The baseball books that we’ve been reading the last month or so, getting our mind prepped for a World Series that apparently no one seems fully prepared to watch outside of the Central Time Zone since the top three spending teams — Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox — apparently didn’t spend enough:
== The book: “Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure”
== The author: Craig Robinson
== The background info: Bloomsbury, $25, 154 pages
== The scoop: A collection of the best of Robinson’s flipflopflyball.com website, up since 2009, looking at the sport as if the Onion created those colorful graphics for USA Today.
Or, according to Deadspin.com, “what you’d get if you mated Edward Tufte with Bill James.” Look it up. It’ll make sense.
The charts are quirky, quantitative and qualitative, without question. They’re bold and subtle at the same time. They take the colorless numbers and make them dance – even with stats that are even more boring than they should be.
The fact that Robinson, who describes himself as “a bearded, myopic, Englishman who (for the time being, at least) lives in Mexico City,” is even less enthralled with the game as most Americans probably makes it easier to draw upon his dry wit and talent to pick the right fonts, neon hues and thick-enough bar charts to show things in a whole new way.
He has, for example, taken that Buzzie Bavasi line about how two 8-7 pitchers could have replaced the 16-14 Nolan Ryan with the Angels in 1979 and mapped it out. Dang, in some cases, it holds true. Unless you want strike outs and innings pitched.
Two pages later, he’s making a graphic case for why centaurs wouldn’t make a good third baseman – except when tagging up from third on a fly ball in the bottom of the ninth with one out representing the winning run.
This is the man who has given us an actual name for the Dodger Stadium scoreboard in right and left field (before the later changed to rounded corners): “It’s kind of a hexagonal lozenge or something. Very beautiful, though.”
It’s part of the masthead on his website.
How nutty were we about this book? We tracked down Robinson’s prevous books online (a children’s tome called “Fun Fun Fun: 30 Ways to Have Fun” and “Minipops”) and bought them for a couple of bucks. They’re not as technically savvy as this one, but they’re the germs that made this one blossom. it’s like finding computer-generated Rembrants that someday will be worth far more than they are now.