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Wall Street Journal“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
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 ...
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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.
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 Team’s 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 Nomar’s 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 Don’t We Just Wake Up the Bambino and I’ll 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
INTRODUCTION: A BRAIN SURGEON WALKS INTO A BAR . . .
A brain surgeon walks into a bar after a hard day in the OR. He sits down at the counter, orders himself a cold one, and takes note of the big-screen television. It’s tuned to one of the popular forensic crime dramas that rule network television schedules. A medical examiner leans over a mutilated body in an alleyway.“
Take a close look at this entry wound, Detective,” the examiner is saying. “The bullet penetrated here, then turned his left parietal lobe into hamburger. Must’ve hurt like the dickens.”
The brain surgeon winces. “That’s completely inaccurate. He’s pointing to the wrong part of the brain. The bullet hit the right temporal lobe, not the left parietal lobe.”
“ No way, man!” shouts a man in a faded Detroit Tigers jersey two barstools away. “That ain’t no right temporal! They made the right call! I’ve been a brain fan since I was seven years old and I know! Up yours, buddy!”
Baseball may not be brain surgery, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is an expert on the national pastime any more than we expect the man on the street to know neurophysiology. Yet virtually everyone who follows baseball acts as if he knows what he’s talking about. This book is your insurance policy against being one of those people.
A century of sportswriters, broadcasters, guys in bars, and baseball men themselves have burdened our understanding of the game with half-truths and outright inventions. To take a few examples:
Since its founding in 1996, Baseball Prospectus has developed a reputation through its annual guide and magazine-style Web site as the nation’s foremost independent group of baseball analysts and pundits, breaking new ground in areas the game has long neglected: intelligent team design, objective player evaluation, injury-preventative pitcher usage, as well as dozens of other insights, many of which are now commonly utilized in the game, or soon will be. In the pages that follow, the writers and performance analysts of the Baseball Prospectus group dissect and explain the process that enabled the 2004 Red Sox to win their first championship since 1918. Week by week and in some cases day by day, BP considers the problems encountered along the way, both on and off the field, and reveals that winning a World Series is not just a matter of getting the big hits at the right time, but of having a plan and a rational worldview.
In short, the Red Sox finally got smart and won themselves a championship. Of course, getting smart doesn’t guarantee a World Series Championship, but it sure beats staying dumb and hoping one will find you by accident.
— STEVEN GOLDMAN
Posted July 27, 2010
No text was provided for this review.