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Customer Review

on September 11, 2004
I judge a book not by what it doesn't have, but what it DOES have. And this book has all the things you'd expect in another great book from Bill James or Rob Neyer.

It has information you can't find anywhere else and probably never thought you could. Where else could you find accounts of exactly HOW all these pitchers pitched, all in one volume? It's the result of a decade of research by the two authors and their assistants.

In additional to the basic information, there are the usual essays, plus the usual Bill James digressions and asides. It's all very well organized. There's no trouble knowing where to find what you want.

And, as usual, it makes you THINK, and it makes you realize things that are relevant not just to baseball but to everything. One of the opening chapters focuses on how much the subject depends on linguistics and vocabulary, and how we might think a source tells us something but it doesn't really, because we don't understand the meanings of the words and phrases that are being used. Usually this is because the language has evolved over time, but sometimes it's because the language is used arbitrarily or sloppily. This is true about "knuckleballs" and "sliders" and "curves." But we readily realize that it can apply to anything.

The introductory chapter includes some duelling between the authors about things, some of which would seem to be "facts" but which are hard to pin down. It's interesting to see how much remains debatable about such a seemingly straightforward subject, even after years of research, and how much it will forever be arguable.

Especially interesting is the material about how the mechanics and strategy of pitching have evolved over the years, and WHY. In most instances there were specific reasons and fairly clear dividing lines for the major changes.

My one criticism would be that the content is indeed a bit erratic. One of the book's purposes is to catalog any noteworthy idiosyncrasies of a pitcher's style. But I notice that on some of the guys with the very most famous idiosyncrasies, you find nothing or almost nothing. For example, there's nothing about what Al Hrabosky was famous for, and almost nothing about Luis Tiant's hilarious mannerisms.

Still.....highly recommended for Bill James/Rob Neyer fans, and for anybody who enjoys interesting baseball material that's unlike what you've ever seen.
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