by pitchers has increased. Through it all, the amount of money spent on pitchers has increased to more than a billion dollars. This excellent book by Jeff Passan explores the business of pitching through several different lenses. doesn't just seem so, but research by Bill James and others backs that up.

Starting with the question of why there are so many pitching injuries, Passan looks into some reasons. From his research and interviews, the primary reason seems to be velocity. Pitchers these days throw harder than ever before, and velocity does correlate with injury rates. Passan doesn’t just stop with this conclusion – he backs it up with stories about young players getting raves for hitting speeds over 95 miles an hour on the radar gun. This “need for speed” is illustrated by his writing about youth baseball tourneys, traveling teams, and the Japanese baseball culture of big workloads for pitchers, no matter the age.

The popular surgical procedure of repairing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), also known as “Tommy John surgery”, is explained in detail.  The book starts off like a medical record as it describes this operation on Todd Coffey. This is the second time Coffey, a major league relief pitcher, has undergone the surgery.  His rehab and struggles to get back into the major leagues is the main thrust of the book, along with a similar following of another pitcher trying to make it back after the surgery, Daniel Hudson. Their stories, not just in rehab or on the field but also the toll it takes on their families, makes for fascinating reading.

Despite all of these setbacks and questions, major league teams still spend a lot of money on top free agent pitchers.  The wooing of free agent pitcher Jon Lester in the off-season of 2014-15 is chronicled, mainly from Lester’s point of view. The maneuverings of the teams in order to convince Lester to sign a contract with the team is also completing reading and one will shake his or her head to realize the lengths go to acquire top pitching talent.

The book is highly recommended for all baseball fans as it will address many different issues affecting the most important position in the game and how it turned into a billion-dollar industry. Between the outstanding writing and the thorough research, this is one to add to every baseball bookshelf.

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