The True Story of Two Statheads Who Got to Run a Real Baseball Team

‘The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team’

By Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

It’s the dream of fantasy baseball fans everywhere: you get to pick the roster, set the lineup, and decide on strategies—but with real players, in a real ballpark, in a real playoff race.


That’s what baseball analysts Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller did when an independent minor league team, the Sonoma Stompers, offered them the chance to run its baseball operations according to the most advanced statistics.Their story, told in THE ONLY RULE IS IT HAS TO WORK: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Teamis unlike any other baseball tale you’ve ever read.


It all started when a listener of their daily baseball podcast, Effectively Wild, turned out to be an executive of the Sonoma Stompers, a team in the independent Pacific Association. He invited Lindbergh and Miller out to a game, to see what indy ball was all about. Miller took him up on this offer and was entranced by the experience; before long, Lindbergh and Miller had volunteered their services to run the team’s baseball operations. To their amazement, the Stompers said yes.


Enjoy the Cracker Jack as you watch Lindbergh and Miller apply their number-crunching insights to all aspects of assembling and running a team, always hewing to the one cardinal rule for judging each innovation they try: IT HAS TO WORK. Lindbergh and Miller partnered with baseball technology companies to collect data that had never been available at this level. The project offered them the chance to attempt many of the advanced analytical prescriptions that they and other bloggers had promoted for years. More than that, though, it challenged them to convince the players and coaches to trust the numbers and the wisdom of “nerds” with no high-level playing experience themselves.


Filled with larger-than-life characters and hilarious absurdities, Lindbergh and Miller put their statistical theories to the ultimate test, in order to discover if sabermetrics will bring the Stompers a championship.  You’ll have to read the book to find out if they succeed.

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 Grantlandand 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.

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