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Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong Paperback – March 1, 2007
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This process involves two parts. First, there is a look at the popular statistics to see how well they really track a player performance and contribution to the team. Batting average, for example, is not a really good indicator of performance; slugging percentage and on-base percentage provide a better reading. There is also a look at certain beliefs in baseball - such as the existence of clutch hitters - and whether they are based in reality or more of a myth.
The second part of this statistical analysis is coming up with new stats to provide more information. There are a lot of these, but the one that seems emphasized the most is VORP, Value over Replacement Player. In simple terms, VORP gives the value of a player compared to a replacement player of minimal major league skills (like a 0.200 batting average). If a player gets 200 hits in a year, he does not really contribute 200 hits to his team; instead, he contributes only the difference between his hit total and that of the replacement player; if this value is 110, then the player contributes 90 hits.
The purpose of all this analysis is two-fold. For one thing, it helps evaluate the potentials of players, so it is useful from a scouting perspective. It is also good for comparing players who played in different time periods.Read more ›
The book is arranged into 27 short chapters - one for each out in a regulation game, obviously - which frame each concept through an interesting question like, does Derek Jeter deserve a Gold Glove? This makes the more esoteric concepts easier to relate to, although familiarity and ease with numbers, charts and probability concepts helps a lot. The questions also serve as a reminder that the conclusions and predictive powers of this type of analysis have major implications for real world GM's, managers and players, as well as fans and fantasy leagues.
Quibbles: some of the analysis occasionally feels unbaked, which is understandable given this is an emerging field dealing with enormous amounts of data and probabilities. The writers do acknowledge this, such as when comparing pitching stats to relatively more reliable batting stats. It would also be nice to have more real life examples to back up each conclusion, including more quotes from GM's and managers - now that there are a number of admitted practitioners - on how they have used these concepts and with what results.
All in all, certainly not the last word on this subject, but a very good introduction.
You don't have to be a math major to get the points of the book, but some basic knowledge of statistical principles is a big help. It's easy to get lost in the numbers sometimes, and the presence of numerous typographical errors and incorrect charts exacerbates the problem.
This book should be required reading for any baseball fan. If you're already familiar with sabremetrics and how statheads view the baseball universe, this book consolidates many of the key ideas in one volume. If you're not, this is a great introduction.
My biggest disappointment is that while they explain what Eqa and VORP are, in essense, they don't tell me exactly how they calculate it. I suppose they are protecting their assets, but one of the pleasure of reading Bill James is knowing his thought process in coming up with formulas that measure performance. As the Baseball Prospectus team would have it, I'm supposed to trust that VORP measures it precisely without me being able to understand exactly why. That irritates me, but it might not get to you.
The book is fairly well-written and is entertaining enough to pick up if you're interested in this kind of book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Everything is as advertised. A bit dated now, but definitely up to par for any baseball fan interested in any one of the topics shared, or in learning more of the nuances of the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
If you love numbers or statistics, this book is a FIVE. It you don't or if you don't like page after page of intense mathematics, this book is a ONE. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Land Wayland
Superb explanation of the new metrics being used in MLB. The only improvement would be a more detailed analysis of the interplay / conflict between traditional observational... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Michael Martineau
This is one of my favorite go to baseball books. Lots of stats and information you can't find elsewhere.Published 15 months ago by Gary
An excellent title for me as a nerd who doesn't understand baseball very well. The interesting collection of articles was fascinating and I learned much about the statistical side... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Fable Fan