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Review: The Last Nine Innings

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The Last Nine Innings: Inside the Real Game Fans Never See (2006)

By Charles Euchner

How best to describe this book? You could look at it as a survey of the pertenent issues in baseball today. You could also look at it as an in-depth analysis of one game. Either way, it's a very entertaing and enlightening look at the game we know and love.

Euchner uses Game 7 of the 2001 World Series as his backdrop, and events within the game as jumping off points to address issues within the sport. For example, the positioning of outfielders in the second inning leads to a chapter on how today's players keep in shape and healthy. Curt Schilling's preparation, Roger Clemens' mechanics, and Matt Williams' hitting approach all get attention.

My favorite section of the book is the sixth inning, where Euchner delves into the modern statistical movement within baseball and how it relates to on-the-field strategy. Such topics like pitch-by-pitch data, DIPS, run expectancy, Palmer's stolen base formula, and win probability are all placed into the flow of the deciding game of the 2001 season. Other interesting topics include using the myriad of defensive measures that are now available to evaluate Derek Jeter's defense, the step-by-step mechanics of a swing, and how different pitchers mentally approach an outing.

Euchner doesn't just rely on statistics; he interviewed most of the major participants in the game. You'll hear insights from Curt Schilling, Alfonso Soriano, Randy Johnson, Steve Finley, Matt Williams, Joe Torre, and Bob Brenly, among others.

What makes this book so interesting is how Euchner fits these seemingly disparate issues into one volume without it seeming haphazard. There isn't enough space to really get into some of the topics, but it works very well as a broad outline of what's important in today's game. It's a great introduction to the sport for the casual observer but should also be worthwhile to the hardcore fanatic.