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The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball

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on June 23, 2007
Other sabermetric books have been written in the last few years, The Book is the best one by far. It is chock full of information, results from research and answers a lot of interesting baseball questions. The three authors, Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin have academic backgrounds and work for major league teams as employees or consultants. They use statistical methods to extract and comprehend information from a massive database of baseball games.

For the layman, there may be too much math throughout the book. However, they do a fantastic job of summarizing each idea in plain English at the end of each section. For example, in chapter 2 on hot and cold streaks, after presenting data, explaining their process and interpreting results, they summarize the section with "Knowing that a hitter has been in or is in the midset of a hot or cold streak has little predictive value. Always assume that a player will hit at his projected norm (adjusted for the park, weather, and pitcher he is facing), regardless of how he has performed in the very recent past. A player's recent history may be used as a tiebreaker."

Managers, players, fans and the media often put too much emphasis on results from small samples sizes. The authors warn against making this mistake. "One of the pervasive themes of this book is the danger of inferring too much from too little by underestimating the influence of randomness". For example, they summarize a section on pitcher-batter matchups with: "Knowing a player will face a particular opponent, and given the choice between that player's 1,500 PA (plate appearances) over the past three years against the rest of the league or twenty-five PA against that particular opponent, look at the 1,500 PA. "

They aren't afraid to point out when general baseball wisdom is correct. On starting pitchers, they write, "pitchers perform best with five days of rest, and worst with three days of rest. To manage our entire starting rotation effectively, four days of rest seems to be the optimal point. The current MLB pattern of scheduling the starting rotation works."

This book is at the top of my recommendation list for thinking baseball fans. I'm a bit surprised that I'm the first reviewer of this book on Amazon, since it has been out for three months. The sales ranking (currently #47,000 as I write this review) is disappointing for such an incredible book. The Book deserves to be at the top of the baseball best seller's list.
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on December 4, 2007
This is the single most important math-centered analysis of baseball since The Hidden Game of Baseball came out over 20 years ago. I unreservedly recommend it for those already experienced with statistical analysis of baseball (the authors are much better at insight and explaining to the initiated than they are the Dick & Jane bits).

They attack a sequence of important subjects, mostly around game-tactics and, by consequence, roster-construction with hard data. And they are aware of an important bit of knowledge: (a) that not everything is measurable, and (b) that some aspects of the not measurable are important.

One star short of maximum because it's not a page-turner for most readers; the writing is more than adequate, but not energizing, so it's a book most will pick up, read 15 pages, put down to digest.

I'm very glad I read it. This is a keeper even for a limited-shelf-space baseball reader; I'm squeezing it in right next to "Hidden Game".
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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. . . .
on September 24, 2012
Let me start off by saying the book has very interesting information. However, the publishing part of it was very poor. There are grammatical errors, typos, missing spaces, etc. I am not sure if I got a preliminary version or what but it is just awful.

The book does miss a key idea on the bunting chapter. It does not differentiate between sac bunts and bunts for base hits. Some of the information is a little redundant. I recommend "Baseball Between the Numbers" if you want to keep reading about interesting baseball stats.

Also, the information on this book is a little outdated. It would be interesting to see "The Book 2" or something with more recent numbers
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on October 1, 2008
The authors of "The Book" reveal truths of baseball derived from careful statistical analysis. The clear explanations are such that any person who can understand percentages will gain insight from the book. The conclusions (and data upon which they are based) are truly amazing. I have never read a book on baseball in this league. Every angle of the game is analyzed objectively. While it is presented such that "non-math" people can understand it, there is enough meat to the analysis that substantiate the conclusions without scaring the average reader.

My purpose in studying baseball is from a sports betting perspective. The conclusions (such as run equity and win percentages given different situations) make this book a mandatory purchase for anyone who bets on Baseball live, or conducts a very thorough analysis of moneyline prices.

There has never been a book on baseball so well written that targets all ranges of sabr-metric fans. This will teach you the subtleties in baseball that add small percentages to winning games and scoring runs. If you are a fantasy baseball player, a lot of this content is invaluable to you as well.
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on March 11, 2012
Insights on things that are often debated, but usually considered from emotion instead of the facts are plentiful. Learning things like the optimum batting order (which is different from what virtually every MLB manager does) was intriguing. However, don't buy it for Kindle. You'll want to refer to charts and highlights later, especially when watching a game. While bookmarking and highlighting is do-able on Kindle, it's cumbersome. I love my Kindle, but would rather have a printed copy next to my chair for quick reference.
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on November 1, 2006
Take it from a professional sabermetrician: this might be the best and most important single volume in our field. It's a splendid complement to Baseball Between the Numbers, addressing many of the same questions but in many cases digging deeper. The authors have impeccable reputations in the online sabermetrics community. While they can't match Bill James for wit or BP for snarkiness, the writing is clear and solid.

I don't think that any of the findings here (some of which are truly eye-opening) will end up as the very last word on the subject: but more often than not they are the latest word. And that makes the book an essential purchase for anyone serious about understanding the game of baseball.
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on August 14, 2006
A strictly Sabermetric book (the table of contents has a listing of tables and figures... there's 100+ of them in here.) The work is strong, especially the chapter on Game Theory. If you liked Baseball Between the Numbers and are hungry for more, this is a good next step. If you're already into Sabermetrics, get this one. This is a model work.
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on March 15, 2016
Great book if I may say so myself (I am one of the authors)! It's been out for almost 10 years and we still sell as many now as we did when it was first published. We appreciate all the support! Honestly, if you are interested in sabermetrics or are a hard core baseball fan and want to learn more about managerial and player strategies, or just the analysis of various aspects of the game, this and The Hidden Game of Baseball are must reads.
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on July 2, 2012
If you are a baseball junkie (check) and interested in data analysis (check) this is a GREAT book. The book walks you through the analysis of the game of baseball using various statistical methods and a recent dataset.

The writing style is a little odd (but I got used to it), but the charts are fantastic and easy to understand. The material is broken down in such a way that it is very easy to follow the logic of the authors and examines each decision a manager would have to make when managing a baseball game. Lineup, steals, bunts, and streaks are all covered.

A fun, fun book with a huge amount of insight into the game. Now I am second guessing my home team manager's line up. I could do it better, couldn't I????
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