Book Review – Watching Baseball Smarter

We haven’t discussed any good baseball literature recently so I thought it was about time to play a little catch-up. And honestly, considering the book I’m highlighting today, it’s definitely catch-up because it’s not a new book – it’s not even this author’s most recent book! But it helps to do this one first before we get a chance to do the new one. And it’s somehow self-serving to highlight the work of another baseball blogger.

Of course, it’s not Zack Hample’s first book either but this is the first one that piqued my interest. Watching Baseball Smarter, A professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks actually came out in 2007. He has a brand new one out this year so we’ll cover that soon – but back to the subject.

“The batter bloops the ball toward the Bermuda Triangle. The outfielders run in. The infielders run out. Everybody’s looking up. The center fielder yells, ‘I got it!’ but his words get drowned out by 55,437 shrieking fans and a jet flying overhead. Doesn’t matter. The Dominican second baseman and Japanese Shortstop don’t speak much English anyway. Best-case scenario: no one gets hurt.”

That should sound entertainingly familiar to Twins fans – ironically this was written 5 years before we acquired Nishioka. That being said, it’s a quick read with something new for everyone no matter what their level of baseball knowledge is.

If you’re a writer yourself or even an English geek/avid reader, you’ll struggle a bit with the … informality… with which Zack treats the accepted rules of grammar. However, the baseball information is solid and presented in a way that is easy to grasp.

For example, he goes position by position and describes the strategies of thought necessary for each player on each play. I guarantee that you WILL learn something you didn’t already know when reading through this section. It’s a lot of fun to think about the game you’re watching in a bit more in-depth way. A lot of us understand these things instinctively if we’ve been watching baseball for awhile but have never thought about putting it into words – unless of course you have a significant other or a kid who doesn’t know as much about the game as you do and frequently asks you to explain something… This is an EXCELLENT book to give them. Trust me, nothing is worse than trying to watch a pivotal moment in a game and trying to find the words to describe what’s happening when your brain is metaphorically holding its breath.

I do have my issues with Zack which I would happy be to take up with him over a beer or something like all good bloggers enjoy. For all his understanding of position players, he clearly has little respect and far less understanding for the Pitcher’s role – something perhaps an average fan wouldn’t pick up on but this pitching geek certainly did. But I chalk that up to the natural inclination of a guy who prioritizes hitting and sees pitching as the subtle antagonist in his goal for catching as many foul/home run balls as he can (the subject of his FIRST book).  It was still an enjoyable read for the most part and I hope you’ll give it a shot!


Keep your dial tuned to Knuckleballs for an upcoming review of Zack’s new book, The Baseball. I’m not sure how long it will take us to get there but it’s on the list!

If anyone else out there has read EITHER of these two books, we’d appreciate your feedback and impressions.