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Royals Review Reading List: The Last Nine Innings by Charles Euchner

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Looking to recharge your baseball batteries as we count down the final days to Spring Training? May your humble internet scribe request reading a good baseball book as an antidote to the immense river of stupidity we're forced to sift through on a daily basis? An interesting place to start might be The Last Nine Innings by Charles Euchner, which describes what Euchner calls "The Triple Revolution" of 21st century baseball: 1) Globalization 2) Increasing Scientific/Medicine Informed Training and 3) The Statistical Revolution/Evolution.

The book has an interesting structure, following the Yankees-Diamondbacks Game 7 2001 World Series thriller inning by inning. Alongside pitch-by-pitch analysis of the game, Euchner delves into detailed descriptions, digressions and explanations of whats going on behind the scenes, the player's background and what various schools of taught indicate is the best approach. Unlike, say, Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August, Euchner's pen is a more open-minded one, referencing sabermetric studies, run-expectation studies alongside more familiar evocations of the manager's hunch, the player's instincts, the emotions of the moment, etc etc. At its best moments The Last Nine Innings reads like a game-watch between Bob Ryan and Bill James, only the dialogue doesn't rise to adhoms and senseless shouting, something like an episode of PTI that actually went somewhere.

It doesn't hurt that the game itself was memorable, or, as some assert, "the end of the Yankee's Dynasty" etc. At the same time, one can only speculate at the probable delays that hinder this book's ultimate efficacy. Hell, its already a little late to be fondly recalling the Red Sox 2004 title, much less the D'Backs in 2001.

Yet, in a way, it works, as The Last Nine Innings isn't really a typical "this team won, because..." book, as it is a broad-based explication of a much more complex world which simply uses the 2001 Series as an entre into "The Triple Revolution".

This reader found the strongest sections of the book those which dealt with "The Numbers Game", if only because its inherently rare to see the analytical perspective dealt with fairly or objectively in the post-Moneyball Counter-Revolution. Hardcore Statheads won't be blown away by the material inside, but the book remains a solid introductory text for basic principles like Run Expectation, Derek Zumstag's DIPS, the problems of Defensive Evaluation, etc.

Throughout, Euchner's background as a journalist and public policy/urban planning is highlighted in an ability to juggle multiple threads and lines of analysis against a coherent, synchronous backdrop of the game's "last nine innings".

No mention of the Royals really though. Pity that.