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Customer Review

on November 2, 2007
This latest book from the baseball statistical wizards at 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. It's bad enough when the names of key figures are misspelled, for example the persistent reference to "Denny McClain" as a 1960s-vintage Detroit Tiger; Denny McLain, no second "C", was the real Tiger, and a book on baseball history should get things like that right, although maybe a non-specialist editor might miss it. But ANY editor should be able to get chapter titles spelled correctly. When I got to the chapter on the demise of the Yankees dynasty (to be sure, a fun read from the standpoint of content) and saw that its title persistently appeared as "Tyranicide" (sic), all I could do was gag, and wonder what other typos had crept in to compromise the actual content.

On balance, I do recommend this book; its strengths outweigh its weaknesses, and you won't get meatier analysis. But somebody PLEASE get these folks some editorial help!
13 helpful votes
14 helpful votes
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