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Wizardry: Baseball's All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed [Paperback]

by Michael Humphreys
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 30, 2011 0195397762 978-0195397765 1
The systematic analysis of baseball statistics, often called "sabermetrics," has evolved in recent years to resemble something of a science, attracting fans from diverse professional and educational backgrounds, all fascinated by the analysis itself and its insights into the game. But one problem has defied solution: estimating runs saved by fielders throughout history. Traditional statistics include errors and plays made, but not hits that could or should have been prevented. The latter can now be estimated using records of the location of every batted ball, but the underlying data exists only for recent seasons and has generally been withheld from the public.

Now, in Wizardry, comes the long-awaited breakthrough. Drawing solely on freely available baseball statistics, Michael A. Humphreys shows how to apply classic statistical methods to estimate runs saved by fielders going back to 1893. Humphreys tests his results against other fielding measures, including published ratings based on proprietary batted ball location data, and explains their respective strengths and limitations. He also introduces a method for adjusting historical player ratings for increased competition due to population growth, integration, and international recruitment. Position by position, Humphreys identifies and profiles the greatest fielders of all time with anecdote-rich essays.

Sabermetrics changed baseball and introduced a generation to the art of statistical inference. Wizardry makes the case for the most significant changes in historical player valuation in decades, while opening up new approaches for further exploration.

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Editorial Reviews

Review


The book of the season . . . comes from Michael Humphreys . . . who has spent years meticulously extracting reads on historical defensive performance from the flawed and fragmentary numbers we have to go by, and he now offers the definitive work on the subject . . . A careful, thoughtful system that will make you appreciate all the more the genius of the late Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon or the peripatetic and vastly underrated outfielder Kenny Lofton . . . A representation of the future of statistical sabermetrics, which in years to come is quite likely to become more focused less on telling the future than on wresting meaning out of the past." -- Tim Marchman, The Wall Street Journal


"Excellent." -- David Schoenfeld, ESPN ("Sweet Spot" blog)


"Humphreys writes capably and makes the math-heavy parts as readable as anyone could. The outcome should attract all dedicated baseball fans and stat hounds." -- Library Journal


"Michael Humphreys does for fielding what Neil deGrasse Tyson does for astrophysics: he takes an incredibly complex subject and makes a reader who once felt dumb feel smart. He has cut through the cloud of my unknowing and helped me to understand what major league fielding really is and how it can be quantified. Wizardry is the best book yet on the subject." -- Allen Barra, writer for The Wall Street Journal


"Fielding is the hardest aspect of baseball in which to rate performance. In his fascinating book, Michael Humphreys should get the Gold Glove for historical fielding evaluation. With carefully derived formulae, he rates Aaron, Clemente, Gordon and Hooper as saving 100+ runs more than does Total Baseball, while Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith saved their teams over 100 fewer. And that's just among Hall of Famers! Taken seriously, as it should be, this book will substantially shake up our all-around rankings of players." -- Michael J. Schell, Moffitt Cancer Center, author of Baseball's All-Time Best Hitters and Baseball's All-Time Best Sluggers


"Wizardry is a very engaging book. Out of all of the modern methods of evaluating fielding, [the method introduced in Wizardry, DRA,] is the one method where readers can duplicate the results. The defensive runs produced by DRA match up well with [published defensive runs estimates based on proprietary data]. While all of these defensive metrics can vary widely from season to season, they have their biggest impact when evaluating a player's defensive career. In a perfect world, the gatekeepers to the Hall of Fame will start to rely on defensive metrics such as DRA, rather than how many Gold Gloves a player won, to assess a player's defensive contributions on the field."--Philip A. Yates, The American Statistician


About the Author


Michael A. Humphreys advises on tax aspects of international capital markets transactions at Ernst & Young LLP.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (March 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195397762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195397765
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transformative, seminal work June 5, 2011
Format:Paperback
If you like baseball and you like stats, you'll love this book. No math skills are required, yet you can appreciate the methodical research and analysis that went into this book. It transformed the way I watch defensive plays now. The author exposes the obvious ways in which the Gold Glove has been awarded to the wrong players. Separate chapters are devoted to each position, with the author creating his own rankings by era. I didn't know that the best fielding short-stop and third baseman played side by side on the same team! If you enjoyed Moneyball, this is a must, as it applies metrics to fielding, a feat that has never before been fully accomplished. The book does not need to be read cover to cover. It is written in a user-friendly fashion that allows one to use it as a reference book as well. I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating June 1, 2011
Format:Paperback
A facsinating journey into the world of baseball defense and the often unsung heroes of baseball history.The author searched long and hard for interesting stories that make players both from my youth and from the older days of baseball really come alive, and the relative rankings are alot of fun to consider. Terrific for anyone who enjoys age old arguments about 'who was the best' at any given position - a fun and entertaining read -
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Advance In This Field! October 13, 2011
Format:Paperback
The Author has done what other giants in this field of study, Bill James among them, could not, in producing a means of analyzing the measure and value of defense to complement the other values of offense and pitching that have been accomplished in the Sabermetrics field. At a time when objective means of determining the value of players has been brought to the forefront by the success of the movie "Moneyball," this book provides tremendous insight and value both for baseball insiders and fans alike. Meticulously researched and extremely well-written. Highest recommendation. Bravo!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
In Wizardry, Michael Humphreys tackles the challenging issue of fielding in a way that could revolutionize the way we view baseball. There are plenty of Sabermetric "chops" displayed, but I also found the writing accessible and enjoyable. Sometimes, the evidence can make you uncomfortable, such as for us Derek Jeter fans. But the data and insights presented are compelling and offer an alternative to metrics based on zone data or more complicated formulas. In the best tradition of Bill James, a person who changed the way I view baseball and statistics in general, I heartily recommend this book!
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