The Only Rule Is It Has to Work Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 5/3/2016
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

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What would happen if two statistics-minded outsiders were allowed to run a professional baseball team?

It’s the ultimate in fantasy baseball: You get to pick the roster, set the lineup, and decide on strategies -- with real players, in a real ballpark, in a real playoff race. That’s what baseball analysts Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller got to do when an independent minor-league team in California, the Sonoma Stompers, offered them the chance to run its baseball operations according to the most advanced statistics. Their story in The Only Rule is it Has to Work is unlike any other baseball tale you've ever read.

We tag along as Lindbergh and Miller apply their number-crunching insights to all aspects of assembling and running a team, following one cardinal rule for judging each innovation they try: it has to work. We meet colorful figures like general manager Theo Fightmaster and boundary-breakers like the first openly gay player in professional baseball. Even José Canseco makes a cameo appearance.

Will their knowledge of numbers help Lindbergh and Miller bring the Stompers a championship, or will they fall on their faces? Will the team have a competitive advantage or is the sport’s folk wisdom true after all? Will the players attract the attention of big-league scouts, or are they on a fast track to oblivion?

It’s a wild ride, by turns provocative and absurd, as Lindbergh and Miller tell a story that will speak to numbers geeks and traditionalists alike. And they prove that you don’t need a bat or a glove to make a genuine contribution to the game.

Author Biography

Ben Lindbergh is a staff writer for Grantland and the co-host of "Effectively Wild," the daily Baseball Prospectus podcast. He is a former editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus and has also worked for the Elias Sports Bureau and Bloomberg Sports. He lives in New York.

Sam Miller is the editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus, the co-editor of Baseball Prospectus's annual guidebook, and a contributing writer at ESPN the Magazine. He also co-hosts "Effectively Wild." He lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife and daughter.

Table of Contents

The Sonoma Stompers: Opening Day Roster xi
Prologue 1
1. Not Joking at All 7
2. Sonoma Dreaming 12
3. Modern Baseball 30
4. Tryouts 43
5. Spreadsheet Guys 55
6. No Feel 72
7. Taking the Field 104
8. Technical Difficulties 130
9. Breaking Barriers 149
10. Fehball 186
11. Pulling the Trigger 195
12. Evidences 222
13. Sands of Time 256
14. Burn the Ships 284
15. It Is High, It Is Far . . . 10
Epilogue 334
The Sonoma Stompers: Final Team Statistics 345
Acknowl­edgments 349

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