“Winner of the 2018 CASEY Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.”
The former ESPN columnist and analytics pioneer dramatically recreates an action-packed 2017 game between the Oakland A’s and eventual World Series Champion Houston Astros to reveal the myriad ways in which Major League Baseball has changed over the last few decades.
On September 8, 2017, the Oakland A’s faced off against the Houston Astros in a game that would signal the passing of the Moneyball mantle. Though this was only one regular season game, the match-up of these two teams demonstrated how Major League Baseball has changed since the early days of Athletics general manager Billy Beane and the publication of Michael Lewis’ classic book.
Over the past twenty years, power and analytics have taken over the game, driving carefully calibrated teams like the Astros to victory. Seemingly every pitcher now throws mid-90s heat and studiously compares their mechanics against the ideal. Every batter in the lineup can crack homers and knows their launch angles. Teams are relying on unorthodox strategies, including using power-losing—purposely tanking a few seasons to get the best players in the draft.
As he chronicles each inning and the unfolding drama as these two teams continually trade the lead—culminating in a 9-8 Oakland victory in the bottom of the ninth—Neyer considers the players and managers, the front office machinations, the role of sabermetrics, and the current thinking about what it takes to build a great team, to answer the most pressing questions fans have about the sport today.
An afternoon at the ballpark prompts wider analysis in this genial treatise on the recent evolution of baseball. ESPN columnist Neyer (Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders) revisits the Sept. 8, 2017, game between the Oakland A's and the Houston Astros, which started as a blowout but ended as a nail-biter. Neyer's sharp play-by-play is a hook for extensive color commentary on changes in the sport, including the increases in home runs and strikeouts; the rise of infield shifts against pull hitters; the proliferation of specialist relief pitchers; uniform and hair-styling fashions; and the tsunami of stats, right down to the velocity and launch angle of every batted ball, that now dictates baseball management. Along the way he profiles the players, recapping their journeys through the minors, trades, injuries, and comebacks. Neyer's tome is the anti-Moneyball, with a well-informed but skeptical take on sabermetrics and the science of baseball performance: in his telling, well-planned trades and top draft picks fizzle, last season's bum becomes this season's star, and statistical certitudes always bow to lady luck. It's a ramble, but Neyer's deep knowledge and punchy prose "The guy on the mound might be throwing aspirin pills, almost too fast to see" make the book a treat for dedicated fans.