It's the ultimate in fantasy baseball: You get to pick the roster, set the lineup, and decide on strategies - with real players, in a real ballpark, playing in real time. That's what Ben Lindbergh and Sam Millergotto do when the Sonoma Stompers, an independent minor league team in California, offered them the chance to run the team's baseball operations according to the most advanced statistics. Their story is unlike any other baseball tale you've ever read. We tag along as Lindbergh and Miller apply their number crunching insights to all aspects of assembling and running a team, following one cardinal rule: It has to work. We meet colourful figures like general manager Theo Fightmaster and boundary breakers like the first openly gay player in American professional baseball. Even Jose Canseco makes a cameo appearance. Will their knowledge of numbers bring the Stompers a championship? Will the team have a competitive advantage, or is the old folk wisdom really true after all? Will the players attract the attention of big league scouts or will this be a fast track to oblivion?
It's a wild ride, as the authors' infectious enthusiasm and feel for the absurd make the Stompers' story one that will speak to numbers geeks and traditionalists alike. And in a new afterword, Lindbergh and Miller pick up the story in a new season to show how the team and its players continue to break new ground, on and off the field.
Ben Lindbergh is a staff writer for FiveThirtyEight and, with Sam Miller, the cohost of Effectively Wild, the daily Baseball Prospectus podcast. He is a former staff writer for Grantland and a former editor in chief of Baseball Prospectus. He lives in New York City. Sam Miller is the editor in chief of Baseball Prospectus, the coeditor of Baseball Prospectus's annual guidebook, and a contributing writer at ESPN The Magazine. He lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife and daughter.