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Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (and It's Not the Way You Think) Hardcover – February 1, 2006

2.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"We’re all winners, as Dayn Perry serves as our trusted guide on this idiosyncratic but profoundly informative walking tour of the great teams and players of the last few decades."
--Rob Neyer, ESPN.com

"Dayn Perry's really got something here. Part history, part handbook, Winners is an essential read for anyone trying to understand how great teams get that way."
--Joe Sheehan, BaseballProspetus.com

"We look at baseball from so many angles today that we too often forget the point is not to look at the game from an interesting view for its own sake, but to learn how it works, in the service of learning why teams win. Any fan who wants to know will find their answers in this book."
--Tim Marchman, baseball columnist, The New York Sun

"Dayn Perry crafts a lively narrative that blends astute analysis with clever storytelling. He gets to the bottom of what makes a great team tick."
--Kevin Towers, General Manager and Executive Vice President, San Diego Padres

From the Inside Flap

In this raucous, entertaining, and sure-to-be-controversial guide for the dedicated fan and unpaid organizational watchdog, Baseball Prospectus columnist Dayn Perry dives deep into the stats and comes up with some mind-blowing answers to the most important question in baseball: How do winners win?

Analyzing records, lineups, defense, and pitching staffs of the 124 teams that made it to the playoffs between 1980 and 2003, Perry separates baseball myth from hardball reality, slays some sacred cows, and gives you new, more accurate ways to analyze both individual and team performance.

You'll discover why stats like batting average, RBI, and even OBP don't tell you what you really need to know about a hitter's contribution to the team; why that much ballyhooed trading-deadline pickup probably won't help your team move up in this year's standings; and why you need only one certified ace in the rotation to make it into the post season. You'll also find out why:

  • A huge payroll doesn't guarantee success (but it helps)
  • Slugging percentage is a hitter's most important traditional stat
  • There's no such thing as a player who "knows how to win"
  • Middle relievers are typically the most important people in the bullpen
  • Speed helps, stealing bases doesn't

Perry backs up every one of his brash claims with solid statistical evidence. He illustrates each point with colorful, engaging stories about some of the most successful teams and admired players of the last quarter century, from dynasties like the Braves and the Yankees to one-season wonders like the '87 Tigers and the '01 Diamondbacks. He shows you how to identify the young players most likely to have long and successful careers; analyzes the achievements of such greats as George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Pedro Martinez, and Barry Bonds; and reveals how one of the greatest teams of all time managed an eleven-year winning spree using ten (count 'em—ten!) different closers.

Whether you're buttonholing the GM, dialing your local sports call-in show, or commiserating with your buddies as the local nine go down in flames yet again, Winners gives you a leg up in every baseball argument. Maybe your team still can't win—but you can!


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471721743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471721741
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,252,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Weinstein on March 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I love Baseball Prospectus. I read it every day, including Dayn Perry's occasional columns. Bill James' Historical Abstract was my bedtime reading for about six months straight. I have my college degree in applied math and I love baseball stats, but also love baseball storytelling as in classics like The Glory of Their Times. I ought to be the demographic for this book. Unfortunately, it's just not very good. It reads something like this:

"According to Prospectus data, 70.2% of teams making the playoffs were in the top decile in MUS [made-up stat], but only 69.4% of playoff teams were in the top decile in MUSr. Thus MUS is clearly more crucial to success. Here's a list of the top 10 teams all-time in park- and season-adjusted MUS. As you can see, the '85 Blue Sox top both lists. Pinocchio Gippetto starred for the Sox as the one-legged, left-handed half of a DH platoon. Despite limited playing time, he ranked 8th in MUS for the season. [4-page digression on Gippetto's upbringing with the Sicilian mafia, his quirky batting stance, and his eventual pixie stick addiction and downfall. Gippetto is not referenced for the rest of the book.] Despite the new conventional wisdom, espoused by Billy Beane's braggadocio in Moneyball, that MUSr is paramount to playoff success, we see that MUS is a metric not to be ignored."

Perry doesn't seem to realize that spewing trivia on each team (and player) that ranks high on his considered stats doesn't amount to analysis. It's just trivia. He doesn't make arguments -- he just reports the stats where winning teams excel, but doesn't know what a significance test is (exaggerated above).

He does get off some nice one-liners, and his plain-English explanations of stats would be useful to those who don't already read Prospectus.
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Format: Hardcover
Other reviewers have said it, but it bears repeating. The book really doesn't answer How Good Teams Become Great Ones. Rather it's a list of TRENDS that good teams have in common and a series of essays about those teams, some of their players, and a number of recent statistical principles.

Much of the analysis is pretty poor and contradictory. Perry writes that ERA isn't a good measure of pitcher performance then repeatedly talks about pitchers' ERAs and their ERAs relative to league average. Why bother once you show that ERA is flawed?

I really like the statistical analysis of baseball and have read and enjoyed a number of books in this vein. If you want something along those lines, read the Baseball Prospectus or Hardball Times Annual. If you want good reading on interesting baseball questions backed up by numerical analysis, read Baseball Between the Numbers. And if you want to find out how to go from Good to Great, read Jim Collins book; it's about business not baseball but it has better scientific analysis and actually covers how "teams" IMPROVE over time.
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Format: Hardcover
Not sure that the title or subtitle of this book has anything to do with whats written inside. Instead, it each chapter begins with a listing of playoff teams who were good or bad in a particular obscure statistical area, and then goes on ad nauseaum about certain players on those teams, with no real synthesis or conclusion about what makes teams win. As a Tiger fan, I enjoyed reading about Chet Lemon, Darrell Evans, and Willie Hernandez. However, if I was an aspiring GM, looking for advice on how to build my team into a winner, this book would not help much (which is what it purports to try to do).
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Format: Hardcover
Let me start by saying that for almost any baseball fan, this book comes off as an interesting read. But the Pinocchio Gepetto reviewer said it best--trivia, not analysis.

I'd like to add that at no point does Perry actually either (a) define what is a "great" team (not to mention a "good" team) and (b) uses some needless or unsubstantiated invective in taking pot shots at certain players' ability or even character (if you're not going to say why you think Nolan Ryan is highly overrated then don't mention it - twice!).

What I was expecting from the front cover and from flipping through the chapters (each chapter is titled after a putative role on a 'winning' team--The Slugger, The Glove Man, The Speedster, etc.) was a sober analysis of winning elements of teams that have risen above their milieu. I even expected some controversial claims (as the cover says, "It's not what you think"). Instead, as Gepetto indicates, the book is just a collection of lists of characteristics of all 124 that have made the playoffs from 1980-2003. So what? They have about as much in common as the next best 124 teams that didn't make the playoffs, which is to say, not a whole lot. He would treat the 1984 Tigers and the 2005 Padres, for example, as equally 'great.'

Finally, as a sour Yankee fan, I ask, how can a book purport to answer the question of how winning teams win when and feature an entire chapter deriding the stolen base without even MENTIONING Dave Roberts' game- and series-turning steal against the Yanks and Mariano Rivera in the 2004 ALCS? I don't care if the stolen base only adds 3.6 runs to a team's total during the season...selectively applied, has it been or could it be a strategically useful device for a winning team? Perry never even approaches that kind of analysis.

Good read, but not worthy of the sabermetrics pantheon.
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