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Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong [Kindle Edition]

Jonah Keri
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the numbers-obsessed sport of baseball, statistics don't merely record what players, managers, and owners have done. Properly understood, they can tell us how the teams we root for could employ better strategies, put more effective players on the field, and win more games. The revolution in baseball statistics that began in the 1970s is a controversial subject that professionals and fans alike argue over without end. Despite this fundamental change in the way we watch and understand the sport, no one has written the book that reveals, across every area of strategy and management, how the best practitioners of statistical analysis in baseball-people like Bill James, Billy Beane, and Theo Epstein-think about numbers and the game. Baseball Between the Numbers is that book. In separate chapters covering every aspect of the game, from hitting, pitching, and fielding to roster construction and the scouting and drafting of players, the experts at Baseball Prospectus examine the subtle, hidden aspects of the game, bring them out into the open, and show us how our favorite teams could win more games. This is a book that every fan, every follower of sports radio, every fantasy player, every coach, and every player, at every level, can learn from and enjoy.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Who deserves recognition as the best baseball player of all time--Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth? The stuff of endless debates among baseball fans, such questions come into sharp focus when the experts of Baseball Prospectus start parsing their trove of statistics. Looking, for instance, at the Bonds-versus-Ruth issue, the BP statisticians systematically adjust the two stars' numbers to reflect changes in parks, in level of competition, and in training technology as they establish that although Ruth still holds the overall edge, Bonds could overtake him with a couple more good seasons. But these baseball mavens look beyond the performance of individual players, as they examine entire teams (the '04 Red Sox and '01 Diamondbacks, for instance) and even whole epochs (the golden era of 1949--57). BP numbers help readers see the world beyond the diamond as well, clarifying the economic pressures that push marginal players to use steroids and are increasingly pushing working-class fans right out of the stadiums their taxes are subsidizing. A valuable reference for baseball fans and cultural critics alike. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Baseball Prospectus is the top statistical web site in baseball and is extensively used, in print and on air, by a wide range of major broadcasters, magazines, and daily newspapers that cover Major League Baseball.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6833 KB
  • Print Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (March 6, 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0010O5MH6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,122 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Numbers of the Game June 28, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Probably more than any other sport, baseball makes use of statistics. We see this with every baseball game on TV: not just the basic stats like batting average and home runs, but more detailed information like how well a particular batter does against a particular pitcher. The statistics on TV or in the newspaper, however, only scratch the surface. Baseball Between the Numbers provides a much more in depth look at the numbers behind the game and how to analyze them.

This process involves two parts. First, there is a look at the popular statistics to see how well they really track a player performance and contribution to the team. Batting average, for example, is not a really good indicator of performance; slugging percentage and on-base percentage provide a better reading. There is also a look at certain beliefs in baseball - such as the existence of clutch hitters - and whether they are based in reality or more of a myth.

The second part of this statistical analysis is coming up with new stats to provide more information. There are a lot of these, but the one that seems emphasized the most is VORP, Value over Replacement Player. In simple terms, VORP gives the value of a player compared to a replacement player of minimal major league skills (like a 0.200 batting average). If a player gets 200 hits in a year, he does not really contribute 200 hits to his team; instead, he contributes only the difference between his hit total and that of the replacement player; if this value is 110, then the player contributes 90 hits.

The purpose of all this analysis is two-fold. For one thing, it helps evaluate the potentials of players, so it is useful from a scouting perspective. It is also good for comparing players who played in different time periods.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Some of this will be old hat to those who already take stats like fielding independent pitching for granted, but it's a nice next step for baseball fans who enjoyed "Moneyball" and want to dive deeper into the numbers.

The book is arranged into 27 short chapters - one for each out in a regulation game, obviously - which frame each concept through an interesting question like, does Derek Jeter deserve a Gold Glove? This makes the more esoteric concepts easier to relate to, although familiarity and ease with numbers, charts and probability concepts helps a lot. The questions also serve as a reminder that the conclusions and predictive powers of this type of analysis have major implications for real world GM's, managers and players, as well as fans and fantasy leagues.

Quibbles: some of the analysis occasionally feels unbaked, which is understandable given this is an emerging field dealing with enormous amounts of data and probabilities. The writers do acknowledge this, such as when comparing pitching stats to relatively more reliable batting stats. It would also be nice to have more real life examples to back up each conclusion, including more quotes from GM's and managers - now that there are a number of admitted practitioners - on how they have used these concepts and with what results.

