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The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball Paperback – March 10, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I can heartily recommend . . . The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, by a trio of talented sabermatricians." -- Rob Neyer

From the Publisher

"I can heartily recommend . . . The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, by a trio of talented sabermatricians." -- Rob Neyer, co-author of The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers

"It's the book I've always wanted to do."--John Dewan, author of The Fielding Bible

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc. (March 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597971294
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597971294
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By King Yao on June 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Other sabermetric books have been written in the last few years, The Book is the best one by far. It is chock full of information, results from research and answers a lot of interesting baseball questions. The three authors, Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin have academic backgrounds and work for major league teams as employees or consultants. They use statistical methods to extract and comprehend information from a massive database of baseball games.

For the layman, there may be too much math throughout the book. However, they do a fantastic job of summarizing each idea in plain English at the end of each section. For example, in chapter 2 on hot and cold streaks, after presenting data, explaining their process and interpreting results, they summarize the section with "Knowing that a hitter has been in or is in the midset of a hot or cold streak has little predictive value. Always assume that a player will hit at his projected norm (adjusted for the park, weather, and pitcher he is facing), regardless of how he has performed in the very recent past. A player's recent history may be used as a tiebreaker."

Managers, players, fans and the media often put too much emphasis on results from small samples sizes. The authors warn against making this mistake. "One of the pervasive themes of this book is the danger of inferring too much from too little by underestimating the influence of randomness". For example, they summarize a section on pitcher-batter matchups with: "Knowing a player will face a particular opponent, and given the choice between that player's 1,500 PA (plate appearances) over the past three years against the rest of the league or twenty-five PA against that particular opponent, look at the 1,500 PA.
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Format: Paperback
This is the single most important math-centered analysis of baseball since The Hidden Game of Baseball came out over 20 years ago. I unreservedly recommend it for those already experienced with statistical analysis of baseball (the authors are much better at insight and explaining to the initiated than they are the Dick & Jane bits).

They attack a sequence of important subjects, mostly around game-tactics and, by consequence, roster-construction with hard data. And they are aware of an important bit of knowledge: (a) that not everything is measurable, and (b) that some aspects of the not measurable are important.

One star short of maximum because it's not a page-turner for most readers; the writing is more than adequate, but not energizing, so it's a book most will pick up, read 15 pages, put down to digest.

I'm very glad I read it. This is a keeper even for a limited-shelf-space baseball reader; I'm squeezing it in right next to "Hidden Game".
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One of the common phrases that we hear in baseball is that a manager was playing by "the book." That is, the manager was doing what the unwritten rules of baseball suggest. One example at the outset illustrates: walking a batter intentionally with first base open. This book, in essence, rewrites the book.

The authors use a detailed data base (including each at bat over a period of years) and then do a statistical analysis of results. And, they argue, the unwritten book is often wrong. The first chapter lays out the logic of this book's orientation. Many readers might find the chapter dense and too quantitative for their taste. My advice? Close the book and put it away, because the book features much statistical analysis.

To illustrate the work's approach. . . . Here are some issues addressed: How real are batting streaks (Answer: You can't predict how a player will do during a hot streak; there is no inherent "momentum")? Chapter three looks at pitcher-batter confrontations. Do certain pitchers "own" batters? Do certain hitters "own" pitchers? Data analysis suggests that we overrate these ideas. We all talk about clutch hitters and clutch pitchers. Chapter 4 takes this notion on (read the book to find out what actually happens).

Chapter 5 examines how to construct a batting order; Chapter 6 examines lefty-versus righty confrontations between hitters and pitchers; Chapter 9 looks at the value and efficacy of the sacrifice bunt; and so on.

If the reader is a figure filbert and likes sabermetrics, this book will be a delight. If you are old school, not so much! But, for me, a lot of fun. . . .
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Let me start off by saying the book has very interesting information. However, the publishing part of it was very poor. There are grammatical errors, typos, missing spaces, etc. I am not sure if I got a preliminary version or what but it is just awful.

The book does miss a key idea on the bunting chapter. It does not differentiate between sac bunts and bunts for base hits. Some of the information is a little redundant. I recommend "Baseball Between the Numbers" if you want to keep reading about interesting baseball stats.

Also, the information on this book is a little outdated. It would be interesting to see "The Book 2" or something with more recent numbers
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