Synopses & Reviews
Think You Know Baseball?
The Red Sox finally won a World Series, in a triumph of unconventional wisdom. They rethought the batting order and committed to Johnny Damon as lead-off. Saw the talent in David Ortiz that other teams overlooked. Had the courage to trade one of the game's top shortstops for the good of the team. They knocked over the sacred cows of RBIs, sacrifice bunts, the hit-and-run, and hewed to the new thinking about pitch count--allowing Pedro Martinez, arguably baseball's best pitcher ever, to excel. Weaving statistics, narrative, personalities, and anecdote, Mind Game reveals exactly how this group of "idiots," led by Theo Epstein and Terry Francona, was in fact the smartest team in the league, and revolutionizes the thinking fan's understanding of how baseball games are really won and lost.
“This is the book about the 90% of the game that’s half mental. It’s the smartest analysis of a smart team yet written.”
— Allen Barra, The Wall Street Journal Wall Street Journal
The Red Sox finally did it. By making decisions that other clubs would not have made and using talent that other clubs ignored or lacked the statistical understanding to perceive, the new, focused Red Sox management built a championship team that overcame 86 years of baseball history. And along the way, argue the writers of Mind Game
, created a blueprint for winning baseball.
Savvy, insightful, statistically brilliant, and filled with the thudding sound of the sacred cows of received baseball wisdom biting the dust, Mind Game relives one of modern baseball’s greatest success stories while revolutionizing the fan’s understanding of how baseball games are really won and lost. Created by Steven Goldman and the writers and analysts at Baseball Prospectus—the preeminent annual on the inside game of baseball, with 91,000 copies in print, and Web site, www.baseballprospectus.com, that receives 5 million hits a month—Mind Game explains why the unenlightened Twins gave up on David Ortiz; what led the Sox to understand Johnny Damon’s true value and give him the ideal place in the batting order; how Boston actually gained by having Keith Foulke as a closer vs. Mariano Rivera; and what would likely have happened if the Boston–A-Rod trade went through. (Hint: even worse for the Yankees.) And as the suspense ratchets up before the historic seven-game AL playoff, readers will never look at baseball the same way again, learning that leadoff hitters don’t need to be fast and RBIs are not the rocksolid barometer of an offensive player’s contribution. And all that stealing and bunting? Forget it! Just wait for a three-run homer.
As for the curse of the Bambino? Hogwash! The real curse behind Boston’s 86-year drought was its decades of bigoted, inept ownership and management.
About the Author
Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts on Baseball Talent includes, among others, Gary Huckabay, the founder of Baseball Prospectus; Chris Kahrl, a sports editor who lives in Washington, D.C.; and Dave Pease, who roots for Ryan Klesko in San Diego. Together, the roster of Baseball Prospectus writers consult to 26 of the 30 major league baseball teams.Steven Goldman is the creator of the long-running Pinstriped BibleYou Could Look It Up column for BaseballProspectus.com, a contributor to the Baseball Prospectus annual book, and the author of the biography Forging Genius: the Making of Casey Stengel. His work has also been seen in Yankees Magazine, the New York Sun, and Web sites too numerous to mention. Steven lives in New Jersey with his wife, Stefanie, daughter, Sarah, and, by the time you read this, a boy to be named later.
Table of Contents
A Comforting Note About Statistics x
Introduction: A Brain Surgeon Walks Into a Bar xii
1 The Banality of Incompetence, 1919-2002 1
Extra Innings: How Important Is a Teams Best Player?
The Noncurse of the Grey Eagle: A Case Study 14
2 Shopping for Winners, November 25, 2003 17
Extra Innings: Dan Duquette: Failed Epstein Prototype 30
3 The A-Rod Advantage, November-December 2003 35
4 Squeezing the Merchandise, March 7 and March 24, 2004 47
5 Varieties of Relief, April 8-9, 2004 63
Extra Innings: Calvin Schiraldi: Industrial-Strength Fluke 73
6 Walking, Wounded, April 16-18, 2004 77
7 Arms and the Man, April 25, 2004 85
8 “You Want Me to Hit Like a Little Bitch?” May 5, 2004 91
9 The Caveman Cleans Up, May 21, 2004 105
10 The Holy Gospel of On-Base Percentage, May 23, 2004 113
Extra Innings: On-Base-Percentage Scripture 120
11 A Streak of Insignificance, May 29-June 8, 2004 125
12 Nomars Spring and Regression to the Mean, June 9, 2004 141
13 Better Winning Through Chemistry, July 1-3, 2004 151
Extra Innings: The Fanning Fallacy 157
14 Brothers of the Mind Game, July 6-8, 2004 161
15 Basebrawl, July 24, 2004 169
Extra Innings: Draft-Wise but Career-Foolish 178
16 Nomargate, July 31, 2004 183
Extra Innings: Hail and Farewell to the Holy Trinity = 192
17 Invulnerable, August 16-September 11, 2004 197
Extra Innings: Bicoastal Blues? 202
18 Cracking the Rivera Code, September 17-19, 2004 209
19 Deconstructing Pedro, September 24-26, 2004 217
A Case Study: Pedro, Without Qualification 218
Extra Innings: “Why Dont We Just Wake Up the Bambino and Ill Drill Him.” 228
20 Reframing History, October 5-8, 2004 231
21 Insult and Injury, October 16, 2004 241
22 The 510-Square-Inch War Zone, October 17-18, 2004 249
23 Beat the Devil, October 19-20, 2004 261
24 The Substance of Style, October 23-27, 2004 269
25 Beat the Yankees, Be the Yankees, October 28, 2004 277
Appendix I: Yawkey and Post-Yawkey Red Sox General Managers 291
Appendix II: The Complete List of Baseball Brawls
from Stengel and Weinart to A-Rod and Varitek 293
Appendix III: Glossary and Statistical Leaders 300
About the Authors 343