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Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 2001 Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0387001937
ISBN-10: 038700193X
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Baseball fans love statistics. Box scores, batting averages and pitching records are published on the backs of baseball cards and in books, revised daily on Web sites and newspapers and quoted easily and authoritatively by sportscasters and in casual conversation. But how to make sense of all this information? Curveball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game by Jim Albert, professor of mathematics and statistics at Bowling Green State University, and Jay Bennett, principal scientist with Telecordia Technologies both former chairs of the sports section of the American Statistical Association and lifelong Philadelphia Phillies fans has 273 scary-looking charts and tables (and some bothersome formulas), but will be welcomed by many fans seeking to better understand the numbers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Baseball is a fascinating game for the statistical analyst. On the surface it appears so simple and limited. But the more closely one studies the game, the more, it seems, there is to know. The coauthors are both former chairs of the American Statistical Association Section on Statistics in Sports and fans of the Philadelphia Phillies. Though there are many other books about baseball statistics, these authors are particularly sophisticated statisticians. As they illuminate baseball, they demonstrate the power of college-level statistics to interpret the numbers. Starting with simplified board game simulations, the authors show how to model player performance or predict game outcomes. Then they use actual statistics to make the models more complex and true to life. Part of the fun is that statistical results can be counterintuitive. Does the best team always win the World Series? Not necessarily. No matter how talented other teams are, the element of chance means that Phillies fans can still hope for victory. Recommended for public and academic libraries, especially in cities with a major league baseball team. Amy Brunvand, Univ. of Utah Lib., Salt Lake City
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 2001 edition (October 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038700193X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387001937
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #948,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael R. Chernick on January 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Jim Albert and Jay Bennett share two traits that make them the perfect authors for this type of book (1) they are both baseball fans who know the game and have seen many games and much statistics from many angles and (2) they are both professional statisticians who understand probability and the subtle aspects that chance can have on statistics. By being professional statisticians they also know how sophisticated statistical techniques can add to ones ability to seriously address questions of strategy and comparison of player performance. That is what they accomplish in this book, teaching some basic probability and statistics along the way.
They also make it very interesting to the baseball fan by raising interesting baseball questions related to players that the fans relate to, namely the stars that the fans follow and the great clutch hits and clutch defensive plays that we baseball fans have imprinted in our memories, like Mazeroski's game winning home run in the 1960 World Series, or Willie Mays' famous over the shoulder catch of Vic Wertz's long fly ball in the 1954 series, or Bobby Thompson home run that won the 1951 playoffs for the Giants.

In the very beginning Albert and Bennett distinguish themselves from the sports statisticians that are hired by the teams. The sports statisticians collect the data and present it in various ways. However, this is merely exploratory data analysis. Albert and Bennett point out that a numerical difference in a hitting statistic such as on base percentage between Chuck Knoblauch and Kenny Lofton may be a real difference in ability but may also be a small enough difference to be merely due to chance.
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By Mark on September 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that I was excited to buy but unfortunately I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped for. The two main reasons for this are 1) the lack of major insights and 2) the huge quantity of typos (I stopped counting after around 20). The copy editor for this did an absolutely terrible job, I'm afraid to report (writing this guarantees a typo somewhere in my review :) ). Some of the players' names are spelled incorrectly, and some of the numbers in the charts are inconsistent. This is very distracting.

The book is divided into 12 chapters, starting with a fairly trivial look at tabletop baseball games. The authors devote much attention to evaluating offensive performance, comparing various measures such as batting average, SLG, OBP, linear weights, total average, runs created and a few other more obscure ones. There is also some discussion of clutch hitting and a look at "Did the best team win the World Series?"

One of the other problems I found was that the authors stop short of providing actual statistical formulas and get into hand-waving a few times. I see that they have all the academic credentials but it seems as though they took the "book sales are inversely proportional to number of equations in the text" relationship to heart. I felt the book suffered because of that.

I'm not sure who I could recommend this book to. I have a feeling that some of the concepts might be too advanced for kids, and not deep enough for those who have a decent understanding of statistics. If you are into baseball stats but you don't know much about real statistics you will definitely find some new concepts in here, so I guess that is the audience.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure who the target audience for this book is. At the beginning the introduce the most basic of statistics concepts as well as the most basic of baseball concepts. And at the end they seem to assume lots of knowledge of statistics. As both a baseball fan and a mathematician, I felt the beginning of the book very slow, but I also worry that someone who isn't knowledgable in both already might have trouble following some of it.
That said, the book was very well written, and posed some interesting ideas and questions. I wish it had been longer, as the last few chapters were really getting me into sabermetrics!
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Format: Paperback
This one is a book for the Sabermetrically inclined who already have a background in stats. In the first couple of chapters, the authors review some basic concepts through the lens of baseball before getting into some deeper analyses. To be honest, there's nothing in here that you can't get in Baseball Between the Numbers (although to the authors' credit, this book predates BBTN by 6 years) but it's a decent starter's guide. Worth the read, although those with a background in Sabermetrics will probably want to pass.
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Format: Paperback
As a statistician and baseball fan, I had high expectations for this book. Generally, those expectations were met, although I came away from this book feeling like an opportunity had been lost. The biggest problem with the book is that the authors can't seem to decide how much knowledge to assume of their readers. The first 100 pages or so are presented at a sub-high school level, while the last few chapters assume the reader to have taken higher-level college courses in statistics. Also, I do not expect any book to be written and edited perfectly, but the typos actually become an occassional distraction from the text.

On the whole, though, I would still recommend this book--it is by far the best contemporary statistical breakdown of the game of baseball. It is an especially good complement to Michael Lewis's "Moneyball," which is a more anecdotal presentation of similar material. If you enjoy baseball at all, and have even a passing interest in batting averages, ERAs, and HRs, you will be entertained by this book and will probably learn a lot, too.
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