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The July issue of The Atlantic features a review of Ben Lindbergh’s and Travis Sawchik’s recently released book, The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Noncomformists Are Using Data To Build Better Players. Jack Hamilton, the writer of this review, didn’t just look at whether the book was enjoyable to read, but also at the subject being covered itself, and the problems contained within it: in some cases, he even asked and tried to answer important questions the authors themselves did not.
We’re going to look at the review and those questions today, because they happen to be labor-oriented. Let’s open with this background quote from Hamilton, on recent revolutions in baseball:
The steroid and stat revolutions have unfolded very differently so far, but they arose from a common source: a desire to deploy scientific methods to improve the way baseball is played. Steroid use focused on player enhancement, whereas analytics focused on player value. To put it polemically, one was a revolution driven by labor, and the other by management, which is probably one of many reasons the latter has been more readily accepted.