10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Serious analysis but still a good read,
This review is from: Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time (Paperback)
Early in the book, Neyer and Epstein make the offhand remark, "...popular myth holds that the truly good teams are the ones that win the close games. That's complete bullsh--... Truly great teams... blow away their competition." I was skeptical of this thesis at first. If a team wins 90 games by the score of 8-4, why are they better than a team that wins 90 games by the score of 5-4? But little by little, the authors made a pretty good case to convince me, their key words being "truly great" teams.
The book utilizes a lot of math, with such calculations as "Pythagorean Winning Percentage" and "Standard Deviation Score." If you are scared away by sabremetric geek-dom, beware... The book is full of it. But I assure you, 99% of these calculations are totally valid. Many of them, will open up your mind and challenge your baseball assumptions.
For example, I went into the book as a great proponent of the sacrifice bunt (unlike the authors) and "little ball." I still think that both are underused, even in this era of inflated offense. However, I will now concede that such dynasties are substantially LESS compelled to relinquish any of their 27 outs in a game. Again, truly great teams BLOW AWAY their competition. They don't need to waste time by bunting a guy into scoring position.
Some other reviewers have accused the book of being humorless. Certainly, one-liners occur with less frequency than they do in Rob Neyer's Espn column. I think this is a product of the authors wanting to be taken seriously. Anybody can write a book in bar-room vernacular saying the "'98 Yankees were better than the '75 Reds, Blah, Blah, Blah..." BASEBALL DYNASTIES clearly strives to be THE authority on the subject... and what the hell is wrong with being ambitious? While certainly not comical, I found the book to be a good read. I was reading two other baseball books at the time (both much less dense and math-based), but I still kept coming back to Neyer/Epstein. Moreover, the arguments in each chapter are balanced by compelling anecdotal observations in the sidebars.
In the end, the authors do rank the 15 greatest teams of all time, and also devote a chapter to teams that barely miss the cut. Without giving too much away, let's just say that they rank Earl Weaver's Orioles higher and Tony LaRussa's A's lower than just about anyone would expect.
If you're a serious baseball fan, or strive to become one, treat yourself to this book. I can't imagine a much better book of its kind.