Review: Watching Baseball Smarter by Zack Hample

One of my newest pursuits, as I am done school and have a new and unfamiliar amount of free time, has been understanding baseball.  I am educating myself on its history, strategy, rules and analytics.  This is all in an attempt to successfully play Fantasy Baseball next year, but it also satisfies my love of math and statistics. 

Six months ago, what I knew about baseball could have been summed up by saying this: "Some dude takes a bat and hits a ball and some other dude tries to catch it."  Not very intricate.

Over the last few weeks, I have watched Ken Burns' Baseball: A Film, which is a long series depicting the origins and history of baseball.  This series is so well done.  The commentary is fantastic, but best of all is the original (and probably quite rare) early photographs and footage.  This series educated me on the long history of baseball from its rules, the early players, stadiums, racial segregation and media coverage.

From there, I purchased myself a set of books to help me further educate myself.  The first that I have finished is Watching Baseball Smarter by Zack Hample.  This book, as he states himself, was written for both the serious baseball nuts and the beginners, such as myself.

This book gives an amazing amount of detail in a conversational way that was easy for me to follow.  There was casual overviews explaining basic rules that were new to me as a beginner, but then followed the more intricate details on rules and strategy.  I would often read a section, and then search YouTube to find a compilation of footage to demonstrate what I was reading.  As a non-visual thinker, this helped me get beyond the confusion and see it in action. 

The book went into detail about different positions, and now I finally understand why the catcher is so important.  I can now better understand why coaches and umpires make the decisions that they do.  I loved the explanations of the different strategies one might choose when there are two outs that you would never do if there were only one.  In general, I loved the introduction to baseball strategy.  I have always been a big fan of strategy games, beginning with Chess when I was a child.  Had I truly understood how strategic, intricate and statistical baseball was before, I would have become a fan much sooner!

This was a great, easy to read book for someone like me who went into it knowing very little.  The author is clearly a huge baseball fan, and writes of it with passion and without condescension.  He uses humor and casual language, going from serious strategy to humorous facts swiftly.  It was the perfect start to my baseball reading this summer and will give me a foundation to understand the other books on my list.

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