About two months ago, Acta Sports publications sent me a copy of a great book to review. Behind the Scenes Baseball by Doug Decatur, met all my expectations and then some. Generally, I don’t plug a book unless I really enjoyed it and this one fits that category. The book is broken into three distinct parts. Each part is very different from the others. It’s also broken into short snips, which make it very convenient for the casual reader.
Part I – Stories from a life as a statistical consultant.
The author brings some humerus and insightful stories of his time as a consultant for teams like the Cubs. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “The Cubs look at stats? Who would have though?” This was back in the Tom Treblehorn days with the great pitching coach, Moe Drabowski. In fact, one of my favorite stories is one about Moe and his pitching charts that determined who was able to pitch on a given day. What made the story the funniest was the confrontations he had with Jose Bautista. The story talks about how Bautista would get confused with all the different color codes on the chart and always tell Drabowski that he was unavailable. It’s really a lot more humerus when you read it, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
The author also muses on working with the Reds and Pete Rose during his managerial tenure. The first part of the book is a very solid read.
Part II – GM IQ Test
This is the main reason I was excited to read this book. It’s a section that contains 100 questions ranging from Multiple Choice to Formulas. It’s designed to test your baseball knowledge when it comes to the value of statistics and other areas. They have a scoring scale at the end that tells you where you rank. I scored a 62 out of 100, which put me at the minor league manager range. I was satisfied with that, especially because I don’t consider myself a stathead. Here is a sample of what they have in the IQ test section.
Which team would be expected to win the most games?
(A) a team which scores 1000 runs and allows 900 runs
(B) a team which scores 800 runs and allows 700 runs
(C) a team which scores 600 runs and allows 500 runs
(D) all teams will win the same number of games
True or False: Almost all good young pitchers with strikeout rates below 4.00 per game disappear quickly.
True or False: On the average, closers pitch worse in “non-save” situations than they do in save situations.
Which free-agent strategy works best:
(A) sign to “fill a need”
(B) sign the “best free agent” on the market
(C) “whole-scale” signing
(D) let all your players become free agents and then blame your 100 loss season on the size of your market
Calculate ERA for a pitcher with the following statistics: 180 innings pitched and 90 runs allowed including 10 unearned runs allowed.
Late August 2004. The Reds decide to dump Barry Larkin. They have two choices for the replacement shortstop: Felipe Lopez or Andy Machado. Should the Reds immediately make a decision on who should play shortstop, or should they alternate each player, giving them 20 starts each the rest of the season and make a decision based on those 20 starts?
Want the answers? Too bad, you gotta buy the book.
Part III – An In-Depth Study of the 2004 Houston Astros
This section was hard to read as a Cub fan because of how sour the 2004 season made me feel. Nevertheless, the things Decatur talks about how he got the job working for the Astros as a consultant to Phil Garner. He would E-mail recommendations to Phil and that in turn would lead to changes in the lineup. His suggestions made sense to me, even with looking at it using hindsight. I know there are some people that thinks stats have no value in evaluating and making decisions, but I think they do have a value in the game today. It’s time people realize that and start using it to keep up with the Joneses.
If you are interested in this book, I highly recommend that you go pick it up. The publisher has it available right on their website and it’s only $14.95. Here is the link to Acta Sports where you can go to buy it.