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Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football Hardcover – September 28, 2009

19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691139135 ISBN-10: 069113913X Edition: 0th

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Editorial Reviews


"Sports fans will learn much from probability theory and statistical models as they abandon empty clichés (time to throw momentum out of the informed fan's lexicon) and confront institutionalized injustices (such as those built into the protocols for selecting a national champion in college football and for seeding the NCAA's basketball tournament). A rare fusion of sports enthusiasm and numerical acumen."--Booklist

"Who is Wayne Winston? Maybe we should begin by telling you who he is not. He is not some barstool fan or uninformed sportswriter who fuels his opinions with information gleaned from SportsCenter highlights or newspaper box scores. He is a professor of decision sciences at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, and until this year was the statistical guru for the Dallas Mavericks. He is author of the book Mathletics, which explains what statistics really tell us about sports."--Ken Berger,

"[A] terrific read for anyone trying to model markets statistically and make trading decisions based on statistical data. . . . Reading Winston's book is a mind-opening experience."--Brenda Jubin, Reading the Markets blog

From the Back Cover

"Winston has an uncanny knack for bringing the game alive through the fascinating mathematical questions he explores. He gets inside professional sports like no other writer I know. Mathletics is like a seat at courtside."--Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks

"Wayne Winston's Mathletics combines rigorous analytical methodologies with a very inquisitive approach. This should be a required starting point for anyone desiring to use mathematics in the world of sports."--KC Joyner, author of Blindsided: Why the Left Tackle Is Overrated and Other Contrarian Football Thoughts

"People who want the details on the analysis of baseball need to read
Mathletics. This book provides the statistics behind Moneyball."--Pete Palmer, coeditor of The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia and The ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia

"Winston has brought together the latest thinking on sports mathematics in one comprehensive place. This volume is perfect for someone seeking a general overview or who wants to dive into advanced thinking on the latest sports-analytics topics."--Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets

"Mathletics offers insights into the mathematical analysis of three major sports and sports gambling. The basketball and sports bookies sections are particularly interesting and loaded with in-depth examples and analysis. The author's passion seems to jump right off the page."--Michael Huber, Muhlenberg College

"I really enjoyed this unique book, as will anyone who is a serious sports fan with some interest in mathematics. Winston is very knowledgeable about baseball, basketball, and football, and about the mathematical techniques needed to analyze a multitude of questions that arise in them. He does a very good job of explaining complex mathematical ideas in a simple way."--George L. Nemhauser, Georgia Institute of Technology

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069113913X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691139135
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wayne L. Winston is a professor of Decision Sciences at Indiana
University, Kelley School of Business and has earned numerous MBA teaching
awards over the past two decades. Wayne also consults for several Fortune
500 clients. He and his business partner Jeff Sagarin developed the
statistics tracking and rating system used by the Dallas Mavericks
professional basketball team. Wayne is also a two-time Jeopardy champion.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Elihu Feustel on October 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wayne Winston addresses a myriad of topics in baseball, basketball and football via a statistics-heavy approach. There are 50 different "bites" spread out over 350 pages. There are many familiar topics for quantitative sports fans - Pythagorean theorem, platoon effects, player evaluations in different sports, and power rankings to name but a few.

The entire book is moderately math heavy - over half of it is devoted to quantitative solutions using algebra, statistics and Excel worksheets (which you can find online via included addresses). If you do not enjoy the mathematical side of sports, you'll find most of the book unreadable. If you do enjoy math, stats or using quantitative approaches to gambling, this book is a nice review of most of the interesting approaches out there. The bibliography of cited books reads like a "who's who" of credible quantitative sports texts.

A vast majority of the "bites" are already discussed extensively in other sources. The advantage of this book for most readers is that you can get such a diverse taste of different topics under one cover. If you are a sports modeler, the wide array of topics and approaches could help stir your own creativity. On more than one topic, I found myself saying "this assumption isn't valid!" But my making these assumptions and challenging them yourself, his approach opens up many unintended doors for the reader. For example, one bite addresses and argues that teams should pass more and run less than they do. To support this hypothesis, the book looks at a payoff chart for the yardage gained from a pass attempt versus a run attempt. The payoff chart does not consider volatility (rushing for 3 yards EVERY play is better than passing for 20 yards 1/4th of the time).
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Inon Zuckerman on December 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The book talks about various aspects of using statistics and probability theory in professional sports. It is divided to four parts: baseball (MLB), American football (NFL) and basketball (NBA), and the fourth section talks about some sport gambling and general comments that are not a good fit to any of the other sections. The author of the book is a professor for operations and decision technologies and was also a statistics consultant for several professional teams such as the NBA's Dallas Mavericks (season 2006-2007).

Generally, the topics discussed in the book are interesting (to me both as a sports fan and with an interest and background in Math') and include topics like how to evaluate players, is there a correlation between teams wealth and the probability to win and how to compare players from different years.

However, the book itself is not an interesting read mainly because each topic is discussed in a very shallow level. The basic flow of each topic is to introduce the motivation of what statistical insights we are now checking, give the required math formula (usually without enough explanations or examples to understand it thoroughly), and than a single conclusion of the analysis is presented before continuing to the next topic. This results in the reader being left without any interesting findings or insights to learn about the topic in question with respect to different years, teams or players. For each given topic I could easily come up with several other questions that every die-hard NBA fan would like to see treated.

Basically, the book looks like a cooking book, that present an idea, gives you the formula (often discusses Excel implementation) and leaves all the hard work to the reader.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David J. Aldous on June 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Consists of 50 short sections, each giving a statistical analysis of a specific question in baseball, football, basketball and gambling thereon -- typical examples being Evaluating (baseball) fielders, Why is the NFL's overtime system fatally flawed, End-game basketball strategy, Rating sports teams. So it's useful for providing an overview of the type of questions people have studied statistically, and interesting to see the author's answers to the specific questions. But what lies between the questions and the answers strikes me as much less satisfactory. Typically the author just writes down a formula intended to predict future probabilities or ratings based on past data, explains how to do the calculations in Excel spreadsheets, and shows the results. This is fine as far as it goes, but (to me, as someone who teaches freshman statistics (FS)) it is not usefully connected to FS. Interpreting what the results of a linear regression or a test of significance actually mean, and when they are applicable, involves subtleties far beyond what any brief text explanation can provide. So a reader who doesn't already know FS will surely be unable to internalize what's going on, or to be able to start doing analyses for themselves. And a reader who has taken a good FS course such as Statistics, 4th Edition will have lots of unanswered questions about why the author does this procedure rather than that procedure and how reliable the conclusions might be.
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By J. Suchocki on June 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a good introduction with a broad overview of advanced statistical methods applied to the major U.S. sports (baseball, basketball and football). For the casual fan that just wants to understand what some of the "crazy" stats that are increasingly a part of your average game broadcast, the book provides a good overview. And for the math geek with little previous exposure to sports analytics who wants a broad overview of advanced stats in sports, it's also a good start. But incredibly, even just 4-5 years later, this book has become dated. That is a testament to the exponential rise in the data that is available to even the casual fan, let alone the researcher. With increasingly user friendly data mining and data analysis tools available for even the math challenged, advanced statistical techniques can be attempted by virtually anyone with a little motivation to learn the basics. So if one is looking for the most recent advances in sports analytics, look elsewhere. A google search will provide far more information. But for a good foundation of the "lingo" used, some historical context on the evolution of analytics in sports, this is a good primer. It's a relatively easy read, though the math challenged may wish to spend the time working with the example models. For the more advanced reader, it's probably just a light read for a long plane trip. In either case, it's an enjoyable read.
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