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Paperback Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know about the Game Is Wrong Book

ISBN: 0465005470

ISBN13: 9780465005475

Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know about the Game Is Wrong

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

In the numbers-obsessed sport of baseball, statistics don't merely record what players, managers, and owners have done. Properly understood, they can tell us how the teams we root for could employ... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

very interesting

great book. interesting stuff. if you're a fan of baseball you should read this book. you'll learn a lot from it.

Numbers compiled correctly don't lie

How can some teams spend a ton of money for a cellar-dwelling result? How do other teams build a thrifty team and manage to thrive? Some of these answers appear in Baseball Between the Numbers, which contains a compilation of studies regarding different game facets. There are chapters devoted to relief pitchers ("Are Teams Letting Their Closers Go to Waste?"), managers ("Is Joe Torre a Hall of Fame Manager?"), situational hitting ("When Is One Run Worth More Than Two?"), high school draft picks ("What Happened to Todd Van Poppel?") and many more. As a lifelong baseball enthusiast, I thought the book was a great look at some of the more intriguing items that happen inside and outside a game. The novel is chocked with stats, so if you are into that sort of thing, you'll get the maximum out of it. However, you don't need to be a math genius to enjoy the book ... you need to be only a baseball fan.


Excellent stuff to really make you think about baseball and commonly held misconceptions. I'm not a math/stat guy and this made my hair hurt it was so complicated.

A new way to look at old strategies

I've watched baseball since I was a kid 40 years ago. I'd heard of Bill James and kind of knew about saberemetrics, but had never taken the time to learn anything about the new numbers. This book was a great introduction. The concepts are explained well, and all are tied to real world examples I could understand so it wasn't like reading a statistical treatise. Some of the concepts confirmed things I already knew, like how silly it is to rely on batting averages. Then there were other topics, like why it's not always a good idea to bunt that I had heard other people espouse, but conflicted with my traditional baseball thinking. After reading the chapter on it, I'm convinced. Finally, one of the things I most enjoyed about the book was the many ways they compared current stars to former stars and current teams to past teams. That's one of the richest areas of baseball debate, and it's always been totally subjective. And it gets a little stranger when people arguing for the 1930s Yankees are two generations removed from ever seeing them play. But the authors lay out very reasonable statistical measures of how to compare players and teams across time. It certainly won't end debate--this is baseball we're talking about. But it adds a splendid new dimension.

The Numbers of the Game

Probably more than any other sport, baseball makes use of statistics. We see this with every baseball game on TV: not just the basic stats like batting average and home runs, but more detailed information like how well a particular batter does against a particular pitcher. The statistics on TV or in the newspaper, however, only scratch the surface. Baseball Between the Numbers provides a much more in depth look at the numbers behind the game and how to analyze them. This process involves two parts. First, there is a look at the popular statistics to see how well they really track a player performance and contribution to the team. Batting average, for example, is not a really good indicator of performance; slugging percentage and on-base percentage provide a better reading. There is also a look at certain beliefs in baseball - such as the existence of clutch hitters - and whether they are based in reality or more of a myth. The second part of this statistical analysis is coming up with new stats to provide more information. There are a lot of these, but the one that seems emphasized the most is VORP, Value over Replacement Player. In simple terms, VORP gives the value of a player compared to a replacement player of minimal major league skills (like a 0.200 batting average). If a player gets 200 hits in a year, he does not really contribute 200 hits to his team; instead, he contributes only the difference between his hit total and that of the replacement player; if this value is 110, then the player contributes 90 hits. The purpose of all this analysis is two-fold. For one thing, it helps evaluate the potentials of players, so it is useful from a scouting perspective. It is also good for comparing players who played in different time periods. The introduction of the book gives a good example as it tries to show who the better player is, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds. Superficially, some stats favor Ruth (such as batting average) while others favor Bonds (such as steals). But for any comparison to be legitimate, many other things need to be taken into account, particularly with the environment that the two played in; for example, Ruth played in a "whites-only" era that excluded many great players of other races. The more elaborate statistics take these differences into account; this particular analysis favors Ruth slightly, primarily because of his contributions as a pitcher. To some extent, this book covers some of the same ground as a book I read a couple years back called Curve Ball, but it also offers a lot of new stuff too. The principal flaw with the book seems to be inadequate editing, leading to a lot of redundancies between chapters (which are written by different people); hence, we get the same explanation for what a statistic means over and over again. In addition, considering its importance to the game, pitching is underrepresented in the book; although covered, the primary emphasis is on batting. Other topics covered
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