Most helpful critical review
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Many topics, very shallow treatment. Disappointing.
on December 27, 2009
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. Now, as the author consulted the Dallas Mavericks, most of these conclusions (in the NBA section) refer to that team in that relevant year (2006-2007). I would expect to see additional interesting results on each topic and without that I think the book will disappoint most readers.
Let me exemplify what I mean: a topic named "Are college basketball games fixed?" sounds like a very deep topic which should have profound consequences. However. this topic is exactly two pages long (57 lines to be exact), that obviously results in a very shallow treatment without any important conclusion. Another example, "Analyzing Team and Individual Matchups" topic (again, in the NBA section) is two and a half page long of text (and another 2 pages table) which only deals with the Spurs-Mavericks 2006 western conference semifinal. I guess most readers would want deeper analysis of more interesting encounters and see some data manipulation on other series.
As I wanted to get more information about these topics a quick look on various Internet website (which the book does give as good references points) I could find various articles that were more interesting than the book itself.
Overall, the book gave me a feeling that it is mostly a quick and naive compilation of a series of articles that were already posted somewhere else. Each topic (or an article in a blog\newspaper in a previous life) is treated without any deep thought or any desire to show deeper observations. If you are just looking for formulas, the internet is full of resources. This book presents very little interesting finding to sports fan.