SPORTS & RECREATION

The Shift: The Next Evolution in Baseball Thinking

Triumph. Apr. 2018. 368p. illus. ISBN 9781629375441. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781641250139. SPORTS
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OrangeReviewStarA "shift" in baseball refers to a defensive realignment in which players deviate from their standard positions based on a hitter's percentage-proven tendencies. Here, clinical psychologist Carleton presents a further move in our perception of the game by balancing analytics-heavy sabermetrics—popularized by Michael Lewis's Moneyball—and the idea that baseball is purely a numbers game with psychological concepts such as thought, culture, ritual, and language. The result is a holistic consideration as well as a necessary bridge between baseball purists and those obsessed with data. This data-heavy book explains concepts such as on-base percentage (OBP), wins above replacement (WAR), expected run tables, and hidden stats. Yet the telling is contextualized and brought to life with a bright mix of personality and humor, creating a fun read.
VERDICT Carleton's refreshingly insightful, witty, and deceptively breezy exploration details the false sense of security that statistical methodology can offer. By highlighting the "human" aspects of the sport, Carleton succeeds in writing a "love poem (with decimal points)" that belongs on the shelf of every baseball fan.

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