Ahead of the Curve
Inside the Baseball Revolution
“A delight for baseball lovers” (Kirkus Reviews) and “one of the most significant baseball books of the year” (Bob Costas) Ahead of the Curve uses stories from baseball’s present and past to examine why we sometimes choose ignorance over information, and how tradition can trump logic.
Forget batting average. Kill the “Win.” Say goodbye to starting pitchers. And please, please stop bunting. MLB Network anchor and commentator Brian Kenny provides “an excellent, entertaining read for the all-around baseball fan” (Library Journal) and shows how baseball has been revolutionized—not destroyed—by analytical thinking.
Most people who resist logical thought in baseball preach “tradition” and “respecting the game.” But many of baseball’s traditions go back to the nineteenth century, when the pitcher’s job was to provide the batter with a ball he could hit and fielders played without gloves. Instead of fearing change, Brian Kenny wants fans to think critically, reject outmoded groupthink, and embrace the changes that have come with the sabermetric era. In his entertaining and enlightening book, Kenny discusses why the pitching win-loss record, the Triple Crown, fielding errors, and so-called battling titles should be ignored. He also points out how fossilized sportswriters have been electing the wrong MVP’s and ignoring legitimate candidates for the Hall of Fame; why managers are hired based on their looks; and how the most important position in baseball may just be “Director of Decision Sciences.”
“Prepare to have your brain and your assumptions challenged. Guided by data and a deep love of the game, Brian Kenny takes a cutting-edge look at where baseball is and where it is going” (Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated). Illustrated with unique anecdotes from those who have reshaped the game, Ahead of the Curve is “a great story about the game in the age of information and technology” (Billy Beane).
Kenny, studio host for the MLB Network, built his career on sabermetrics, the data-based analysis of baseball statistics pioneered by Bill James. In this straight-shooting, opinionated book, he presents his lineup of pet peeves, arguing that baseball must buck century-old traditions and embrace information over ignorance. Among his suggestions: no more classifying pitchers as "starters" or "closers," and a greater emphasis on defensive stats. He's taken heat over the years for his unconventional views. Kenny's not shy regarding his disdain of bunting, the batting average, the crediting of pitchers with wins and saves, and the onus of the error. Much like his on-air delivery, Kenny's writing takes wicked hops, and he throws beanballs at fellow sportswriters. He also ranks baseball's $100 million free-agent contracts based on the wild discrepancies between perception and reality, and takes issue with voting for candidates for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Part memoir, part baseball history, and part record book, Kenny's debut is written for the serious fan who is prepared to consider the relevance of such new-school acronym-based statistics as WAR (wins above replacement) and FIP (fielding independent pitching). Fortunately, Kenny includes a glossary for added context.