For a book that’s basically a long list, this one is surprisingly readable. Goldberg-Strassler, who’s the radio voice of the Lansing Lugnuts, tells us he began compiling this book when he noticed he kept repeating the same phrases to describe the action on the field. That he’s shared the list with us is a delight.
Which brings us back to Jeff Guinn’s The Last Gunfight. If you’re seeking an adequate overview of the events which caused and followed from the Tombstone gunfight, this book should meet your need. Guinn sticks mostly to the facts, and takes pains to show where, and often why, interpretations differ. While his unsympathetic portrayal of Wyatt Earp will offend some readers, there’s no principal character this book flatters. In this telling Virgil Earp’s nearly the only good actor, though Guinn shows unusual empathy to John Behan’s difficult situation.
The alert reader will have recognized this plot is a small-scale version of Horatio Nelson’s 1798; indeed, Bolitho’s well aware of Nelson’s efforts, but circumstances–not to mention the frustration of an apparently-failed search effort–prevent the two from actually meeting. Francis Inch manages to ferry messages between the fleets, to his delight, but they’re inconsequential.
So why read the book? I can think of two reasons. You might want to mine the book for its equations; people have certainly done that, and found value. Or, like me, you might just want to read everything sabermetric. Unless you fall into those categories, you really don’t want to go there.
The issue features two excellent sabermetric pieces. Pete Palmer’s essay concerned park effects in the American League, and is as good an introduction to the topic as I’ve ever seen. Pete’s later projects gained some sophistication, but this effort touches nearly all the basic issues. And Irv Matus, who apparently counted pitches for all the Mets’ games in 1976, authored an excellent examination of the impact of pitch counts on pitcher performance. I doubt this was the first time such an effort had been made, but if anyone published such a well-thought-through analysis before Matus I’ve not seen it.
This is a useful effort, and worth your time to complete if you want to understand how bicycles came to be what they’ve become. At its best, this book is absolutely delightful.
That said, it’s a decent book, and fills in some of the Sphinx backstory. Half of the book’s a direct reprint of the novella with the same name; the second half is new and, to me, far too predictable. Weber often goes out of his way to make his villains into real people; no such luck with this one, who’s pretty much a cartoon.
Pete Palmer extends the Jim Reuter essay, on park factor calculations, from the previous issue of the Analyst. Palmer’s first extension demonstrates that Reuter’s method works better if the calculations are based on innings rather than games, and shows how to make the necessary adjustments. He also suggests a further, individual-player, version of the factor which he doesn’t fully describe. The second extension begins with the observation that a team’s offensive “park effect” is partly the product of not facing the local pitching staff; he adds adjustments to allow for that. James’ editorial comment takes issue with some of Palmer’s assumptions, pointing out that James and Palmer differ on the implicit meaning of context as applied to calculating park effects.