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The Baseball Same Game: Finding Comparable Players From The National Pastime
by Stephen M. Lombardi
Search Amazon for other books by or about Stephen M. Lombardi.

Reviewed by: John L. Hoh, Jr.

Who is the greatest baseball player of all time? Is Henry Aaron as good as Babe Ruth? Is Barry Bonds as good as either of those two, or did Barry benefit with a "livelier" ball and smaller ballparks?

Comparing players is an endless debate. Raw numbers aren't always acceptable. Some stats such as Saves and Game Winning RBIs are rather new. Fielding statistics likewise have been a recent introduction. All-Star appearances don't compare because in some eras players chose their peers, in others fans voted.

Stephen Lombardi attempts to quantify baseball statistics and compare players in a three-dimensional sense. Not only are players compared statistically straight up, but they are also compared with their peers. In this endeavor, league averages are determined and the players are compared against the league average. Therefore the book introduces new stats to baseball: Runs Created Above Average, Offensive Winning Percentage, On Base Plus Slugging Percentage versus the League Average, Runs Created per Game versus the League Average for batters and Runs Saved Above Average, ERA vs. League Average, Strikeouts to Walks Ratio vs. League Average, Base Runners Allowed per 9 Innings vs. League Average, and Strikeouts per 9 Innings Pitched vs. League Average for pitchers.

To be sure some comparisions in this book are somewhat interesting. The first comparison is Roy Campanella and Sixto Lezcano. Lescano once played for the Milwaukee Brewers and I still remember the PA announcer drawing out his name: "Now batting for Milwaukee, Sixtoooooooooo Lezcanooooooooo." He was a good outfielder, I believe with a good number of assists. But to be compared to the great Roy Campanella? Yet the numbers are eerily similar. The author concedes that some will not accept this comparison for the fact that Campanella had to wait until he was 26 to make it to the majors (fellow Dodger Jackie Robinson had to break that color barrier first). What was left unsaid is that "Campy" was a catcher, a position from which not much is expected. Lezcano was an outfielder, a position that historically produces high offensive numbers.

Another Brewer featured is Cecil Cooper (compared to Hal McRae). Willie Mays and Honus Wagner are also compared. All told the book contains 65 cases of baseball players with the "same" lifetime stats. Often the two players compared are a well-known to a lesser known player (see "Campy" and Lezcano); other pairings are of players not on the minds of the American public but solid players nonetheless (Cecil Cooper was excellent with the bat but was overshadowed on a potent Brewers lineup in the lates 1970's/early 1980's). Meanwhile controversy is averted-the author does not compare Aaron to Ruth or DiMaggio to Ted Williams or even "Willie, Mickey, and the Duke."

Nonetheless the book is interested to read for baseball fans who love to crunch numbers. It may not settle a lot of debates, but it will re-ignite some serious discussion.

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