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The Hidden Game of Baseball Paperback – March 19, 1985

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; Rev. and updated edition (1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385182848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385182843
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,079,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book was great for its time, and it's still very interesting and well worth a look. It was probably the first such comprehensive effort to evaluate and rank the players of all time using "sabermetrics," and for some years it remained the main such source and the main reference point for future efforts. I guess the high current prices for the book reflect this.

The methods have basic flaws, which have since been widely pointed out and (I believe) widely acknowledged. For example, the basic unit of measurement is "Linear Weights," in which each accomplishment, whether it be a single, home run, putout, assist, or anything else, is given a "weight," and then they are added together, and the total is normalized. But, as Bill James pointed out with an elegance that's hard to top, the method was doomed to be painfully limited, because "baseball offense isn't linear; it's geometric" -- meaning that the elements of offense combine in a way that goes beyond simply adding them together, plus that each event has an impact on the likelihood of the next event.

But the main flaw is that being "average" is used as the center for everything. Everyone is scored according to how far above or below average he is. The problem is that players who are "average" are assumed to have no value, and are given zero; players who are calculated to be below average are given "negative value." So, if someone has a long and successful career but is found to be below average (example: Bobby Richardson), he winds up with "negative value," which is as though he's worse than nothing, worse than someone who plays just a couple of innings and gets released. Obviously, this is wrong, even if he truly was below average (which Richardson wasn't).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overall, this is a valuable book to a baseball historian. I learned what the actual lefty righty variations are in batting averages, homers, and walks. In other words, how lefty pitching affects lefty hitting, etc. And I learned how people hit when they have worked themselves into different ball-strike counts. The best batting averages come at the count of 3-1. There is a lot of emphasis on fielding range as measured by how many balls the fielders managed to get to.
In such a comprehensive book you want to believe everything in it and accept it as some kind of Bible. But you'd better not. The book has a few flaws in it.
For example, it ranks Sandy Koufax as a non-entity. While admitting that his pitching was good, it rips him to shreds because he couldn't hit, and wasn't a great fielder either. My reaction is so what if he couldn't hit. And as for his fielding, first of all, when you strike out so many hitters you don't get as many chances to field the ball, and second of all, pitchers handle so few batted balls to begin with that the sampling isn't that significant. If your system ends up saying Koufax was nothing, there is something wrong with your system. Koufax was among the elite of baseball history. I rank him as the second best pitcher who ever lived, behind Walter Johnson. He was God on the mound, and you don't just brush that off. He was more devastating than Randy Johnson. He had the best curve ball I've ever seen. If you went against him, you lost. The SF Giants didn't want to match Marichal against Koufax. Why waste Marichal on an automatic loss. Believe me, they would have matched Marichal against anyone else. To put my comments in perspective, I was never a Dodger fan.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great book for anybody looking for a good introduction to the science of sabermetrics. Using statistical analysis, the authors show how particular plays can be properly evaluated: examples here are the sacrifice bunt and the stolen base, among many others.

Using sophisticated analysis, the authors arrive at an overall figure for each player's career value, this figure representing the wins each player added to his team, over and above that of an average player at his position. One feature of this stat that I really like is that it attempts to evaluate defensive contributions. I have long felt that defensive contributions are severely undervalued, especially for the "up-the-middle" positions, while offensive contributions are over-valued.

Using this career wins figure, the authors come up with their own Hall of Fame, and it is interesting to compare this list to the actual Hall of Fame. When we do this comparison, it is obvious that the writers who vote for the Hall inductees do not have a proper appreciation for defensive contributions. Players at the corner positions who hit a lot of home runs are preferred to the slick-fielding middle infielders who save a lot of runs for their teams.

Since this book came out in 1984, many of these oversights have been corrected. Here is a list of those unfairly excluded at the time, and the years they were later admitted to the Hall: Bobby Doerr (1986), Billy Williams (1987), Richie Ashburn (1995), Bill Mazeroski (2001), Joe Gordon (2009), and Ron Santo (2012). Lest anyone think the writers have had a change of heart, it should be noted that only Billy Williams was elected by the writers; the other five were selected by the Veterans Committee.
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