Thursday, December 13, 2018

Review of "Power Ball"

The best way to cure the winter blues with no baseball is to read baseball books!  At least that works for me.  Here is the review of the latest baseball book I have read - or more accurately, listened to since this was an audio book - "Power Ball"

Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game” written and narrated by Rob Neyer

Baseball, professional, statistics, politics, Astros, Athletics

Publish date:
October 9, 2018

320 pages

4 ½ of 5 stars (very good)

It isn’t often an author can take an idea in which other books have been published and produce a fresh product, but baseball author and analyst Rob Neyer does just that with his book “Power Ball”.  The idea that isn’t new is to write a book in the setting of one baseball game – indeed, he acknowledges that this is the case – as the setting is a game in September 2017 between the eventual World Series champions, the Houston Astros, and the last place Oakland Athletics.  What IS new is the method in which Neyer breaks down the game and his analysis on many of the pitchers and players who participated in that game.

This isn’t just a game recap in which each at-bat, play and pitching change is analyzed by the numbers, both traditional and modern.  While there is much of that, more of the book talks about just about any type of statistical analysis used today.  Whether one likes to hear about launch angle, velocity, Statcast (which measures all movement on the field) or whether the shift is effective and “modern” (hint – it isn’t new), the reader will find very interesting reading material on these and similar subjects.

Other issues that affect baseball, such as the pace of play and number of pitching changes, are also discussed and suggestions on how these can be addressed are suggested.  One manner to address the pace of play issue that I liked, as it is something I have felt is the biggest problem, is when pitchers and batters are delaying the game by stepping off the pitching rubber or out of the batter’s box.  Addressing this “farting around” (what Neyer calls it) may not shave a lot of minutes off the time of a game, but it would at least keep the game moving along.

There are also some political and social issues addressed, interspersed throughout the book.  At times these make sense and are worth talking about, such as the lack of “US born” African American players, but others such as climate change don’t seem to add anything to the discussion of the game or the teams playing.  While the issue of the lack of openly gay players in baseball might be worth discussing, it was one of the issues that seemed to be placed in the book just to promote a certain viewpoint instead of being part of the game being discussed.

That aside, the baseball talk about the numbers and the game itself , won by the Athletics in the ninth inning, was terrific.  I loved hearing the win probability change after each half inning, which was how each chapter ended.  A baseball fan, especially of the modern game, will truly enjoy this book. If one wants to read the book just for the baseball and leave out the other matters, it is still recommended, just skip over those parts.

Book Format Read:
Audio book

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