The New York Times bestseller about what would happen if two statistics-minded outsiders were allowed to run a professional baseball team
It’s the ultimate in fantasy baseball: You get to pick the roster, set the lineup, and decide on strategies -- with real players, in a real ballpark, in a real playoff race. That’s what baseball analysts Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller got to do when an independent minor-league team in California, the Sonoma Stompers, offered them the chance to run its baseball operations according to the most advanced statistics. Their story in The Only Rule is it Has to Work is unlike any other baseball tale you've ever read.
We tag along as Lindbergh and Miller apply their number-crunching insights to all aspects of assembling and running a team, following one cardinal rule for judging each innovation they try: it has to work. We meet colorful figures like general manager Theo Fightmaster and boundary-breakers like the first openly gay player in professional baseball. Even José Canseco makes a cameo appearance.
Will their knowledge of numbers help Lindbergh and Miller bring the Stompers a championship, or will they fall on their faces? Will the team have a competitive advantage or is the sport’s folk wisdom true after all? Will the players attract the attention of big-league scouts, or are they on a fast track to oblivion?
It’s a wild ride, by turns provocative and absurd, as Lindbergh and Miller tell a story that will speak to numbers geeks and traditionalists alike. And they prove that you don’t need a bat or a glove to make a genuine contribution to the game.
What happens when two numbers crunchers take command of an independent minor league team? Through some fancy wheeling and dealing, Lindbergh, a staff writer for FiveThirtyEight, and Miller, the editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus, are put in charge of the operations for the Sonoma Stompers, an independent professional squad in California. Their task is to scout and sign prospects for a winning season. Using data-driven sabermetics and spreadsheets, the two set a goal of "making the right decision every time, giving players every resource and advantage available." Lindbergh and Miller are real storytellers, explaining their strengths and defects as they attempt to field a capable team, using the best stats money can buy. They pay tribute to the collection of older, dedicated players who are pleased to play in the minors and have no illusions of making the majors. Armed with data, they gleefully describe their team's roaring start in the first half of the season, gaining first place, then slipping to a respectable second-place finish. For fantasy baseball junkies and baseball purists alike, this is a vivid, joyful exploration of recruiting and running a team by numbers and instinct.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Really enjoyed this as a follow up to Moneyball. I really did not know which way things were going to to turn out and it felt like I was reading the script for a TV drama at times! I found myself willing on the “spreadsheet players” to prove Ben and Sam right!
The Only Rule is This Book is Awesome!
Short Review: Outstanding book. Genuine 5 Stars. Not a six year old's review of a Disney movie "5 stars" but a genuine FIVE stars made out of gold corduroy.
Long Review: Let's not beat around the bush, this book is exceptionally good. On the face of it, "The Only Rule ..." is really good simply because of how it's subject is explored, and it's just just the novelty of the concept. However, the reason it goes beyond just "very good", is how the authors take the reader through their journey, detailing the ups & downs of implementing sabermetrics with an actual team. Light heartedly - easily passing the six laugh test within the first two chapters - Lindbergh & Miller manage to place the reader inside the clubhouse while they navigate their through an environment reliant on “feel” and not hard numbers.
On a basic level, you soon find yourself rooting for everyone's success, whether it be at the plate or in front of a spreadsheet. Delving further, the authors promote empathy & simpatico with everyone they meet - a hard task to achieve.
If you are interested in baseball at any level, this book is unlikely to disappoint.