Baseball's All-Time Best Hitters: How Statistics Can Level the Playing Field

Baseball's All-Time Best Hitters: How Statistics Can Level the Playing Field

by Michael J. Schell, Princeton Univ Pr
     
 

Tony Gwynn is the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. That's the conclusion of this engaging and provocative analysis of baseball's all-time best hitters. Michael Schell challenges the traditional list of all-time hitters, which places Ty Cobb first, Gwynn 16th, and includes just 8 players whose prime came after 1960. Schell argues that the raw batting

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Overview

Tony Gwynn is the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. That's the conclusion of this engaging and provocative analysis of baseball's all-time best hitters. Michael Schell challenges the traditional list of all-time hitters, which places Ty Cobb first, Gwynn 16th, and includes just 8 players whose prime came after 1960. Schell argues that the raw batting averages used as the list's basis should be adjusted to take into account that hitters played in different eras, with different rules, and in different ballparks. He makes those adjustments and produces a new list of the best 100 hitters that will spark debate among baseball fans and statisticians everywhere.

Schell combines the two qualifications essential for a book like this. He is a professional statistician--applying his skills to cancer research--and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball. He has wondered how to rank hitters since he was a boy growing up as a passionate Cincinnati Reds fan. Over the years, he has analyzed the most important factors, including the relative difficulty of hitting in different ballparks, the length of hitters' careers, the talent pool that players are drawn from, and changes in the game that raised or lowered major-league batting averages (the introduction of the designated hitter and changes in the height and location of the pitcher's mound, for example). Schell's study finally levels the playing field, giving new credit to hitters who played in adverse conditions and downgrading others who faced fewer obstacles. His final ranking of players differs dramatically from the traditional list. Gwynn, for example, bumps Cobb to 2nd place, Rod Carew rises from 28th to 3rd, Babe Ruth drops from 9th to 16th, and Willie Mays comes from off the list to rank 13th. Schell's list also gives relatively more credit to modern players, containing 39 whose best days were after 1960.

Using a fun, conversational style, the book presents a feast of stories and statistics about players, ballparks, and teams--all arranged so that calculations can be skipped by general readers but consulted by statisticians eager to follow Schell's methods or introduce their students to such basic concepts as mean, histogram, standard deviation, p-value, and regression. Baseball's All-Time Best Hitters will shake up how baseball fans view the greatest heroes of America's national pastime.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691004556
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
03/01/1999
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.71(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Michael Schell is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of North Carolina and Director of the Biostatistics Core Facility at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is the author of "Baseball's All-Time Best Sluggers: Adjusted Batting Performance from Strikeouts to Home Runs" (Princeton) and has published more than 100 research articles on statistics and cancer.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Technical Notes
Preface
Introduction: In the Dugout3
Pt. IThe Method13
1On Deck with the Qualifying Players15
2First Base - Adjusting for Late Career Declines29
3Second Base - Adjusting for Hitting Feasts and Famines45
4Third Base - Adjusting for League Batting Talent67
5Home - Adjusting for Ballpark103
Pt. IIThe Findings133
6The Adjusted Top 100 Hitters135
7Top Hitters by Position157
8Best Single-Season Batting Averages173
9The Ballparks185
10On Base Percentage213
11The Hall of Fame227
12Where Would the Current Stars Rank?241
Afterword: Post-Game Wrap-Up249
App. I: Abbreviations and Glossary253
App. IIRight- vs. Left-Handed Hitting257
App. IIILeague Batting Averages259
App. IVBallpark Effect Batting Averages269
App. VLeague Base on Balls Averages275
References283
Index285

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