Title: Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong
Authors: The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts
Editor: Jonah Keri
|via Barnes & Noble|
Baseball Prospectus is a stats website. Its writers devote their energies to probing the mysteries of the game to determine what, in fact, makes a player valuable to his team. The most well-known writer for Baseball Between the Numbers is Nate Silver who has since gone on to create the popular and astonishingly accurate political prediction blog, FiveThirtyEight (soon to move to the ESPN site so Silver can split time between his two loves). The book is structured much like Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: conventionally held beliefs are examined in relation to available data. Some assumptions hold true: most free agents are overpaid and new stadiums are a shameful waste of public money. Others don't weather the stat storm so well: clutch hitting, for instance, is essentially nonexistent.
Baseball Between the Numbers is probably not worth much to anyone who is not a baseball fan. But for a sports and numbers geek such as myself, it's tremendous fun. I've been an avid fantasy baseball player over the past few years and while I had been thinking of scaling back a bit on that hobby, this book has helped stoke the flame. I'd love to toy around with the stats we use in order to be more saber-friendly. Of course, I said the same after I read Moneyball and nothing ever came of it.
If you're still reading and are genuinely a baseball fan, Baseball Between the Numbers has a lot to offer. On-field performance is explored in-depth, of course, but other topics are covered as well, including team finances and effective use of the amateur player draft. James Click even offers a crash course on the ins and outs of statistical analysis - correlation v. causation, regression analysis, standard deviations, sample size, etc. - in his chapter "What Does Mike Redmond Know About Tom Glavine?" If you're not a baseball fan but you are interested in what statistics can tell us about the world we live in, I highly recommend Freakonomics.
Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month. This month's link list is below. I'll keep it open until the end of the day. I'll post January's tomorrow. Meetings are the last Friday of each month. Next gathering is January 31st.
An interesting choice, Mr. Squid. Being a lifelong baseball fan and a confirmed numbers geek in my alter ego I may just give it a look-see.ReplyDelete
Moneyball is probably a better place to start - a more accessible read overall. Between the Numbers was published a few years later and also provides some interesting reflections on the earlier book.Delete
I must be a geek then cuz I love baseball and all its statistics.ReplyDelete
Who's your team, Huntress? And have you read Moneyball?Delete
The Red Sox won a World Series this year by recognizing all over again the possibilities of players who would otherwise have meant nothing to anyone. So I'll always support smartball like this.ReplyDelete
The Red Sox have the advantage of combining smart spending with deep pockets. The Yankees are falling behind because they've got way too much invested in a small number of players, all past their prime.Delete
That's been sporadically true of the Sox. They've had their best success from smartball players, though. That was true of the "gang of idiots" in 2004 and definitely this year's team as well, which was the rebound of the paycheck team that tanked so badly before them. I believe the same is true of the 2007 club, but I keep finding it difficult to remember that win. Took it for granted, alas. (An amazingly awesome statement for a team that spent 86 years in a championship drought!)Delete
The book makes the interesting point that the Yankees' run in the late '90s was built around homegrown talent. The free agents were simply add-ons. Building around the guns for hire hasn't worked so well in the current century. The Sox have been smarter, especially after they got bitten big time by Carl Crawford.Delete
Although Moneyball was a tough movie to sit through (it's probably one of the most boring baseball movies I've watched, and I love baseball movies), I found the whole statistical analysis of the game and players fascinating. I wondered why they hadn't thought of this long before the 70s. Right now I'm in the middle of watching Ken Burns' documentary on baseball and, like usual, am enjoying it!ReplyDelete
P.S. I tried like crazy to get the linky tool to work, but without any luck, so sorry it doesn't show up on my post.
I have not seen the movie and am rather hesitant. The book was absolutely mind-blowing and the film could only be disappointing.Delete
Interestingly, the book reveals that plenty of writers had questioned the traditional stats well before the '70s, especially the fielding metrics. But I think advances in computer technology have fueled this revolution more than anything.
Don't worry about the link list. I couldn't get it to work when Tony did his blogfest. I blame Google. I think something funky happens with the code when it goes via e-mail. Some get it to work, though, so who knows? Not I!
The advanced stats movement, started by people like Pete Palmer has spread to other sports these days like football, basketball and soccer. The stats heads will eventually inherit the earth I think.ReplyDelete
Even beyond sports, I think it's really important for all of us living in the Information Age to understand statistics. Numbers can be manipulated to say just about whatever you want and misinterpreted statistics can and do wreak all sorts of havoc.Delete
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I heard on the radio that stadiums never have a good return on investment for the city. Statistics often show the truth so this sounds like a fascinating book. I hate typos.ReplyDelete
Yup. The owners make a quick profit while the city's stuck with enormous debt. Promises of jobs and benefits to local businesses never even come close to being fulfilled. The book does make the point that building and renovations are fine in and of themselves. It's the funding structure that's the problem.Delete
The only thing I know about baseball is that its players are extremely superstitious. More so than other professional athletes. Sounds like a great book for the fan.ReplyDelete
Have you ever seen Bull Durham? That movie, in particular, plays on the superstitions quite a bit.Delete
I guess I would give this one a miss because I'm not that into baseball AND I am not particularly good with numbers? :P Not that I think baseball's boring - I certainly don't! Golf and cricket on the other hand ...- but it's just not a big sport here in Aus, I guess. I did used to play teeball though as a kid. It was heaps of fun. :)ReplyDelete
I had no idea the major teams played that number of games - in Aus our footy teams only play between Feb or March and September, and it's one game a week. Guess we're a bunch of slackers here!
Baseball's international profile is limited. It's huge in Japan, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It has made inroads in other East Asian and Latin American countries. But that's about it.Delete
American football is the same as Aussie Rules - once a week. I'm sure it's more a matter of needing the time to heal rather than laziness.
I might give this a look-see. I worry sometimes that pulling back the curtain might dampen my love of the game. But on the flip side, I do keep score at all the games I attend...ReplyDelete
You should start with Moneyball. I'll lend you my copy - this afternoon! If anything, it will give you a deeper appreciation for the organization the Sox have become and how they, not the Yankees, are positioning themselves to be the team of the era.Delete
Interesting choice. I don't know much about baseball, but I am aware of the trend towards using sabermetrics (I didn't know what they were called until I read your post though. I learned something today!) I guess this is a great choice for a true fan of baseball and a numbers geek (I am neither).ReplyDelete
Happy to have enlightened, Jennifer!Delete
This book isn't for everyone but Freakonomics is well-suited to a broader audience - very little math in that one.