Monday, April 17, 2017

Law Rounds The Bases With "Smart Baseball"

Keith Law is easily among the most polarizing figures on baseball Twitter. Whether he's doing his routine Klawchat, discussing top prospects, dishing for ESPN Insiders, or breaking news, he's among the best in the business. For anyone that has followed his work for any period of time, there's one certainty, he's got an opinion. In his new book "Smart Baseball," he's right nearly 100% of the time.

I should point out that I received a review copy of "Smart Baseball," and while it should be noted that the goal is never to sway the interest, there's no way any freebie could add more value to what was already printed between the pages. Law lays out a perfect explanation of the game that has grown to new heights in recent years, and it's a must for fans both new and old, as well as connected and casual. As I flipped from chapter to chapter, I found myself nodding at the titles, and having my feelings confirmed throughout the ensuing pages.

At it's core, baseball is a thinking man's game. It's meant to be enjoyed by all, but there's plenty more to be understood when you look under the hood. Sure, some will argue that means you must completely delve into the world of Sabermetrics, but even before Law opens that can of worms, he kicks tradition right in the behind.

For the past few years, I've grown a deeper level of vitriol towards batting average. It tells a falsified story, explains too little, and is accepted as rule by far to many. "Smart Baseball" takes aim and presents both OPS as well as the more advanced wOBA. Continuing on the dusty trail, the RBI is obliterated, and shown for what it is. Even the devil itself, the sac bunt, gets exploited among Law's journey through understanding the game better.

As you read through the book, Law has crafted a way in which a fan from any background, and with any level of understanding, can further appreciate and understand the diamond. While the story will never be complete, and predictability is an inexact science, the game of baseball begs us to dig deeper. Appreciating the game for what it is on the surface, only grows dramatically as you are able to connect with the bigger picture taking place.

There's no shortage of examples in "Smart Baseball," and Law calls upon plenty of well regarded sources for help. He can illustrate with Baseball Prospectus, lean on Fangraphs, or even call to a handful of other previously authored publications. From a man that knows the game at its highest level inside and out, "Smart Baseball" is a journey that every fan should be chomping at taking.

Coming in at just over 300 pages, "Smart Baseball" is a quick read that takes each chapter as an inning, and blitzes through it. There's enough meat in each space to keep you going, and the goal is to expand, rather than to recreate. If there's a way to build a better mouse trap, Law's "Smart Baseball" is destined to take you there between the foul lines.

We probably aren't far away from many of the principles laid out in the book becoming more mainstream, and the greater population of fans that get on board early, the great revolution the game can see.

This work isn't prospect focused, it isn't confined to 140 characters, and it isn't directed towards a single fangroup. "Smart Baseball" is for you, the baseball fan, and you'll be better for reading it. So will the game.

Smart Baseball releases on April 25, 2017. Buy it on Amazon here.

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