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Stumbling On Wins: Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports Hardcover – March 18, 2010


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Stumbling On Wins: Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports + Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won + Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (March 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 013235778X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0132357784
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

As seen on The New York Times' Freakonomics blog, ESPN.com's True Hoop, and Slate.com.

 

"In Stumbling on Wins, sports economists Berri (Southern Utah Univ.) and Schmidt (College of William and Mary) follow up their The Wages of Wins (with Stacey Brook, CH, Jan'07, 44-2764) with more modeling and number-crunching applications. The holy grail remains the same: understanding and improving decision making on the court, field, and ice and in the front offices of North American professional team sports. Summing Up: Recommended. Sports and sports economics collections at all levels. Reprinted with permission from CHOICE, copyright by the American Library Association.

About the Author

David J. Berri is associate professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He has written extensively on sports economics for academic journals, newspapers, and magazines, including The New York Times.

Martin B. Schmidt, professor of economics at the College of William and Mary, specializes in sports economics and macroeconomics. His writing has appeared in the field’s leading academic and general interest journals, including The New York Times.

Berri and Schmidt coauthored The Wages of Wins and maintain a popular blog, The Wages of Wins Journal, which discusses the economics of sports decision-making (dberri.wordpress.com).


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is disappointing and I don't recommend it, either for sports fans or anyone with an interest in the growing and substantial research on fallibilities in human judgment, decision making and use of information. Its basic point is one that is well established, that conventional measures of performance in professional sports are misleading predictors of future performance; examples are pitchers' ERAs and NBA points per game. It repeats the many-times made observations about how often NFL first round quarterback draft picks are bombs. That's well presented and thoroughly documented but in more detail than the use of the findings warrants. Its main point is that overreliance on the wrong data leads to bad economic decisions by managers who should know better. I don't recall any item in the analysis that has not been covered elsewhere. Examples here are: (1) Field managers and coaches in baseball, football and basketball have little impact on team performance, (2) Statistically, it makes sense to go for it on fourth down, (3) Trading up to get a high draft pick is generally a bad deal, economically and in terms of finding the best talent, (4) NBA draft position is a poor predictor of career performance, (5) The NBA "hot hands" streaks are a myth and (6) Isiah Thomas was a truly, truly lousy general manager of the Knicks. Agreed. Agreed.
The main weakness of the book seems to me that it largely relies on data about individual performance for its core evidence and though it alludes to the context of teams, it is very univariate in its analysis. The authors emphasize this but only in a single footnote. (The regression-based methodology examines only the strength of the linear relationship between two independent variables.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bottomofthe9th on December 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting in parts, but this is obviously a blog converted into a book, rather than content so substantive that it was suited to a book. Most of the inefficiencies discussed are relatively common knowledge by now among statistics-savvy fans, although I did think the analysis on how kickers' value comes more from their kickoffs than field goals was interesting and new.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In their book Stumbling On Wins, economists David J. Berri and Martin B. Schmidt show their readers how statistics might be used to help make decisions in professional sports. They highlight situations where an in depth look at the numbers challenges conventional wisdom and show how commonly quoted statistics, such as batting averages and earned run averages, have little to do with a player or team's success. Overall, they do a good job of bringing to light how 'conventional wisdom' in sports leads to bad decision making and are able to do this in layman's terms. They also suggest new metrics that have more validity to replace the old ones. At times, however, they seem to dumb things down just a little too much and simply present series after series of conclusions without much in the way of explanation. But more often than not their conclusions still fly in the face of our expectations and--at least for someone like me who is new to this way of thinking--makes for an interesting read.

Before I begin, let me just say that this is my kind of book about sports. Having a 'deletion in the sports gene,' I have little patience for sitting through a game of football, baseball, or basketball and have never regularly follow any teams. Having a son, however, changed all of this for me. He grew up loving to play anything that involved a ball or a puck and at the age of 5 would even sit rapt attention watching a golf match on TV. Sports fascinated him. They were part of his inner fabric and as a father I had to adjust and become part of something alien to me. So I tried to latch on to some aspect of the game that seemed to make sense--the numbers. I would look at the stats and try to predict what a player or a team might do or guess at how coaching decisions should be made.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Hogan VINE VOICE on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Stumbling on Wins is an important book.

If almost demands the question, "Why wouldn't someone want the team they have invested 1/4 billion dollars in...to win?"

The authors have done a fantastic job of teasing out just what it is that determines what causes professional sports teams to win or to lose.

For example: Everyone knows that coaching matters in professional sports, but how important is that coaches skill to the team? If you took that NBA coach and moved him to another franchise, does the next franchise perform better or worse? Does the incoming coach do better or worse? It turns out that there is a statistically sound model to determine just how much value a professional coach adds to a team. My read on their analysis is that most coaches are important (without one the team would be in disarray) but most professional coaches are pretty similar in their contribution to a team winning. So go ahead and spend tens of millions but it's not going to cause you to win any more games. Are there exceptions? Yes there is one truly notable, exceptional...exception. There is a clear "greatest coach ever," and after that the reported results show that most of the rest do their job...and no one is all that much better or worse than anyone else. Again, my read on their analysis. I'll let you get the book to find out which coach.

What's even more fascinating is the authors discussion of how valuable certain all time all star players were to a teams winning. It turns out that a lot of current Hall of Famers were not as important to their teams that were big winners as many players were to teams that were losers. When Kareem Abdul Jabbar played basketball he was amazing.
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