Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Review of Rob Neyer's Power Ball

Rob Neyer's Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game (2018) is ostensibly about a game between the A's and Astros on September 8, 2017. That is just a vehicle for discussing the state of baseball itself and how much it has changed and continues to change. With chapters organized by half inning, Neyer follows tangents related to what's happening in the game (Baseball versus baseball) as this single real one goes along, and it's a fun and wandering journey.

So, for example, pitcher Jharel Cotton gets some ground balls hit back at him, which leads to a discussion of injury and headgear. Marwin Gonzalez coming up leads to analysis of utility players. Mention of Win Expectancy shifts to how broadcasters mention new stats without contextualizing them. Khris Davis coming up starts with his power and then moves to his writing about having the throwing yips and then on to players using social media. You get the idea.

And I love this quote toward the end about what might change in baseball.

All we know is that Baseball will do something, in response to something, and that whatever Baseball does, there will be unintended consequences. Because Baseball is inherently a human enterprise, and humans don't know any other way" (p. 272).
Baseball and U.S. foreign policy!

His conclusion is also a bit wandering, and comes down to the fact that everyone should think of ways to bring in more fans. But, I think, those ways will create new controversies that will require new tinkering. And that's not a bad thing. I loved reading his thoughts on them.

Just a few quibbles. There is a lot in italics. A lot. A noticeable large number of sentences start with "Hell" for emphasis. And ouch, he mentions Yuli Gurriel pitching for over a decade in Cuba yet having "essentially zero professional experience" (p. 80).

As an aside, there is an interesting Latin America question--the game has globalized a lot but why aren't there more Mexicans in MLB (p. 179)?


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