"[Law] is as cocky-confident in his analysis as the title suggests. But he backs it up not just with numbers but his experience in the game...His charting of the ways baseball uses metrics...is clear-eyed and, even for traditionalists, hard to argue with." --Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "In Smart Baseball, Keith Law deftly answers everything you always wanted to know about sabermetrics but were too afraid to ask. Its final three chapters probably each deserve their own books, and hopefully Law will oblige. I will think of Joey Bagodonuts often." ---- Molly Knight, author of New York Times Bestseller The Best Team Money Can Buy "[Law] shatters myths about how to accurately measure a baseball player's ability and then explains modern criteria that offer better results...provides a spirited exploration of statistics sure to start arguments among devoted baseball fans... a smooth combination of erudition and his obvious love of the sport."--Kirkus Reviews "In mercifully plain English, Law explains how the new statistical tools can answer questions that previously baffled baseball experts. A must-read for everyone who brings a curious head as well as an impassioned heart to the ballpark."--Booklist "Law brilliantly dismantles some of the game's most sacred and most misleading statistics...with a style in which smart trumps snarky...Law challenges longtime fans to think differently about a game that he says has been hindered by inefficient traditions for far too long.'--Publishers Weekly "Law's background as an analyst gives him the knowledge and experience to put these different statistics in perspective...If you're unsure of the way the new statistics operate, or wonder why the old approaches are being disparaged, this book is for you."--Library Journal "Mr. Law's book will increase any fan's enjoyment of the sport."--Wall Street Journal "Smart Baseball can help any baseball follower evolve along with the game. It provides an insightful and thorough look at how this great game is being viewed now and into the future. Definitely a great read for anyone who loves baseball."----A.J. Hinch, manager, Houston Astros "Smart Baseball is an engaging account of the evolution of baseball metrics...His experience and insight make him uniquely qualified to answer the driving question in MLB today: how best to account for everything that happens on the field. This look is a must-read for the serious fan."----Billy Beane, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Oakland A's "Keith Law is one of the best baseball minds on the planet."---- Will Leitch, Sports on Earth. For the past fifteen years, many baseball fans, writers, and commentators have remained mired in the muck of old statistics—baseball card numbers such as batting average, saves recorded, and a pitcher’s won-lost record—while newer, smarter, and at times counterintuitive baseball stats known as sabermetrics have become commonplace throughout Major League Baseball. Yet, despite their popularity, confusion persists about these new stats, with much of the baseball world still following the “old” way—a combination of those outdated numbers and gut instinct—to evaluate players’ contributions and careers. Baseball, they argue, should be run by people, not by numbers.ESPN senior baseball writer Keith Law disagrees. In this provocative book, the outspoken Law takes on the established view of baseball stats, undermining over a century’s worth of baseball dogma. With many of these numbers dating back to the beginning of the game, he examines how allegiance to these old stats is firmly rooted not in the modern game as it’s played, but in baseball’s irrational adherence to tradition. Law also offers a clear-eyed discussion of the new stats that are helping teams win, changing how players are valued, and altering how we talk about the game. Simplifying the math that has gotten in the way for many curious fans, he provides understandable explanations of what these numbers measure and why they work better. The end result is the essential baseball book for the modern baseball era, revealing what the rise of Big Data really means for the sport.. Keith Law is a senior baseball writer at The Athletic, and before joining The Athletic, he was a senior baseball writer for ESPN Insider. Previously he was also special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, handling all statistical analysis, and he wrote for Baseball Prospectus. He lives in Delaware.. Predictably Irrational meets Moneyball in ESPN veteran writer and statistical analyst Keith Law’s iconoclastic look at the numbers game of baseball, proving why some of the most trusted stats are surprisingly wrong, explaining what numbers actually work, and exploring what the rise of Big Data means for the future of the sport.For decades, statistics such as batting average, saves recorded, and pitching won-lost records have been used to measure individual players’ and teams’ potential and success. But in the past fifteen years, a revolutionary new standard of measurement—sabermetrics—has been embraced by front offices in Major League Baseball and among fantasy baseball enthusiasts. But while sabermetrics is recognized as being smarter and more accurate, traditionalists, including journalists, fans, and managers, stubbornly believe that the "old" way—a combination of outdated numbers and "gut" instinct—is still the best way. Baseball, they argue, should be run by people, not by numbers.?In this informative and provocative book, teh renowned ESPN analyst and senior baseball writer demolishes a century’s worth of accepted wisdom, making the definitive case against the long-established view. Armed with concrete examples from different eras of baseball history, logic, a little math, and lively commentary, he shows how the allegiance to these numbers—dating back to the beginning of the professional game—is firmly rooted not in accuracy or success, but in baseball’s irrational adherence to tradition. While Law gores sacred cows, from clutch performers to RBIs to the infamous save rule, he also demystifies sabermetrics, explaining what these "new" numbers really are and why they’re vital. He also considers the game’s future, examining how teams are using Data—from PhDs to sophisticated statistical databases—to build future rosters; changes that will transform baseball and all of professional sports.
