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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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Who deserves recognition as the best baseball player of all time--Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth? The stuff of endless debates among baseball fans, such questions come into sharp focus when the experts of Baseball Prospectus start parsing their trove of statistics. Looking, for instance, at the Bonds-versus-Ruth issue, the BP statisticians systematically adjust the two stars' numbers to reflect changes in parks, in level of competition, and in training technology as they establish that although Ruth still holds the overall edge, Bonds could overtake him with a couple more good seasons. But these baseball mavens look beyond the performance of individual players, as they examine entire teams (the '04 Red Sox and '01 Diamondbacks, for instance) and even whole epochs (the golden era of 1949--57). BP numbers help readers see the world beyond the diamond as well, clarifying the economic pressures that push marginal players to use steroids and are increasingly pushing working-class fans right out of the stadiums their taxes are subsidizing. A valuable reference for baseball fans and cultural critics alike. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It's really an interesting book if you go into it with an open and analytical mind. Some of the conclusions may be controversial - for example, don't tell any New Yorker that Derek Jeter's actually a below average shortstop, a Pirates or Tigers fan that Jim Leyland didn't really do much to help his team, or an A's fan that Rickey Henderson's steals were mostly worthless! But reading through how the authors got to these conclusions is fascinating, and ultimately impossible to argue with. Math doesn't lie, and the statistics that back up these conclusions - while requiring a few more calculations - are no less factual than batting average or on-base percentage (OBP itself is a sabermetric stat!).
It would be easy for this to have been a dry, reductionist book, as you might expect from a bunch of mathemeticians. It's written by multiple authors and while it's true that some chapters are a little livelier than others, generally speaking everyone seems to realize they're writing about a game - and that game is supposed to be fun. This book exists because these people love baseball and have fun thinking about it, and thinking of different ways they can challenge conventional wisdom.
It's taken a while to overturn baseball's old guard, but many teams these days incorporate some level of sabermetric thinking into their team building and on-field strategy. Times are changing, and this book will help you understand why that pitcher's swinging away instead of bunting, why your favorite team doesn't have a "speed guy" in the leadoff spot, and why you shouldn't be too upset when a manager gets fired.
Maybe more than that, it'll leave you wondering why teams still do things that are mathematically proven to be self-destructive. (Usually it's because it's what the fans and media expect them to do.) Baseball still has a ways to go to catch up to its own science, but reading this book will literally put you ahead of the game.
Unbelievably detailed analysis that is clearly stated. I really enjoyed how each section addresses a specific contentious question (i.e. Bonds or Ruth?) and uses that question to expand on to more wide-ranging analysis and to introduce core statistical methods that they will mention throughout the rest of the book.
If you already like baseball, this book will be perfect. I only give it a 4 star rating because it is a slow read and definitely not for everyone. At times, you can become bogged down in the numbers as well.
But overall, unbelievable book that is well-written (many humorous stories and asides along with the data). I will be looking forward to moving on to other baseball books in the future and watching the games more closely this season.