When stat nerds are allowed to run a baseball team


Sam Miller, the editor in chief of Baseball Prospectus, and Ben Lindbergh of FiveThirtyEight have a book coming out about something weird they did last summer: they ran a baseball team.

Yep: the independent Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific Association handed the baseball operations keys over to these two knuckleheads with zero actual baseball experience in order to see how it’d all work. Over the weekend Sam wrote a column about it at the New York Times talking about what worked and what didn’t.

The key takeaway: the data may have worked but it wasn’t well-received from players because of who was delivering it and how they presented themselves. The story mattered as much as the information and when you give people who are creatures of habit and routine an unconventional story — and when you do it in a way that makes you come off as if you have a superiority complex — it’s sometimes hard to make it stick. Sam notes that this was his and Ben’s failure, however, not the players’. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but if you’re constantly misunderstood, it’s not the problem of the people misunderstanding you. If you’re the one who wants to accomplish and explain something, the burden is on you to know your audience and find the best way to communicate.

If the column about it is this self-aware, I imagine the book will be fantastic.