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The Beauty of Short Hops: How Chance and Circumstance Confound the Moneyball Approach to Baseball Paperback – February 25, 2011
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"Engagingly written...highly recommended." --Library Journal
"A thoughtful, spunky counterpoint of a book, sure to be panned by true believers." --Spitball
"Thankfully, the Hirsch brothers provide the first sensible rebuttal to the Moneyball approach. After summarizing Moneyball in the opening chapter, the authors…pick apart Michael Lewis's arguments with relish. The authors compare a base-running gaffe in a Mets-Nationals game to the famous 1960 world series, [describe] a game delayed 52 minutes because of a swarm of bees, baseballs hidden in Wrigley Field's famous ivy, and many other anecdotes which remind us why we love baseball and its unpredictable nature." --FrumForum
About the Author
Sheldon Hirsch's dreams of the major leagues died after a mediocre season as a high school junior. He is a nephrologist living outside of Chicago, and has published extensively in medical journals. Alan Hirsch, a visiting professor at Williams College, is the author of numerous books and articles. His articles on sports and other subjects have been published in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, and Newsday, among many other publications. He also contributes a regular sports column to Frumforum. Co-author Alan Hirsch recently sat down for two interviews on his new book, the much-discussed Beauty of Short Hops.
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Top Customer Reviews
Half of this book is written as criticism of using a Social Science approach in studying baseball. Unlike books written by baseball "lifers" like John Scherholtz's Built to Win, which praises tobacco-stained, traditional methods and scouting...This criticism from two academics looked promising. Their attack of the collection and classification methods used to input data in advanced fielding metrics has merit. But those who create and use these methods, don't claim their new tools are infallible, they are just trying to bring more information in a game of uncertainty and incomplete information...Bill James, the Godfather of this movement states as such, to paraphrase "Just because a new metric isn't perfect, doesn't mean we should stop trying to search for more knowledge." The discussion of the LaRussization of the bullpen and how even Sabermetrically inclined GMs have to designate an established closer is also worthwhile.
Yes, we get it...baseball, sports, like the weather is unpredictable. But to close your eyes to new avenues of information, technology and data, the authors instead suggest an approach that would be akin to saying that all meteorologists should just embrace the uncertainty of the weather and not try to find scientific trends, reasoning, technology and analysis and just give limited forecasts.
Also, to many Sabermetrically inclined baseball fans, they lose a lot of credibility when there are glaring errors in the book...There are plenty mistakes in the book that an editor or baseball fan would notice. For instance, The Detroit Tigers did not win the 2006 World Series...St. Louis did. Also while attacking Jeremy Brown, the pot-bellied catcher that Billy Beane coveted in Moneyball, he didn't go to Arizona State as they stated, he was the catcher for Alabama.
Their diary, musings and observations of the 2009 season amounts to fodder that you could find in average baseball blog.
Overall, you want a well-written book about baseball..this is not it. So to the casual fan or causal reader..save your time. If you are a well-educated fan who regularly plays Fantasy Baseball and spends plenty of time pouring over WAR, VORP and UZR numbers, this is worth your time, so that you can properly understand the applicability and limitations of data. Also this will help you carve out good counter-arguments to those who have Dinosaur-like resistance to Sabermetrics.
Back to "Short Hops," this book simply posits the idea that sabermetrics has been bad for baseball, and that we're forgetting why we like to watch and enjoy baseball. The day that baseball trading cards died was when ESPN and the internet took over to really drive runs batted in and number of errors.
Sabermetrics is utterly and completely an honorable and okay thing to do for baseball, and it really gives that great depth to teams and players as an analytical practice, BUT baseball should not be controlled by it in any form.
The Babe is rolling in his grave.
The funniest thing is that when stats based analysis of baseball first came out, it was ridiculed precisely BECAUSE they liked to say a lot of baseball is pure luck. The old school train of thought was that there was little luck in baseball and that a .300 hitter was almost always better than a .285 hitter.
The writers of this book seem to be mainly writing for a crowd of individuals who don't understand statistics, don't like anything that's not pure "gut instinct" and hate, without ever having read, Moneyball.
Basically this book is the equivalent of the following conversation:
Stat person: well, ERA isn't a good measure, because a lot of it is based on luck. We should use this other stat that takes into account only things that the pitcher can control, so that we can better understand what is skill and what is luck.
Short Hop person: Wait, you're not taking luck into consideration with your statistical analysis!
Stat person: Did you listen to anything I just said?
Short Hop person: what about when a ball hits a pigeon? How do your stats take that into account?
Stat Person: *walks away, shaking head*