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Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong Hardcover – March 6, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (March 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465005969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465005963
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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.

Customer Reviews

Baseball Between the Numbers provides a much more in depth look at the numbers behind the game and how to analyze them.
mrliteral
I think this is a good follow up to learn more of the sabrmetrics details that Moneyball glosses over (or gets incorrect, according to this book).
Al
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.
Patrick Reddick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on 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 By Beanster on March 15, 2006
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 By A. Pagano on 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 By Moonlight Graham VINE VOICE on 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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