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Not for the casual fan Interested in reading about Keith Law's vendetta against traditional baseball analytics? Then this book is for you! Fascinated by in depth analysis of the history behind the mathematical equations used to judge player performance? Don't miss Smart Baseball! Want to read a book with very few actual baseball anecdotes, stories, or such? You can't go wrong here! Actually, I really enjoyed the book - it is more technical than most mainstream baseball books, and doesn't have many of the stories and quips and such that make baseball so endearing. It is basically an analysis of the shift in baseball analytic processes: the first section deals with the 'outdated' stats still used today (at least by fans) - wins, RBI, AVG, saves, etc; the second section addresses the superior statistics that are replacing them (and the issues with them as well) and how they work in the practical operation of baseball, and the last section addresses how all these changes will/could/should affect baseball moving forward. As a relatively invested fan, I can't say that I learned a whole lot from the book, other than a term or backstory here and there, but I did enjoy the read. It's not a very entertaining book, and won't really affect the way you watch baseball, so if you have little desire to know what the difference is between VORP and WAR...stick to Baseball When The Grass Was Real. Oddly enough, there wasn't really enough detail to make it that fascinating even on the technical side. He explains the math behind some of the statistics and such, but it's really not about that either. I recommend it with caution!
Perfect for the intermediate fan As an intermediate baseball fan from the UK I found this fascinating as it explained the old stats (and their flaws) clearly with great examples.
Portal into the Brave New World of Baseball Stats and Analysis In recent times, there has been a battle between two camps of baseball fans: the traditionalists and the new generation of stats geeks. The former rely on the same set of statistics that they read on the back of their favorite player's baseball card as a kid, while the new generation rely on sabremetrics and big data. But as ESPN senior baseball writer Keith Law points out in his 2017 book Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, there really isn't any battle any more, as all 30 major league baseball teams now have advanced analytics departments that have long since replaced archaic stats such as pitching wins, batting average and RBIs with more modern concepts like WAR (wins above replacement) and WPA (win probability added). In this book, Law approaches the subject of how best to measure baseball talent through statistics in three parts. In the first part, he trashes many of the traditional old school baseball statistics such as batting average, pitcher's wins, runs batted in, saves and fielding percentage, making the case why each of these are based more on luck than on talent and are misleading and often meaningless. His point of view will grate on those who still believe that there's a time and a place for a well-placed bunt, a stolen base or the hit and run. In the book's second part, he looks at more relevant measurements of a player's ability, such as on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and WOBA (weighted on-base average) or its counterpart WRC (weighted runs created). He also explains that WAR is not really a statistic, but rather a concept because every team seems to have its own way of calculating how much better (or worse) a player is, compared to an average (baseline) player at that position. Law points out that many of these new-fangled statistics aren't perfect, but that modern baseball data and its analysis is nevertheless extremely valuable in measuring a player's worth, and offers a fairer means of measuring the true talent and value of former, current and future major leaguers. The third and final part of the book is especially interesting for baseball nerds, as it considers such interesting subjects as how to measure who deserves to be immortalized in baseball's Hall of fame, how scouting has changed in the era of new data, how something called Statcast has revolutionized how every big league ball team functions, and what the future holds in store for front offices as more and more data is gathered and new and innovative ways are found to analyze it. The chapter on what a scout actually does was especially interesting (it's nothing like the Clint Eastwood character in "Trouble With the Curve") as well the section on how data analysis may help players to prevent injury. For the most part, Law writes in an interesting, intellectually captivating style and is a pleasure to read. Occasionally he will regress into bouts of petulance, hurling pejoratives at those who disagree with him, and criticizing players who he views as over-rated in a disrespectful manner reminiscent of those people who write angry comments on internet message boards. Law does not suffer fools gladly and at times his writing is that of someone who wants it known that he's the smartest guy in the room. Fortunately this is usually constrained, and is eclipsed by intelligent and thoughtful writing, especially in the book's third part. This is a good book for all baseball fans, especially those who have watched the game for years, but who don't have the time to keep up with the post-Moneyball stats and analysis revolution. Law touches all the bases and his insight into the new world of baseball data analysis will be informative and interesting to all fans of the national pastime.
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