Book Review: Caveman Logic & “The Only Rule Is It Has To Work”


In my experience, using analytics to influence coaching decisions is a profoundly weird and incredibly interesting exercise, which is why I was very excited to read a book called The Only Rule Is It Has To Work, a newly released book written by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, two Sabermetricians who took over a pro baseball team for a season.

Being a fast reader, I blasted through the pages in about two days. I’m happy to say that got a lot out of this book. If you’re here, you probably would too.

While I don’t know or care much about baseball, Ben and Sam are my kindred spirits. There are not many people who have had the opportunity to use analytics to directly impact how a sports team is run on a day-to-day basis. As I found myself leafing through the pages, I saw a lot of my own hockey experiences in the authors’ words.

Whether it was gaining the trust of the coaching staff, overcoming teething IT issues, or occasionally falling prey to heuristics and losing “objectivity,” I identified a great deal with Ben and Sam’s trials and tribulations. So much so, that I began tweeting at Ben before I even finished the book.

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Practical Concerns: Analytics as technology

As I alluded to in my previous post, the choice of words is very important when selling ideas to a coaching staff. Semantics lets us see the same idea from different angles, and can be a very powerful way to alter our understanding of a subject matter.

Recently, I’ve began to refer to hockey analytics tools (possession metrics, Player Usage Charts, HERO Charts, dCorsi, etc.) as technology, which has allowed me to relate better with those less well-versed on the matter and have all sorts of interesting discussions with people who otherwise wouldn’t give advanced stats the time of day.

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