Saturday, March 24, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Well folks here we go again. This is the time of the year where everyone's favorite team is in first place and hopes spring eternal. Small market teams have the same Win/Loss record as the big market teams and the price of a Fenway Frank makes its annual jump to pay for this year's latest free agent acquisition. To celebrate this the library will have on display many of its books about baseball in April.

Despite some of Major League Baseball's foibles, I am completely fascinated by it. As a librarian I can appreciate the order of baseball before the pitch leaves the pitcher's hand and the disorder that ensues as the play develops and swirls around the field as thousands of permutations are arranged and rearranged until the play is over and the results on the field can be categorized into little neat categories on a scorecard. Order again reigns supreme in its cosmic struggle against disorder in a nine inning battle.

Anyways, now that I am done being melodramatic. You could say that I am a baseball stat-head. Don't get me wrong I am not a person who can tell you box scores from 30 years ago let alone last week. I was an O.K. student in my math classes when I was growing up, but just because I have middling abilities in math doesn't mean that I am not allowed to appreciate the numbers and their importance to the game of baseball.

One book that has been influential in shaping baseball this century and is cited by many baseball stat-heads is Moneyball: the Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. I am not going to talk too much about it since you can probably find one million and a half reviews of it on Amazon. But to sum it up for those not in the know it is about how Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane uses the statistics generated during the course of a game, a season, or a career of a baseball player in a costs/benefits analysis in order to keep his small market team competitive with the large market teams he is in direct competition with.

Another book in the Moneyball vein is Mind Game by Steve Goldman. In this book the author details how the Boston Red Sox went about winning the 2004 World Series as Theo Epstein the Red Sox General Manger a believer in the Moneyball canon applied many of the general ideas in Money Ball to reshape the Red Sox into a Champion. The interesting thing about this is that the Red Sox are considered to be a large market team, and Theo Epstein as it has been said by many before"Played Moneyball with money."

Another great baseball statistics book is The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia if you want quick and satisfying stats. But if you want the more esoteric statistics to digest check out The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (unfortunately we don't own it here at the library Bedford and Derry have a copy, but we could inter library loan it for anyone interested).

I could go on about this, but I probably shouldn't. If you are a baseball stat-head like me, please stop by the reference desk and we can discuss this further. Who knows, maybe I can post a part two to this post and discuss stat websites and baseball simulations at a later date. Until then you can find me here at the library.