If you’re a baseball fan, you can’t help but notice how much data has become a part of the game. It’s become such a big part of it, after all, that a best selling book and feature movie starring Brad Pitt — Moneyball — was made about the use of sabremetrics. In his book “The Cubs Way,” Tom Verducci intertwines the story of how Theo Epstein used sabremetrics and other methods to build the Cubs with how they won the 2016 World Series.
When Theo Epstein was the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox during their World Series runs, he was known for using sabremetrics to help secure players like Big Papi that nobody else was looking at. It’s a skill set that he was expected to bring to the Cubs after he left Boston and went to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
What separates Verducci’s book from Moneyball, however, is that he doesn’t just discuss the statistical methods that Epstein used. While there’s talk about measuring a pitcher’s release point and calculating where the best place for position players to stand in the field, that wasn’t the focus. Verducci instead highlights how the Cubs actually sought players with a strong sense of character while building their team. The focus on character, for instance, was a large part of why they eventually decided to hire Joe Maddon to be the team’s skipper.
Of course, you have to have a lot of things go right for an organization to win the World Series and Verducci talks about some of the victories the Cubs had along the way. Jake Arrieta, an example used, was a pitcher who was struggling with in the Baltimore Orioles organization before the Cubs took a chance on him. Instead of trying to change his pitching style like the Orioles had done, Verducci describes how the Cubs made some minor tweaks but largely let Arrieta be Arrieta. It worked out and the right hander is now one of the Cubs’ strongest pitchers.
Verducci also talks about how Kyle Schwarber’s character played huge role in why he was drafted. His character went on to play a role in him being able to come back for the World Series after a devastating injury that was supposed to have him out for the entire season. While Schwarber might be struggling now during the 2017 season, Verducci explains how his role as the DH during the World Series was considered a huge part of why the Cubs were able to win.
The focus in on building a team full of character, combined with the use of sabremetrics, made for a good story. A story that many people found compelling as the Cubs won their first championship in 108 years last fall. If the team was full of a bunch of phonies or free agents simply chasing a big contract, after all, I don’t think as many people would have been excited about the Cubs going all the way.
“The Cubs Way” combined enough baseball for the hardcore fan with that good storytelling about character and developing the team. I therefore believe everyone will find it to be a good read and highly recommend picking it up at your local bookstore.