Baseball is a game of numbers, and if you look deeply enough into them, they begin to speak in truly mysterious ways. For Schell, a professor of biostatistics, the numbers sing in an enigmatic language that lets him rank and compare hitters from different eras with a self-concocted, time-tested mathematical certainty--albeit a certainty
that is as subjective as the next in an arena filled with formulas and number crunching. Less a volume to read than one to muck around in and develop a dialogue--or argument--with, Baseball's All-Time Best Hitters
is heavy on the stats, charts, and theories that explain why and how averages must be adjusted over different eras to accommodate different styles of play, rule changes, and ballparks. Using the various adjustments he's come up with, Schell works to make his baseball cabala understandable; then he sends out a lineup of rankings that are as surprising as they are, in fact, logical--if you buy the logic. So who is the best hitter of all time? Well, it's not Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe Jackson, or Ted Williams. He is alive at this writing, though, and the shock is that he's still playing in 1999, patrolling right field for the San Diego Padres and rapping line drives with astonishing consistency. --Jeff Silverman
From Library Journal
Schell (biostatistics, Univ. of North Carolina), a professional statistician, here turns his attention from his field of health science to a lighter but more contentious subject, baseball. The rating of players has been an unending argument among diehard fans and specialists, such as those dedicated aficionados of the Society for American Baseball Research, which has given statistical debate more credibility. Now this book from Princeton University Press is a signal that the academics have entered the fray, too. Schell's book, however, makes some strange claims. He ranks current player Tony Gwynn as the best all-time hitter, well ahead of the modern batting king, Ted Williams, and no doubt outraging the ghosts of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. Schell's statistics "level" the playing field because they downplay the importance of power, thus favoring Gwynn. Schell is on more solid ground when he proposes players who should be included in the Hall of Fame. All in all, this book is for the hardcore baseball fan, especially one comfortable with complex statistical analysis. For comprehensive baseball collections.APaul M. Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.