October 26, 2008

Book Review: Baseball Field Guide

Dan Formosa and Paul Hamburger are, according to their back cover bio, "design experts with many decades of award-winning work and an obsession with baseball between them".

Both of those skills are on display in this revised and updated edition of their "Baseball Field Guide" (Da Capo Press). The first edition was published in 2006.

Formosa and Hamburger have rewritten what they refer to as "the vague, misleading, confusing, inconsistent, and obscure" rules of baseball. They have recast the rule book in language that is easy to understand -- for both new fans and decades-long devotees -- with simple, yet highly informative, illustrations.

Here is one of the illustrations for interference:


Pages 64-65 -- Pitching Positions:


Along the way, you'll learn 12 ways a runner can be called out, 18 ways a batter can make an out, nine ways an error can be charged, and 21 instances that warrant a player's ejection.

Formosa and Hamburger have created a real gem. I can't think of a better book that serves an introduction to the sport and how it is played. I'll be referring to the Field Guide at least as often as I do to the actual rule book ... probably more.

[Earlier this year, a Perseus Books publicity person emailed me, asking if I wanted to review this book. In an odd coincidence, I had been admiring it in a book store the previous day.]

44 comments:

L-girl said...

This sounds great!

James said...

I concur! That looks really, really neat. I love when design people do crazy fun stuff like this.

This:

http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Here-Geographies-Imagination/dp/1568984308

is also worth looking at.

Amy said...

Very cool! Maybe this will answer some of those questions that I still (after over 40 years as a fan) have about some of the rather obscure rules and that even I am too embarrassed to ask about on JOS.

andy said...

Big Brother is watching you Allan.

L-girl said...

rather obscure rules and that even I am too embarrassed to ask about on JOS.

If the rules are obscure, you shouldn't be embarrassed. You shouldn't be embarrassed no matter what. I'm always asking questions about baseball.

It does sound like a great book, tho.

Big Brother is watching you Allan.

Well duh.

Amy said...

I still cannot tell when a pitcher has actually committed a balk. Maybe this book will help.

I have many questions about why some plays that look like errors are not scored that way and why others that look like hits are scored as errors.

Etc.

Maybe next season I will ask more of those type of questions. Maybe this book will make that unnecessary.

redsock said...

I still cannot tell when a pitcher has actually committed a balk. Maybe this book will help.

I can't always tell when runs and unearned or earned. It still seems like some of it is a judgment call, although it should not be that way. (I'm all set on the infield fly rule though!)

I have many questions about why some plays that look like errors are not scored that way and why others that look like hits are scored as errors.

That is not covered in the rules. It's up to the opinion of each official scorer. Which is why it seems so arbitrary -- and why fielding percentage sucks (one of the many reasons it sucks).

Definitely see if it is in your book store. There are other illustrations at the link I posted in the post. I love the clean, cool look of the pages. It also might have been a good idea to include the text of the actual rule book, then explain it as you read through it.

9casey said...

Amy said...
Very cool! Maybe this will answer some of those questions that I still (after over 40 years as a fan) have about some of the rather obscure rules and that even I am too embarrassed to ask about on JOS.




Amy ask away, we all think we know more than the next guy or gal anyway and are always happy to spew info to show off the knowledge most people can care less about...

ish said...

Youk receives the Hank Aaron award for 2008. Very cool.

redsock said...

WS4

FKR: 000
PHI: 101

phil said...

I can't always tell when runs and unearned or earned. It still seems like some of it is a judgment call, although it should not be that way.

Rule 10.18 is pretty explicit that the scorer's judgment should be taken into account when charging earned runs. See, e.g., 10.18(d):

(d) No run shall be earned when the runner's advance is aided by an error, a passed ball, or defensive interference or obstruction, if the scorer judges that the run would not have scored without the aid of such misplay.

The phrase "benefit of the doubt" also appears twice. You basically have to stick with general principles like it's unearned when the runner gets on base because of a fielding error or after the inning should've ended because of an error.

The really goofy examples happen under 10.18(e) ("An error by a pitcher is treated exactly the same as an error by any other fielder in computing earned runs"). Timlin's used that rule to depress his ERA -- when a pitcher commits his own throwing error to first with two outs, he can give up a dozen runs afterwards and they're all unearned.

phil said...

Three run Howard dong.

FKR - 000 1
PHI - 101 3

phil said...

Hinske's was the FKRs' first dong this series, right?

ish said...

How about that! Joe Blanton running into one. Hard to believe this is the first pitcher the Red Sox faced this season way back in Japan.

redsock said...

Blanton getting a wiiiiiiiiiiiide zone vs Navarro.

ish said...

Hey wow. Live comments! In living color!

As much as I'd love to see this series go 7 games, I'm at the point where I'd rather not see this series go back to Tampa Bay.

ish said...

The Phillies really stood out all postseason. One of my favorite postseason moments overall was Brett Myer's 9-pitch walk where every ball taken and every foul ball hit, the crowd erupted. Then Rollins gets a four-pitch walk and Victorino hits a grand slam. NLDS G2.

phil said...

I want the Phillies to win in five games, so there don't have to be scheduling issues vis-a-vis Obama's Wednesday network electioneering. I also want the FKRs humiliated.

ish said...

Amazing how much of a whirlwind this next week and a half will be. Baseball's coming to a close (meh.), we enter November, the clocks get changed back to standard time (a big YUCK for that one), then Election Day.

ish said...

