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Percentage Baseball Paperback – March 17, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


Earnshaw Cook knows more about baseball than anyone else in the world... baseball officials hesitate to consider his findings, and for a very good reason: if he is right, they have been playing the game all wrong for years.

(Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated)

The most monumental, meticulous, and controversial analysis of baseball in the history of the national game...

(Baltimore Evening Sun)


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (March 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262532158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262532150
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,314,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Walker on January 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
Nowadays folk who talk of baseball analysis call it "sabremetrics" and speak of Bill James as if he invented it all. James was a great force in presenting and advocating ideas, many original. But the grand-daddy of meaningful analysis was Earnshaw Cook, and this book should be the very first thing anyone interested in how the game really works should read. After this, try Cook's next and only other baseball book, Percentage Baseball and the Computer, to see how he reviewed his early thoughts in the light of more powerful data access. Then you can go on to the moderns, starting with James.

Cook was a minor sensation in his time, after Franklin DeFord of Sports Illustrated gave him some publicity. Indeed, Cook was very close to a consulting deal with the then-Kansas City Athletics, but it fell through; too bad, as baseball history might have been very different otherwise. (Ironically, it was the Athletics, only now removed to Oakland and under new ownership and management, that first showed the practical uses of Cook's kind of analytic tools, much later to be called "Moneyball".)

Regrettably, Cook was his own worst enemy, being somewhat abrasive and testy when anyone didn't agree with him. Moreover, his writing style, as he himself readily concedes in the book, is not exactly pellucid, which kept his work from easy access by the everyday fan. But it's by no means particularly difficult material, and is eminently rewarding reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Doug Erlandson TOP 50 REVIEWER on May 28, 2014
Format: Paperback
I came upon this book in the late 1960s in the Johns Hopkins library. At the time I was a grad student in philosophy and an ardent baseball fan. (I'm still the latter.) I read "Percentage Baseball" cover to cover and I haven't forgotten much of what Earnshaw Cook discussed. This is one of the few books that takes a hard look at various time-honored baseball strategies through a rigorous use of statistics. Among those discussed are the sacrifice bunt, the intentional walk, the stolen base, and the hit and run. Of these, Cook argues through his statistical analysis that the first two are not good strategies, and over time will cost a team runs. The stolen base is pretty much a wash. The hit and run, however, will (again over the long run) enable a team to score more runs.

Although I'm not a statistician, after an additional four and a half decades of watching baseball, my sense is that Cook was right regarding all these strategies. I've never understood why a team will use the sacrifice (except when an extremely weak-hitting pitcher is up to bat), when it will almost certainly cost an out and will only advance a runner one base (when it works, which isn't always). Similarly, while the intentional walk occasionally works (especially when the next batter grounds into a double play), it puts an additional runner on base, and time and again I've seen that runner score. On the other hand, the hit-and-run play, by getting an infielder out of position, opens up a hole and, moreover, when executed properly, almost always gives the baserunner an extra base. (Plus, most of the time it eliminates the double play on a ground ball.) It is interesting that this strategy, which was common in the 1970s, has all but gone by the wayside.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a reprinting of the first book on baseball metrics. It was so revolutionary, and it's concepts so radical, John Deford wrote a fine article about this book in 1966 for Sports Illustrated. The mathematics is over my head, but Mr. Cook has an engaging writing style which is non academic and highly thought provoking and enjoyable to read. There is much more than batting average, home runs, and runs batted in that reflects a ballplayer's true value to his team. Mr. Cook is the Godfather of baseball analytics. I also recommend a slim book that is obscure but available as a free download on the net. "Player Win Averages" - Eldon & Harlan Mills (1970). These are the first two books to delve into baseball analytics. At the time these books were published, they introduced very novel concepts. Check these out if you like baseball analytics!
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