WCL ALL-STAR GAME: Neyer’s latest book delves into power, advanced stats

PORT ANGELES — West Coast League Commissioner Rob Neyer’s seventh book, Power Ball Anatomy of a Modern Game uses a Sept. 8, 2017 game between the eventual World Series-champion Houston Astros and the Oakland A’s as a prism to reflect on the many ways professional baseball has changed in recent decades through the rise of statistical analysis and power — both hitting and pitching.

“My editor and I had two co-priorities in picking this game — I wanted two interesting teams and the A’s are the epitome of the Moneyball era, and the Astros define the approach in modern baseball. So it gave me a chance to write about [Oakland general manager] Billy Beane and Moneyball and the Astros’ mammoth rebuilding effort.

“And we wanted a game that was exciting, had lead changes, and statistically speaking optimized modern baseball. And far more than anything else in modern baseball is the combination of home runs and strikeouts. Draw up a list of six or seven things you want in your perfect baseball game you’ll never find it and this was the closest thing we could find.”

Neyer uses the game as “a Christmas tree on which to drape all these ornaments, essays on modern baseball serving as the ornaments.”

He interviewed a number of players who played in the contest, including Oakland’s Boog Powell (formerly of the Mariners).

“Boog Powell, all 5-foot-10 of him, facing Ken Giles who throws 100 MPH,” Neyer said.

“I find athletes tend to be the most interesting when they are talking about their work. So finding out what Powell’s approach is against someone who can throw 100 MPH, how much confidence they have or don’t have in those situations. So I was able to sprinkle in some pretty interesting material.

“And I think the most valuable part of the book is not my opinions on the game, but the knowledge, the accumulated knowledge we get from hearing from all these talented baseball players.”

Power Ball can be ordered online through Port Angeles’ Port Book and News at www.portbooknews.com/ book/9780062853615.

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