From Publishers Weekly
From the authors of the popular statistical analysis site BaseballProspectus.com comes a rare bird, a sports book that's both thoughtfully written and brimming with drama. Dissecting 13 of the most compelling, down-to-the-wire pennant races in baseball history, from the 1908 National League to the 2003 National League Central, the authors first use flowing, novelistic prose to detail what happened, and then their own statistical formulae to illuminate why the race ended as it did. Regular readers of Baseball Prospectus will find some of this book repetitive, such as lengthy comparisons between teams from different eras, but there is much here for fans of all interest levels. One chapter examines the development of the modern farm system, while another illustrates how failure to integrate crippled some franchises for decades. Along the way, myths are debunked (infamous goat Fred Merkle gets acquitted, having been victimized by the inconsistent umpiring common in the early 1900s) and legends are re-examined (would Bobby Thompson have hit his "Shot Heard Round the World" if Dodger manager Charlie Dressen hadn't been in "a kind of fugue state throughout that ninth inning"?). With clear prose and surprising wit, this book is a perfect end-of-summer read for fans.
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If you are a baseball fan, there's a high probability you are a nerd for statistics. You may even know about baseballprospectus.com, a stats site in which irreverent humor exists in perfect harmony with sometimes impossibly complex mathematical formulas. For those who don't know the site, here's the perfect introduction: a statistical analysis of the 10 greatest pennant races in baseball history, as determined by the Davenport method. Along with the statistics behind the selections, the contributors identify the key players on each team, set the context (on the way up or down), and describe the key moments in each pennant race. More importantly, they provide reasons for the surges and/or the collapses. Included are the Philadelphia Phillies collapse in 1964, the Boston Red Sox miracle in 1967, and the Detroit Tigers half-game victory over the Red Sox in 1972. Baseball Prospectus is a popular brand name, and this may be its most easily accessible book for the casual fan. And since it's examining the past rather than predicting the future, it has a long, long shelf life. Don't miss it. Lukowsky, Wes