Most helpful critical review
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2004
Simply put, the strength of Schwarz's work is in the statistics. The first few chapters provide a very interesting, and sometimes comical, look at how the stats we take for granted today came to be. Little by little new stats appeared on the scene, before the turn of the 20th century even, and with each one was a neat story and most times a controversy. My personal favorite stat tidbit: How HBP's were called by one paper "apologies by pitchers for hitting batsmen" in box scores. The constant bickering of nearly every stat change that went on way back when, as well as the energy expended on the matter, is something I never realized existed, and I'm sure not too many either. I recommend the first four chapters to anyone b/c of this.
However, the middle chapters are a chore to get through, as the focus shifts from the origin and the controversy behind the stats to the people, most notably Bill James, and the statistical empires they did or did not create. There is a story for all the people Schwarz introduces the reader to, but few of them are all that interesting. There are many tidbits every now and then that cause you to raise an eyebrow -- like the brothers who created Player Win Average, a seemingly sharp measure of players' clutch performances, which never saw the light of day, but was resurrected w/o credit given decades later -- but most of the subjects' backgrounds follow the same pattern: Boy loved baseball and stats, boy played StratOMatic, boy became man and got unfulfilling job, man devoted life to stats, man spent career working with stats. Whetehr they left an imprint on the history of the subject varies from person to person, but you get the idea.
The final chapters pick up steam though, and provide a fulfilling conclusion. The effect the Internet has on baseball stats is immeasurable, and the future promises even more advances. In conclusion, I recommend the first 4 and last 3 chapters, but use caution when venturing to close to the middle.