Archive for the 'Book Reviews' Category

Florida Spring Training Book Review

The latest baseball book I read was Florida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League.  Man did this book get me going.  I’ve never been down to spring training.  Being a CPA, it’s never really been possible to take time off to take an extended trip because it’s one of my busiest times of year and it probably won’t happen this year because we already have our vacation planned.  I do have a friend who’s moving to Tampa though, so the hope is to get down there next year and check out the Tigers and a few other teams and soak in the spring training experience.

I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to someone who plans on heading down to Florida in March.  It was a fun read and it gives you tips and suggestions to get the most of your spring training trip.

The first chapter has an interesting history of spring training.  It talks about how many teams have chosen to chase the dollar and it seems like every year, a team decides to find a new spring training home.  In some cases, they move out of the Florida completely and head to the Cactus League in Arizona.  It also provides a short glossary of terms that are used through out the book.

The next 17 chapters give the ins and outs of each of the 17 spring training stadiums in Florida.  Want to know what each stadium has to eat?  It’s in the book.  Want to know how much parking is?  Also in the book.  Want to know whether you should buy tickets in advance rather then on game day?  Well, that’s in the book too.  In fact the book answers just about every question you might have including which part of each stadium to sit at to get shade and the best way to get autographs.

Chapter nineteen ranks each of the spring training sites.  Dodgertown comes in first while the Tigers spring training stadium, Joker Marchant Stadium, is further down the list at twelve.  The rankings are determined based on a five factor rating which includes Intimacy, Autographs, Comfort, Food and Style.  Joker Marchent rated very high in Style (9) but very low in Autographs (3) mostly because of a net that protects fans on the first base side.

The final chapter maps out five week long spring training trips.  Want to stick around the Tampa area?  There’s a trip for that.  And there’s also a trip if you want to center your spring training trip around a visit to Disney World.

The only warning is to make sure you buy the most recent edition.  Spring training is constantly morphing and even the Dodgers will be leaving historic Dodgertown and the Indians are heading for Arizona in the next couple of years as well.  In addition, current facilities are being modified on a regular basis so if you have an old edition of the book, you might be showing up to a stadium that looks nothing like the description.

Behind the Scenes Baseball

I recently picked up and read “Behind the Scenes Baseball” by Doug Decatur.  The subtitle is “Real-Life Applications of Statistical Analysis Actually Used by Major League Teams…And Other Stories From the Inside.”  Doug Decatur has been a statistical consultant for four different major league teams and one player agent throughout his career and the book basically documents some of his work.  The book is split up into three parts.

Part one is a diary of sorts documenting Decatur’s history with the major league teams he worked for.  He talks about accurately predicting several breakout players, including Greg Vaughn, Ron Gant and Cecil Fielder. There’s also plenty of “fun” stories in this section as well, the funniest of which happened to be a chance meeting with Sparky Anderson when he was still coaching the Reds in 1976.  Another interesting section is where Decatur documents all of the rejection letters he received after they well.  They range from polite to brutally blunt.

If there’s one knock on this section, it’s that the stories are somewhat random.  They’re not in sequential order and while I guess you don’t neccesarily need to read them in any kind of order, it just seemed jumbled.  This doesn’t detract to much from the section, you just don’t get a “build” from Decatur’s beginning to the end where he’s helping a team make the playoffs.

The second section is the longest and it’s a 100 question GM IQ Test.  As we all know, while I can act like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to sabermetrics, I’m still new to the field so I’m pretty green.  I took the test and at times I did well but still ended up being a girlie man.  It was a pretty challenging test, at least for me but it was definitely fun to take.

The third section is the one I enjoyed the most and it also gives you the most meat.  It’s basically a diary of the changes the Houston Astros made at Decatur’s advice while advising Phil Garner.  It included line up construction, use of the pen, and actual player moves.  It’s well documented and it provides a step by step look at how the Astros turned their 2004 season around and made the playoffs and how they were helped by sabermetrics.

Overall, the book does exactly what it sets out to do, and that is to provide you with some of the things statistical analysis can do to help ball clubs.  For someone like me, who’s not as knowledgeable of sabermetrics, it shows real life examples on how teams can help themselves by at least considering statistical analysis.  And I’m sure for someone who’s a student of sabermetrics, it should provide you with several “ah ha” moments in which you’re validated in your adherence to statistical analysis.

The book is well worth the $15 sticker price.  The GM IQ Test alone is worth the price of the book, and that wasn’t even the part I enjoyed the most.

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