When I was picking my college major at the tender age or 17 or whatever (far too young to decide your future, but that’s a different rant), I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted to be: I wanted to be an MLB beat writer. I wanted to be in the press box for every game and I wanted to tell the stories of the players on the field. The primary reason I wanted to do this was because of the Indians beat writer, a guy whose words I ate up, a guy named Anthony Castrovince.
After college, when I really got into the work of journalism and following a beat (high school sports to start), I realized just how awful the hours can be and how uninspiring the work can be when its not your favorite baseball team that you’re covering. I moved on to different things, things that are better for me, but I’ve never lost the love of writing (which is why I’m typing these words here). Perhaps something similar happened with Castrovince, as he has moved on from the Tribe beat to be a national writer for MLB.com, but we’re all lucky to still be reading his work.
His new book, A Fan’s Guide to Baseball Analytics, is, in true Castrovince fashion, a joy to read. Although he extends his range far beyond his usual posts online, the writing never loses that unique quality that makes his work special. The book is what the title says, a guide for fans through the sometimes disorienting world of acronyms that make up modern baseball statistics.
Inspired by an email exchange by a particularly ornery Luddite, the book breaks down concepts like WAR, wOBA, and wRC+ into neat little chapters with plenty of real life references to make it understandable. As Castrovince states in the book, “We’re here to focus on what’s embraceable, relatable, and easily accessible,” and if that’s his mission statement, then he’s accomplished that mission.
Although the details behind the sabermetrics in the book are available at Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus, or FanGraphs and exactly the kind of thing most readers don’t want to see — the kind of detail that would prompt Russell Carleton of BP to add the disclaimer “Gory Mathematical Details Ahead!” — the way Castrovince lays things out is not daunting or even complicated. A Fan’s Guide to Baseball Analytics is easy to read, whether you choose to read it cover to cover or in pieces or to consult it as a reference guide whenever a question arises. And it’s not just for the analytically frustrated or intentionally ignorant, either.
As writers, we at Let’s Go Tribe try our best to convey how advanced statistics tell the story of the Indians, and we trust that you readers understand what we’re talking about. But A Fan’s Guide to Baseball Analytics is for us, too. It’s the kind of book that just makes things easier to grasp. And with the way sabermetric stats have proliferated among the game, understanding these stats is essential to understanding what baseball is in this day and age.
Sure, you may know how to calculate OPS or WHIP off the top of your head (or simply because you know what the acronyms stand for), but the detail in the book, the examples and the references, that’s what makes it worth the price of admission. And, as Castrovince points out in our interview (embedded in this post), it’s also a great gift for dads or grandparents, those who might not have the same grasp as you, brilliant reader.
A Fan’s Guide to Baseball Analytics is out now via Sports Publishing. You can pick up or order a copy today from an independent retailer, most of whom offer pickup or will deliver or ship right to your house. Find a retailer near you via Bookshop.org or Indie Bound. For more about the book, about the Indians, and, of course, Francisco Lindor, check out my interview with the author embedded in this post.