The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Linderbergh & Sam Miller

Since I became aware of Moneyball, I have been nearly obsessed with sabermetrics. Finding value where seasoned scouts cannot or will not is fascinating to me. Perhaps I feel closer to game now than I did when I played ball in my younger days because now baseball is a game of brains instead of brawn. I have read my fair share of sabermetrically inclined works. When I saw The Only Rule Is It Has to Work and its description, I knew I had to read it.

Self-proclaimed baseball nerds, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, decide to take over the Sonoma Stompers, an independent baseball team in the Pacific Association. The idea is that they will use the best technology and best data available to make all decisions, instead of relying on old baseball wisdom or other antiquated ideas. This seems like a match made in heaven for baseball geeks.

For over 300 pages you get a slow, boring story about how difficult it is to implement new ideas in baseball. The brain trust helps select undervalued players but they are still forced to take on talent without any data. And for the first part of the season, the brain trust seems to frequently fold to their old school player-manager. About half way through the book they finally start fully implement their “crazy” ideas like shifts and five men infields, which I do not find too “crazy” for professional baseball. By the end of the season, their good players are poached by more prestigious independent leagues and all their hard work sort of goes out the window.

There is not enough in this book to say extreme sabermetrics worked or not, thus you finish the book with no new information. I did not find any of the stories to be interesting. It was cool to see them implement the latest technology in independent league fields, but the follow through was lacking.

This is a book I could have skipped.