With the GM meetings not long after.

phil said...

Watching the FKR fans turn on their most successful manager in franchise history would also be delicious.

ish said...

Sounds like GDGD isn't showing highlights for the world series. They blacked out the highlights.

If MLB could make more money by not letting anyone watch the games, they would.

ish said...

It's sad that our favorite sport is run by one of the worst companies who takes its consumer base for granted.

9casey said...

ish said...
It's sad that our favorite sport is run by one of the worst companies who takes its consumer base for granted.



Ish , there is a big difference between a viewer and a consumer.

9casey said...

ish said...
It's sad that our favorite sport is run by one of the worst companies who takes its consumer base for granted.



Their consumer base is actulally Fox, TBS, and ESPN, they shell out millions to mlb ,and they try to get the money from the consumer....

ish said...

My mistake. The viewer.

phil said...

FKR - 000 110 00
PHI - 101 310 04

Yes, this'll do nicely. Just finish it.

phil said...

That'll do.

ish said...

My bet is tomorrow will be the last game of the 2008 season. I will watch from first pitch to last pitch, because that'll most likely be it until March. Get that last baseball itch.

Watching this Phillies team brings up an interesting question: How would the Red Sox have fared against them?

Either way, I think I'm ready for tomorrow to be the final game and a big celebration in Philadelphia. I mean, Cole Hamels is the Beckett of last year in the playoffs. The guy is money.

FenFan said...

Amazing how much of a whirlwind this next week and a half will be... the clocks get changed back to standard time (a big YUCK for that one)...

I'm one of those people that's looking forward to that for the simple reason that I'm at the gym at 5:30 AM and when I leave at 6:45, it's still pitch black.

This book sounds like a good one, Allan. I'll put that on my Christmas wish list.

Watching the FKR fans turn on their most successful manager in franchise history would also be delicious.

I doubt it only because a month from now, they're going to forget his name. (Joe Madden? Isn't he the football commentator?)

L-girl said...

It's still a bit premature to read the Rays' eulogy. Sox fans ought to know that.

ish said...

If you can somehow get to Hamels and win Game 5, they go back to the Trop and have James Shields on the mound against Brett Myers, who they beat in Game 2. Then if they win that, it's Game 7 against Jamie Moyer. Anything could happen.

Tonight the Phillies should just focus on winning the game because it could get very interesting if they need to send this one back to the Trop.

phil said...

WS5

FKR - 0
PHI - 2

phil said...

FKR - 000 1
PHI - 200

phil said...

FKR - 000 10
PHI - 200 00

Kazmir didn't make it through the fifth.

phil said...

FKR - 000 101
PHI - 200 00

ish said...

Hard to believe, with all the rain. It's not like they didn't know it was going to rain. Game should never have been started. How about this then, eh? This game will most likely not finish tonight, and tomorrow's weather looks to be lousy. Although I think the storm will have passed by evening. But there could be a situation where Game 5 would finish (a bullpen game, which means a fresh David Price and a Philly's bullpen) on the day that Game 6 should have been played in Tampa.

Crazy stuff. Game should never have been started.

tim said...

Suspended. This is fucked.

phil said...

Or if they'd just moved it up an hour or two, they could've finished it.

I suppose MLB figures that if the series takes as long as possible, with as many extra games as possible, then they'll get more ad revenue.

tim said...

Or if they'd just moved it up an hour or two, they could've finished it.

I suppose MLB figures that if the series takes as long as possible, with as many extra games as possible, then they'll get more ad revenue.


Logged on here now to post basically the exact same comment. Took the words right out of my mouth (er..fingers?), phil.

ish said...

Hard to fault Selig for starting the game, thinking about it at 2:40 on Tuesday afternoon. He was given bad weather intelligence. He was told there would only be a tenth of an inch of rain, which is a playable amount, between 8 and midnight.

The radar showed the rain blossoming over Philadelphia, rather than moving in like it normally would with a low pressure system. Almost like a popcorn thunderstorm in the summer, only a much larger area.

Having said that, it's amazing how playoff schedules have become so set-in-stone and inflexible. But it's all driven by ratings, and apparently 8:22 PM is the time most people in the country are going to tune in to watch the game. They may not be awake for the whole thing, but just as long as their TV is on and tuned to FOX, all is well.

9casey said...

phil said...
Or if they'd just moved it up an hour or two, they could've finished it.



Never seen that happen in MLB.....What would have happened if the Phillies were up by 1 , would the game been official or in the playoffs do they have to finish?

I heard they asked everyone to cancel the game and both teams said they wanted to play..

ish said...

By the way, there is a regular season precedent for suspending a game after the 5th inning with the game NOT being tied.

June 28, 2007, the Yankees and Orioles were suspended in the top of the EIGHTH inning, after the Yankees, who had been down by two runs, took a 2-run lead, 8-6. They couldn't even wait until the half-inning was concluded to cover the field. The game was suspended with 2 out and Derek Jeter on second base.

The game was resumed almost a month later - July 27th, and the Yankees held on to win 8-7.

If that game gets suspended, there's NO way, no matter what the rulebook states, a World Series game would end prematurely if it wasn't tied. There would need to be a big deficit, at least 10 runs I would think, to justify the game ending early. Especially a clinching game.

ish said...

I'm just glad there will be baseball tonight.