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Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won [Kindle Edition]

L. Jon Wertheim , Tobias Moskowitz
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In Scorecasting, University of Chicago behavioral economist Tobias Moskowitz teams up with veteran Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim to overturn some of the most cherished truisms of sports, and reveal the hidden forces that shape how basketball, baseball, football, and hockey games are played, won and lost.

Drawing from Moskowitz's original research, as well as studies from fellow economists such as bestselling author Richard Thaler, the authors look at: the influence home-field advantage has on the outcomes of games in all sports and why it exists; the surprising truth about the universally accepted axiom that defense wins championships;  the subtle biases that umpires exhibit in calling balls and strikes in key situations; the unintended consequences of referees' tendencies in every sport to "swallow the whistle," and more.

Among the insights that Scorecasting reveals:
  • Why Tiger Woods is prone to the same mistake in high-pressure putting situations that you and I are
  • Why professional teams routinely overvalue draft picks
  • The myth of momentum  or the "hot hand" in sports, and why so many fans, coaches, and broadcasters fervently subscribe to it
  • Why NFL coaches rarely go for a first down on fourth-down situations--even when their reluctance to do so reduces their chances of winning.
  • In an engaging narrative that takes us from the putting greens of Augusta to the grid iron of a small parochial high school in Arkansas, Scorecasting will forever change how you view the game, whatever your favorite sport might be.

    From the Hardcover edition.

    Editorial Reviews

    From Booklist

    “Defense wins championships!” So declared a triumphant Michael Jordan in 1991, invoking a hallowed sports mantra. But Jordan’s assertion melts into cliché when Moskowitz and Wertheim expose it to statistical calculations revealing that, regardless of the sport, offense proves just as decisive as defense. Indeed, in their wide-ranging iconoclasm, the authors repeatedly poke arithmetic holes in what everyone in sports supposedly knows. Typical is their number-crunching assault on the popular explanation of home-field advantage as a consequence of visiting teams’ road fatigue. Home teams win, the authors demonstrate, chiefly because referees tend to see plays their way—especially when the crowd of spectators grows large. Parsing of data illuminates off-field behavior, too, explaining which athletes use steroids and which ones use marijuana. Even the curse hanging over the Chicago Cubs comes into focus then the analysts ignore the billy-goat myth and statistically assess a management style fostered by fans perversely loyal to “lovable losers”! Sports buffs eager to win their next barroom argument will be lining up for this book. --Bryce Christensen


    "The closest thing to Freakonomics I've seen since the original. A rare combination of terrific storytelling and unconventional thinking. I love this book..." 
    Steven D. Levitt, Alvin H. Baum Professor of Economics, University of Chicago, and co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics

    "I love this book. If I told you why, the NBA would fine me again."
    Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks

    Scorecasting is both scholarly and entertaining, a rare double.  It gets beyond the cliched narratives and tried-but-not-necessarily-true assumptions to reveal significant and fascinating truths about sports.”
    Bob Costas

    "A counterintuitive, innovative, unexpected handbook for sports fans interested in the truths that underpin our favorite games. With their lively minds and prose, Moskowitz and Wertheim will change the way you think about and watch sports. Not just for stats nerds, Scorecasting enlightens and entertains. I wish I had thought of it!"
    Jeremy Schaap, ESPN reporter, Author of Cinderella Man.
    "(Sports + numbers) x great writing = winning formula.  A must read for all couch analysts."
    Richard Thaler, Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, best-selling author of Nudge.

    Scorecasting will change the way you watch sports, but don’t start reading it during a game; you’re liable to get lost in it and miss the action. I’m not giving anything away because you’ll want to read exactly how they arrived at their conclusions."
    —Allen Barra, NJ Star Ledger

    “Like Moneyball and Soccernomics before it, Scorecasting crunches the numbers to challenge notions that have been codified into conventional sports wisdom.”
    Wired Magazine


    Product Details

    • File Size: 1131 KB
    • Print Length: 288 pages
    • Publisher: Crown Archetype (January 25, 2011)
    • Sold by: Random House LLC
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B004C43GC4
    • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Not Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,761 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Two Parts Freakonomics, One Part Moneyball December 30, 2010
    Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
    I greatly enjoyed Moskowitz and Wertheim's Scorecasting. Much like the highly successful Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.), the authors examine some of the preconceptions surrounding sport, using statistics and other empirical evidence to reach some interesting conclusions. As the authors stated in their forward, they hope this book will be used to start conversations, settle bar bets, and generally entertain the thinking sportsman. I think they have succeeded.

    By and large, Scorecasting is highly readable. My one critique would be that the chapters a highly variable in length, and in particular some of the shorter chapters seemed to be just tossed in. (Did we really need 4 pages to show that, indeed, the Yankees win because they have the biggest payroll in baseball? Three pages to show that the coin toss at the start of NFL overtime is important?) I would also point out that, again like Freakonomics, the chapters are unconnected by any underlying theme, unless that theme is to examine preconceptions and use evidence. I don't consider that a flaw, more a notation of what type of book this is.

