“The Shift: The Next Evolution in Baseball Thinking” by Russell A. Carleton
Baseball, professional, statistics
April 1, 2018
4 of 5 stars (very good)
When people ask me why baseball is my favorite sport, I tell them that I love it because it is a thinking game. The author of this book, Russell Carleton, agrees with my assessment, but he goes even further, stating that “maybe it’s even an obsessing game. It is most certainly a shifting game.” The last portion of that statement is what he concentrates on proving in this book by illustrating how the increased use of advanced statistics, also known as sabermetrics, has shifted the focus of many aspects of the game.
There are many topics about the game covered in the book. Starting with asking the right question, Carleton explores just about every aspect of the game – hitting, pitching, defense (including the shift - only makes sense with this title), managing on the field, managing off the field and scouting. No matter what part of the game the reader enjoys, he or she will find information that will be of interest.
Of course, since sabermetrics are the main theme of the book, there are numbers galore making Carleton’s points. Not only does he use the usual statistics that fans will see online or on television during the games, but he uses many charts that compares situations year by year to show trends. This can be anything from the percentages of batted balls put in play to the run probability for a team in any situation it may find during its time at bat in the inning. At times, it can be overwhelming, even for the avid baseball fan. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it means the book is chock full of information that may be of use to some reader.
It should be noted that the book is not all numbers – there are a lot of stories about not only the human element of the game, but other stories such as when the author met his wife that will lead into the baseball application of the particular topic. These passages help to make the book more palatable to read than had it been strictly about numbers and charts.
Who should read this book? I will use my favorite quote from the book to answer this question as readers who fit this description should add this book to their libraries. That would be readers who are “becoming wrapped up in the efforts of 25 players who just happen to wear funny pajamas emblazoned with the name of the major city that (they) were born closest to.”
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