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Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won Hardcover – January 25, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

“Defense wins championships!” So declared a triumphant Michael Jordan in 1991, invoking a hallowed sports mantra. But Jordan’s assertion melts into cliché when Moskowitz and Wertheim expose it to statistical calculations revealing that, regardless of the sport, offense proves just as decisive as defense. Indeed, in their wide-ranging iconoclasm, the authors repeatedly poke arithmetic holes in what everyone in sports supposedly knows. Typical is their number-crunching assault on the popular explanation of home-field advantage as a consequence of visiting teams’ road fatigue. Home teams win, the authors demonstrate, chiefly because referees tend to see plays their way—especially when the crowd of spectators grows large. Parsing of data illuminates off-field behavior, too, explaining which athletes use steroids and which ones use marijuana. Even the curse hanging over the Chicago Cubs comes into focus then the analysts ignore the billy-goat myth and statistically assess a management style fostered by fans perversely loyal to “lovable losers”! Sports buffs eager to win their next barroom argument will be lining up for this book. --Bryce Christensen

Review

"The closest thing to Freakonomics I've seen since the original. A rare combination of terrific storytelling and unconventional thinking. I love this book..." 
Steven D. Levitt, Alvin H. Baum Professor of Economics, University of Chicago, and co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics

"I love this book. If I told you why, the NBA would fine me again."
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks

Scorecasting is both scholarly and entertaining, a rare double.  It gets beyond the cliched narratives and tried-but-not-necessarily-true assumptions to reveal significant and fascinating truths about sports.”
Bob Costas

"A counterintuitive, innovative, unexpected handbook for sports fans interested in the truths that underpin our favorite games. With their lively minds and prose, Moskowitz and Wertheim will change the way you think about and watch sports. Not just for stats nerds, Scorecasting enlightens and entertains. I wish I had thought of it!"
Jeremy Schaap, ESPN reporter, Author of Cinderella Man.
 
"(Sports + numbers) x great writing = winning formula.  A must read for all couch analysts."
Richard Thaler, Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, best-selling author of Nudge.

Scorecasting will change the way you watch sports, but don’t start reading it during a game; you’re liable to get lost in it and miss the action. I’m not giving anything away because you’ll want to read exactly how they arrived at their conclusions."
—Allen Barra, NJ Star Ledger

“Like Moneyball and Soccernomics before it, Scorecasting crunches the numbers to challenge notions that have been codified into conventional sports wisdom.”
Wired Magazine

Freakonomics meets Moneyball
The Wall Street Journal
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; First Edition edition (January 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307591791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307591791
  • ASIN: 0307591794
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David McCune VINE VOICE on December 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I greatly enjoyed Moskowitz and Wertheim's Scorecasting. Much like the highly successful Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.), the authors examine some of the preconceptions surrounding sport, using statistics and other empirical evidence to reach some interesting conclusions. As the authors stated in their forward, they hope this book will be used to start conversations, settle bar bets, and generally entertain the thinking sportsman. I think they have succeeded.

By and large, Scorecasting is highly readable. My one critique would be that the chapters a highly variable in length, and in particular some of the shorter chapters seemed to be just tossed in. (Did we really need 4 pages to show that, indeed, the Yankees win because they have the biggest payroll in baseball? Three pages to show that the coin toss at the start of NFL overtime is important?) I would also point out that, again like Freakonomics, the chapters are unconnected by any underlying theme, unless that theme is to examine preconceptions and use evidence. I don't consider that a flaw, more a notation of what type of book this is.

In addition, I was reminded of my favorite sports book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Just as a large part of Moneyball was devoted to showing how a systematic statistical approach to building a team could lead to better results than traditional scouting, Scorecasting can give a reader an appreciation of some recurring trends in sport. It is not just descriptive, but predictive.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This latest addition in the Freakonomics-driven behavioral economics genre is probabaly the best. It is Scorecasting and to a sports fan it is a can't-put-down type of book. The book is written extremely well with a mixture of famous sporting anecdotes and hard statistics that include research of the authors and others.

Some of the eye-opening subject include:

1. very solid evidence that umpires bias games - however what is interesting is the bias is not random. The bias tells a story.
2. the subject of home-field advantage was mesmerizing. Turns out not at all what sports pundits tells us are true or at least not in the way you might think so.
3. incentives lie at the heart of the Chicago Cubs dismal century.
4. great use of numbers to show how desperate baseball players are to have a batting average of at least 0.300.
5. a look into why some stats are not telling us all we need to know (i.e. blocked shot stats in basketball).
6. why don't football coaches go for it on 4th down when it is a statistically correct move?

Turns out that psychology (namely loss aversion) and incentives dictate a lot of sports decision making.

There are several shorter chapters that seem to be 'unfinished' which is a shame. For instance a chapter just mentions the Yankees 'buying' of championships. It would have been great to see a more in depth statistical analysis of how spending money predicts success in baseball.

As I hear constantly on the sport talk radio, the Seattle Seahawks benefit from their 12th man - the crowd. It would have been interesting to see if this claim stacks up and is in fact a larger effect on winning than at other venues.

Great, fast read. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love when nerds geek out over sports. Have you seen the NBA.com website lately? Did you know that its because of refs that more teams win at home and the Cubs keep losing because they make more money that way...those loveable losers.

If you are into data and geeking out over stats this is a book for you. Very well recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
There are some fascinating and enlightening portions of this book that make the dry sections and stilted views of some chapters worth reading. The section that detailed how a baseball umpire's strike zone is affected by the count is astonishing and inarguable as presented ( although the graphics look to have been done on the cheap ). The ferreting out of the reason behind home field advantage is noteworthy. But to me, what's missing from this book, and perhaps by design, is the lack of accountability for the "soul" of competition; the non-measurables that clearly have a say in the outcome of athletic competition. Part of the real beauty and allure of sports is that part of competition that cannot be explained statistically. Too many chapters contained herein, and too much of the writing is so dry that it detracts from the message.

Wade through the dross to find the worthy gems which are certainly there.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The main idea of this little book is to apply data -- statistics -- to debunk common jock-think cliches in sports. Is it really defense that wins championships? What's the reason for home field advantage, if any? What's the relative value of draft picks? Are the Chicago Cubs "cursed"? [Spoiler alert: No, it's just that they're not very good, but the authors do offer an interesting possible explanation for why that's the case.] On the other hand, although I am not a statistics expert, or even a general mathematician, I think I know enough to call the work "statistics lite." A lot of the "analysis" simply involves regression to the mean, although I do not recall that concept being explained in the book, as such. I also believe there's a fair amount of cherry picking and shading going on. Author Moskowitz is a finance professor at the University of Chicago, while Wertheim is a writer for Sports Illustrated magazine. I think Wertheim must have been the moving force here. The book reads more like an extended SI article than an academic work. Another criticism, if you want to call it that, is that it's sometimes not clear whether the authors' statements are intended to be serious or merely "wink, wink." One weird example is the following sentence in a chapter that plays off the idea that the golfer Tiger Woods is human ("and not for the reason you think" -- clearly a wink, wink): "He [Woods] performed miracles such as the famous chip shot on the sixteenth hole at the 2005 Masters, an absurd piece of handiwork that defied all prevailing laws of geometry and physics." Of course, the authors know, as do we, that in fact there was no miracle here.Read more ›
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