All in all, certainly not the last word on this subject, but a very good introduction.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for any baseball fan March 15, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Derek Jeter bunts Robinson Cano over to second base in the 10th inning of a tie game. Is this an example of a team leader doing whatever it takes to win or an example of a career .300 hitter foolishly giving up a critical out? David Ortiz hits yet another game-winning home run. That man is "clutch." Or is he? The authors of "Baseball Between the Numbers" turn conventional baseball wisdom on its head in a series of chapters each dealing with a specific aspect of the game. They cover everything from the value of stolen bases to the economic impact of new ballparks. This book takes the reader step by step through the type of analysis that has increasingly influenced baseball decision makers from Billy Beane's "Moneyball" approach to Theo Epstein's Red Sox.

You don't have to be a math major to get the points of the book, but some basic knowledge of statistical principles is a big help. It's easy to get lost in the numbers sometimes, and the presence of numerous typographical errors and incorrect charts exacerbates the problem.

This book should be required reading for any baseball fan. If you're already familiar with sabremetrics and how statheads view the baseball universe, this book consolidates many of the key ideas in one volume. If you're not, this is a great introduction.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good read, but... November 9, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book. However, it felt like a big advertisement for Baseball Prospectus, a site which I actually subscribe to and read quite often. This book didn't bring any real new information to the table that they don't already cover on their site, so if you're choosing between the two, just subscribe to their site.

My biggest disappointment is that while they explain what Eqa and VORP are, in essense, they don't tell me exactly how they calculate it. I suppose they are protecting their assets, but one of the pleasure of reading Bill James is knowing his thought process in coming up with formulas that measure performance. As the Baseball Prospectus team would have it, I'm supposed to trust that VORP measures it precisely without me being able to understand exactly why. That irritates me, but it might not get to you.

The book is fairly well-written and is entertaining enough to pick up if you're interested in this kind of book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting for reference but unreadable.
If you like numbers and baseball you may be able to read this but, really, it is a reference book with interesting anecdotes. Keep it in your bathroom but don't try to read it.
Published 1 month ago by mdbiker
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for any baseball fan
Baseball is a game of statistics and probabilities, yet "sabermetrics", as the study of advanced baseball statistics has come to be called, proves scientifically that much... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening
If you are looking for a way to dive even further in to baseball, this is the book to read.

Unbelievably detailed analysis that is clearly stated. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift
This book was a gift for my daughter who is something of a baseball fan. I like the study of statistics and know I would enjoy the book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. W. Boyes
5.0 out of 5 stars 10-year-old Grandson takes this to bed
I got this for a friend to give to her 10-year-old Grandson. His eyes were wide upon opening the package, and he left the room to sit by himself and go through the pages. Read more
Published 9 months ago by June Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Good follow up to Moneyball
I loved Moneyball, but after Moneyball wanted to learn more about baseball statistics. I think this is a good follow up to learn more of the sabrmetrics details that Moneyball... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Al
5.0 out of 5 stars For the real baseball fan
Gave this book (after reading sections) to a fanatic fan of the SF Giants. He loved it. I did too.
Published 21 months ago by Stephen H Baum (Consignment)
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Own For Baseball Fans
Baseball Between the Numbers is obviously a book for baseball fans and one that will appeal to both those who are and are not into sabermetrics. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Patrick Reddick
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for the Serious Fan!
This book isn't for the casual baseball fan, but if you have a real interest in gaining a deeper understanding of the national pastime, this book is for you. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, But Dated
Will the Allies be organized to win World War II? Can Richard Nixon overcome his personality in his second term? Read more
Published on August 23, 2012 by J. Smallridge
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More About the Author

Jonah Keri is the lead baseball writer for Grantland and a contributor to ESPN's Baseball Tonight.

He is the author of "Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos" (Random House Canada, 2014).

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller "The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First" (ESPN Books/Ballantine, 2011). He also edited and co-authored "Baseball Between the Numbers" (Basic, 2006), and has contributed to many other books.

Jonah's writing has appeared in ESPN.com, SI.com, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs.com, Bloomberg Sports, Montreal Gazette, and many other publications. From 1999 to 2010 he covered the stock market for Investor's Business Daily.

Jonah is a native of Montreal and currently lives in Denver.



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