“The Shift”- a Fearless Baseball book review

“Baseball journalism might be fun to read, but it should never be mistaken for sound research methodology.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

That is one of the refreshing parts of Russell Carleton’s book “The Shift: The next evolution in Baseball thinking”.

Carleton admits he doesn’t have all the answers. He even admits he doesn’t even have all the right questions. It is both his acknowledgement of the human element of baseball, and his emphasis on asking ‘the right’ questions, that makes this book so enjoyable to read.

Carleton has a PH.D from DePual university, which gives him a unique prospective on both that human element, and how it effects the game of baseball. Speaking of prospective, Carleton has worked for Baseball Prospectus for the last 10 years or so. He was hire by the New York Mets for a front office position in January of 2019.

Throughout the book, Carleton mixes in his personal experience as a lifelong fan of baseball, with in-depth research with the question “what’s the best way to win a ballgame?” always in mind.

The author shares the story about how he got engaged (both preliminarily and officially). He also spends a chapter examining why a batter doesn’t bunt against the shift (spoiler alert!! It’s the human element- but not the one you think!!)

Carleton asks some straight forward questions about what it takes to win a game. He then walks the reader through the mathematical analysis (yes there is “scary math” in this book) to arrive at a conclusion grounded in facts.

Yes, facts. Not the “eye test”. Not “the gut”. And certainly not “because that’s the way it’s always been done”.

He examines whether or not it’s a good idea for a position player to sacrifice bunt. He does the math to show if stealing bases leads to more runs. The author also looks at how to build the best pitching staff, and how to construct the optimum batting order. He also walks the read through an in-depth look at the role of the manager in professional baseball. What decisions lead to more wins?

Some of these topics and ideas have been covered in other books. But I liked the unique take Carleton has on the different subjects, along with his personal stories, that made everything a lot more relatable. This isn’t some dry, by the numbers accounting book.

Do you want to know how and where Terry Collins is almost a win and a half better for his team, than manager Joe Girardi? Carleton explains it all.

Throughout “The Shift: a new evolution in Baseball thinking”, author Russell Carleton gives us a unique way at looking at the game of baseball. What does it take to win a ballgame? “The Shift” doesn’t have all the answers. Carleton is the first to admit that. But he does ask some important questions within a game.

After reading this book, you might not win anymore Facebook baseball arguments, but you might start to look differently at a small part of what happens on the field. And that is the goal of the author.

This book was a great read, and we highly recommend it!