Great article. Here are some tasters:
The history of baseball is a never-ending crisis of purity, occasioned by everything from “curved balls” to game-fixing to night games to integration to designated hitters to free agency to instant replay. The composition of the ball itself has changed repeatedly. At every juncture, the fundamental nature of the game has been deemed under dire threat, but somehow baseball has endured. Perhaps the most essential part of the sport is its belief that it has an essence. Baseball might be exceptional, but a more colloquial way of putting it is that baseball is weird.
"In the mvp machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players, Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik set out to introduce the world to what they herald as yet another revolution, which represents a synthesis of sorts. Writers at The Ringer and FiveThirtyEight, respectively, they are at once steeped in advanced analytics and fixated on player improvement. As their subtitle indicates, they explore a growing movement within baseball to use statistical metrics, biomechanical data, and cutting-edge forms of player observation to help players hone their skills."
And, I'm probably overdoing it, (turns out I was!--got an error message. Now you'll have to go read to find out what I cut) but this paragraph is pretty great:
The MVP Machine is an eye-opening dispatch from the leading edge of the sport. In the early 2000s, the battle over baseball knowledge was being fought between jocks and quants, grizzled old scouts and pencil-pushing eggheads, or so the story went. Now you might almost conclude that the data-fication of jocks is giving way to the jock-ification of data, to judge by figures like Bauer, Boddy, and Luhnow, who come across as standard-issue bullies convinced of their own infallibility. Theirs is a world of trolls and pseudo-intellectuals, where self-improvement and self-obsession are indistinguishable, where surveillance is cloaked in the virtues of empiricism, and where “progress” looks suspiciously like the degradation of human worth. In 2019, baseball has never felt less exceptional, or more American.