Big Data Baseball by Travis Sawchik

The longest winter of my life was spent in a small town just an hour outside of Pittsburgh. Being a kid who grew up in the deserts of California, I was not accustomed to several feet of snow falling over the weekend. I was far from my element, however, the one joy of living in western Pennsylvania was getting to visit the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the beautiful PNC Park. When I saw the Pirates face my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers, the Bucs were still in the midst of their recording setting, two-decades long losing streak. The Dodgers, on the other hand, were heading to the playoffs.

So even though I am a true blue Dodger fan there is a small sliver in my heart for the Pirates. For me, they were the only baseball on television for an entire year.

Big Data Baseball is the story of the Pirates breaking their terrible losing streak. How did they do it? They used data.

Sabermetrics have become so wildly used in baseball that it is no longer an oddity. In fact, not using data is an oddity. Even ball clubs worth billions of dollars have sabermetric guys on the books. Since the popularization of Moneyball (a great book by the way), the focus of the game has really shifted. Instead of simply grabbing the most expensive free agent, teams are looking for the best return on investment. Teams are looking for that statistical edge. Sabermetrics is here to stay. Perhaps dropping money on sabermetric nerds instead of players will be the future.

For the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates, it was defensive shifts, pitch counts, and ground ball outs. Big Data Baseball covers how manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington labored together to bring winning baseball back to Pittsburgh.

What Moneyball was to Oakland and The Extra 2% was to the Tampa Bay, Big Data Baseball is to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Funny enough, of these teams listed only Tampa Bay has ever seen the World Series and they lost, of course.

All in all, this was a great baseball book. I do not follow the Pirates enough to know how the team worked its way out of the NL Central gutter, so it was a great story to read with interesting data sprinkled throughout.