Book Review: Insight Pitch: My Life as a Major League Closer
Have you ever been at a baseball stadium or at home watching a game and get the strongest urge to be gripping an old, worn-out baseball? True baseball fans know exactly what we are talking about. You want to feel the laces under your index and middle fingers. You want to smell the dirty leather. We’ll be completely honest with you; we made it through the first chapter of this book, closed it, set it down, and headed straight for the garage. We needed to grip a baseball.
In case you are a younger or casual fan, Skip Lockwood was an MLB pitcher from 1970 to 1980. He started out as a starter with the Brewers and in 1971 threw 208 innings with a 3.33 ERA, good for a 2.5 WAR. In 1975, Lockwood found his way to New York as a converted reliever for the Mets. He was, quite frankly, untouchable, pitching 48 innings that season, with an 11.36 K/9 and a 1.47 ERA. Lockwood was basically 2018 Adam Ottavino. The next year (1976) was just stuff of bullpen legends: 94.1 innings (who does that anymore?), 10 wins, 19 saves, 10.30 K/9, and a 2.67 ERA. Not bad for a man that was signed by the Boston Red Sox at the age of 18 to play third base.
The stats are incredible, but the story is even better, and you can’t find that on FanGraphs. Insight Pitch is an autobiography that focuses on everything you can’t see at a game or on television. Lockwood describes the emotions of being a high school superstar athlete scouted by the top professional teams, and even brings you to his kitchen table to his first contract negotiation – which was unbelievable to us. The reader feels the mental struggles of a professional hitter, and enjoys a truly bizarre and hilarious ride in the life of a traveling minor league baseball player. Hands down, Lockwood had one of the most adventurous and interesting careers of any professional athlete. There was even a stint down in Puerto Rico, and a one-on-one agility session from an American Olympic legend.
The story is fascinating, yes, but that isn’t the reason you won’t be able to put this book down. Getting to live inside the head of a late-inning reliever at the big-league level is honestly a priceless opportunity, and Lockwood portrays it in such an addictive way. The mental aspect to baseball is severely underrated, and getting to “experience” the emotional stress of the last outs of a close baseball game in front of tens of thousands of fans had us sweating. We’ve even used Lockwood’s calming techniques he used on the mound a few times in our life after reading this book.
If you are a baseball fan of any level, even just casual, this book is well worth the read. From seeing how “old-school” managers treated their players and only cared about the surface stats (ban the win), and teammates pulling extremely impressive pranks on the new guys, to getting traded and arriving to a new team just as the game is starting, this book covers literally every little facet of the game. The hardcore baseball fan, however, absolutely needs to read this book. Reading the names of Lockwood’s teammates and managers is like going through an old box of baseball cards in your basement.
On a scale of 1-10, we give Insight Pitch a 1976 Skip Lockwood K/9.
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Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what your impressions of Skip Lockwood’s tale are.