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The book on the book in baseball
on February 22, 2011
One of the common phrases that we hear in baseball is that a manager was playing by "the book." That is, the manager was doing what the unwritten rules of baseball suggest. One example at the outset illustrates: walking a batter intentionally with first base open. This book, in essence, rewrites the book.
The authors use a detailed data base (including each at bat over a period of years) and then do a statistical analysis of results. And, they argue, the unwritten book is often wrong. The first chapter lays out the logic of this book's orientation. Many readers might find the chapter dense and too quantitative for their taste. My advice? Close the book and put it away, because the book features much statistical analysis.
To illustrate the work's approach. . . . Here are some issues addressed: How real are batting streaks (Answer: You can't predict how a player will do during a hot streak; there is no inherent "momentum")? Chapter three looks at pitcher-batter confrontations. Do certain pitchers "own" batters? Do certain hitters "own" pitchers? Data analysis suggests that we overrate these ideas. We all talk about clutch hitters and clutch pitchers. Chapter 4 takes this notion on (read the book to find out what actually happens).
Chapter 5 examines how to construct a batting order; Chapter 6 examines lefty-versus righty confrontations between hitters and pitchers; Chapter 9 looks at the value and efficacy of the sacrifice bunt; and so on.
If the reader is a figure filbert and likes sabermetrics, this book will be a delight. If you are old school, not so much! But, for me, a lot of fun. . . .