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3.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone, December 15, 2012
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This review is from: It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book (Paperback)
It starts with an interesting idea. Take the boys and girls (those words are used fondly) who put together the annual Baseball Prospectus book, and sick them on pennant races of the past. How did the 1967 Boston Red Sox and 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers win? How did the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies lose? Mix in a few relevant essays, and you have a book.

Yes, but do you have a good book? In spots, yes, very much so. In others, less so.

There are all sorts of books on pennant races out there. The idea is to provide some perspective and new information, possibly through statistics.

For example, editor Steve Goldman points out that the Yankees gave the Indians an opening in 1948 when they weren't quite as good as usual, and Cleveland marched through the gap to a pennant. A reason was that the Indians were willing to add African-American talent, thus briefly closing the talent gap between them and the Yankees. Of course, New York compensated within a year.

For example, Clifford Corcoran writes about the 1964 pennant race, and shows just how good Dick Allen was that year. Allen even turned it up a couple of notches during the Phillies' famous collapse. (By the way, Allen Barra writes a spirited essay on Allen's status as one of the most underrated and misunderstood players in baseball history -- it's a little over the top, but interesting.)

The essay on the demise of the Yankees in the 1970's/80's was particularly interesting. Goldman uses Otto Velez as an example of a young player who should have been a star but was always the odd man out because he was young. As a result, he got shuffled around eventually lost to Toronto, letting some potential go unfilled. The Yankees' drafting record is none too good in that era.

Other chapters aren't quite as interesting. For example, Alex Belth delivers a straight-forward review of the 1973 National League season, won by the Mets at 82-79 -- the worst championship season to date, relatively speaking. It's more history than analysis, if you understand my idea at the difference -- not badly done by any means, but not what I'm looking for in a book like this.

In addition, some of the essays are heavily into charts and statistics. There are some valid points to be made here, such as one that points out how attendance drops after September 1 although the decline has been slowed with the introduction of wild-cards. Still, some might not wade through a graph that has "percentage of games with TPRI of 3 Percent of Higher."

This gets something of a split decision, then. For those familiar with Baseball Prospectus (a worthwhile purchase every spring for big baseball fans), "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" works pretty well with some good analysis and insights. For those who aren't, readers might get a little bogged down in some unfamiliar stats or too-familiar history in spots.
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