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It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book Paperback – February 26, 2008

3.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002856
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,231,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David W. Straight on August 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a good book for those who enjoy baseball stats--the WARPs, VORPs, pythagorean expectations and the like. It looks at a number of pennant races and has analyses of those races. It also has some very interesting analyses of related and unrelated topics as well. One of the more enjoyable sections involves an "antipennant" to see who would "win" the rating of the worst baseball team (not surprisingly the 1899 Cleveland Spiders). Unlike many (much) older books, It Ain't Over often features computer replays--millions of replays to get a better statistical view. Hence when they say that Team X should have won the pennant, or that the 1899 Spiders were musch worse than the other worst teams, it carries more weight. (If you want to read more extensively about the worst teams, try the wonderful "On a Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place"--used, through Amazon).

I did have a couple of problems with the book. First, it's edited, not written by one person, and so the writing is not always uniform--a bit like an anthology of short stories by different authors. Second, I would myself probably have picked some different races here and there. I found myself asking "What makes a pennant race exciting?" Suppose you have three very mediocre teams in a weak division--and all three finish closely
with a record of, say, about 78 wins and 84 losses. It may be close, but is it exciting? It reminds me of some Monday Night Football games between
two teams that are 4 and 10 in which there are 8 fumbles and 10 interceptions. The game may be close, but I probably wouldn't call it exciting, except in a kind of morbid way.

The 1908 National League race which featured the "Merkle boner" is of course included in the book.
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Format: Hardcover
This latest book from the baseball statistical wizards at BaseballProspectus.com continues what has become a pattern with Baseball Prospectus printed matter: absolutely first-rate analysis of baseball's most interesting subjects, compromised by an editing job that would make a high-school English class retch.

The good part first. Steve Goldman and his Baseball Prospectus colleagues examine the tightest pennant races in (US) major-league baseball history and try to help us understand why those races worked out as they did. Their studies are not only statistical, as usual for BP products, but also historical and personal, and the whole package "works" -- the reader can see not only how so many races were swung by human error (for example, inability to build a roster soundly, a persistent BP theme), but also *why* the errors came about, one of those things that a purely statistical analysis can't accomplish, and an example of how the self-styled chewing-gum-and-tobacco "analysts" underestimate the BP crowd. Some standard BP prejudices are evident, for example tendency to dismiss the running game as inconsequential (fair enough in the era of power baseball, but not so obvious in the pitcher-friendly 60s and 80s) and belief that Dick Allen belongs in the Hall of Fame (this reviewer, who's old enough to remember what a mess he made of his teams, disagrees strenuously). On the whole, however, the analysis is excellent, well-integrated, thought-provoking, and well worth a read, at least if you don't mind long tables of statistics.

Unfortunately, the editing job is so poor that there are places where reading the analysis is frustrating. Somebody really needs to teach these people to spell, or at least to hire editor/proofreaders who can.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the other reviewers have indicated, this book is full of choice details and interesting analysis about some of baseball's great pennant races and memorable teams, players, coaches, and managers. However, the book is badly edited and poorly written at times -- the price paid for trying to quickly slap together contributions from numerous contributors.

I think the book also suffers from confusion about whether it is aimed at the serious baseball fan or the casual fan. There's a lot of advanced baseball analysis terminology and numerology in the book that is familiar to the perhaps 200,000 people who are fascinated by sabermetrics. But the authors want to cast a wider net, so they spend a fair amount of time explaining these concepts to the newcomers in the audience. Trying to serve two audiences weakens the flow for those of us who already are on the bandwagon.

Yet, the book has significant strengths. The stories of how certain teams were built and reached their pinnacle during a particular pennant race (or staved off collapse for one more year) are frequently compelling. In fact, they're stronger than the data and statistics, which is usually BP's strength. I'm not a softie for the stories about a particular player's "manhood" or "ability to play in pain" or whatever, but this book highlights those achievements without being hyperbolic about it.

In conclusion, it's a decent addition to my baseball library, but far from a grand slam.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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