    In addition, I was reminded of my favorite sports book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Just as a large part of Moneyball was devoted to showing how a systematic statistical approach to building a team could lead to better results than traditional scouting, Scorecasting can give a reader an appreciation of some recurring trends in sport. It is not just descriptive, but predictive.
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    27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars freakonomics + sports = awesome January 3, 2011
    By N
    Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
    This latest addition in the Freakonomics-driven behavioral economics genre is probabaly the best. It is Scorecasting and to a sports fan it is a can't-put-down type of book. The book is written extremely well with a mixture of famous sporting anecdotes and hard statistics that include research of the authors and others.

    Some of the eye-opening subject include:

    1. very solid evidence that umpires bias games - however what is interesting is the bias is not random. The bias tells a story.
    2. the subject of home-field advantage was mesmerizing. Turns out not at all what sports pundits tells us are true or at least not in the way you might think so.
    3. incentives lie at the heart of the Chicago Cubs dismal century.
    4. great use of numbers to show how desperate baseball players are to have a batting average of at least 0.300.
    5. a look into why some stats are not telling us all we need to know (i.e. blocked shot stats in basketball).
    6. why don't football coaches go for it on 4th down when it is a statistically correct move?

    Turns out that psychology (namely loss aversion) and incentives dictate a lot of sports decision making.

    There are several shorter chapters that seem to be 'unfinished' which is a shame. For instance a chapter just mentions the Yankees 'buying' of championships. It would have been great to see a more in depth statistical analysis of how spending money predicts success in baseball.

    As I hear constantly on the sport talk radio, the Seattle Seahawks benefit from their 12th man - the crowd. It would have been interesting to see if this claim stacks up and is in fact a larger effect on winning than at other venues.

    Great, fast read. Highly recommended.
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    15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Scorecasting...Influence meets Behavioral Economics December 27, 2010
    Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
    Scorecasting solves many puzzles on both a micro- and macro scale...
    that sports fans have wondered about for years.

    For example, when baseball home plate umpires have made an obvious mistake in calling
    a ball or strike do they then try and fix that mistake by making a call the "other way?"
    (The research done by the authors of Scorecasting reveal that it does indeed happen.)

    Another example: When do ref's throw flags in football? Early in the game or late
    in the game? Why? You'll find out.

    On a bigger scale, why is there a home field advantage in sports? We can understand
    the Boston Red Sox....but why the Indianapolis Colts or other teams that play in
    domed stadiums, say, in football. It turns out that you will likely be shocked to find
    out this answer and because the home team wins around 53% of the time in baseball vs.
    about 69% of the time in College Football, what you learn will change the way you
    look at the game forever.

    In the book, Stumbling on Wins, we found out that coaches aren't as important as
    we once thought they were. That was a bit of a jaw dropper. In Scorecasting the authors
    go further and deeper explaining why coaches tend to be so turns
    out they all are programmed by the pressure of the fans and industry itself to
    call plays that are very predictable ...even when they are the wrong choice...such as
    punting in many fourth down situations.

    It turns out that punting on fourth down IS the right decision often enough but it is
    the wrong decision so often that coaches would win a lot more games for their team
    if they went for it on fourth and X. So why not?
    Read more ›
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    4.0 out of 5 stars Sports statistics bent by human nature.
    In this book the authors take sports statistics and apply them to the psychology of sports decision-making. Think Freakonomics for sports. The result is a very entertaining read. Read more
    Published 2 days ago by W. Frazier
    4.0 out of 5 stars Rich blend of behavioral and classical economics
    This book differs from other sports analytics books in that it includes not only statistical analyses of in-game and off-season strategies, but also explanations of why players,... Read more
    Published 7 days ago by CougaNova
    3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
    Make interesting points, sometimes they just over do the point with so many examples.
    Published 1 month ago by Randal Shelly
    5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book.
    This book is incredible. It's everything you didn't know you wanted to know about sports and human psychology and why things happen the way they do. Highly recommended.
    Published 2 months ago by Hogg
    4.0 out of 5 stars Statistical insight
    Features numerous stories about observed behavior of sports and the impact and outcome of the games. Read more
    Published 2 months ago by ellison
    5.0 out of 5 stars awesome book
    This is a great read. Their analysis of home field advantage in particular is fabulous, but I loved the entire book.
    Published 3 months ago by JBL
    4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
    Fascinating read and well written.
    Published 3 months ago by Desmo
    4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting studies on sports myths
    4 of 5 stars (very good)

    While the study of economics and trends that are set in the field will usually cause yawns, if one were to take this... Read more
    Published 3 months ago by LSmith
    5.0 out of 5 stars Change your lens for watching sports
    If you are a sports fan at any level, I recommend reading through this fantastic book. The case studies will completely change the way you view sporting events for the better and... Read more
    Published 4 months ago by John H. Carlee
    5.0 out of 5 stars Tour the world of sports through the eyes of a critical thinker...
    Scorecasting is a tour of the world of sports as seen through the eyes of a critical thinker wielding quantitative analysis. Read more
    Published 5 months ago by RK
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