Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 93%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (35) from $1.99   
  • New (15) from $6.99   
  • Used (20) from $1.99   


To real baseball fans, statistics are indispensable, and inextricably tied to understanding and enjoying the game. But how useful are ordinary baseball stats as tools for evaluating a player, choosing a strategy, or predicting a winner? In this lively and thought-provoking look at the numbers and the game, Jim Albert and Jay Bennett examine just what we learn, and just what we think we learn, from baseball statistics. The authors consider the key questions every serious fan obsesses about: What is the best way to rate a great hitter? Is there really a fair way to name an MVP? Does anyone have a reasonably accurate way to predict the outcome of a game? How likely is it that some of the game's milestone achievements (e.g., Mark McGuire's single-season home run record) will be broken? By incorporating the seldom-used statistical techniques of probability, the authors come to some original and surprising conclusions: It turns out, for example, that the phenomenon of "streakiness" (a hot hand, a hot bat) is measurable and can serve as a very useful predictor of performance. Conversely, they find that a lot of situational statistics (home versus away games, play on artificial turf versus grass) are, statistically speaking, little more than "noise." And, in news that will bring consolation to Cubs and Red Sox fans, they declare that it's not always the best team that wins the World Series. Keeping the mathematics at an accessible level, Albert and Bennett show that statistics is not just a powerful tool of analysis and prediction, but a pleasurable and informative pastime in its own right. Jim Albert is Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Bowling Green State University. He currently chairs the Sports Section of the American Statistical Association. Jay Bennett is a Senior Scientist with Telcordia Technologies and editor of Statistics in Sport (1999). His views on baseball statistics have appeared in USA Today, Time, and Omni.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
Smart and energetic . . . hardcore fans will find its mission refreshing. Curve Ball doesn't pay the usual misty-eyed homage to baseball's traditions and conventional wisdom. Rather it tests whether baseball's accepted measurements stand up to scrutiny. . . . This is great stuff. . . . Curve Ball makes clear how pleasurable [stats] can be, and arguably how important, to view the great American game with real precision.
Science News
Two mathematicians with a passion for America's national pastime help their fellow baseball and numbers fans look anew at the statistics that proliferate in the sport. Most sports statistics are nothing more than data, say Albert and Bennett. They go a step further by applying statistical models to the numbers to reveal hidden truths. Readers begin with a primer on data analysis as they consider tabletop baseball games. Then the authors delve into batting statistics, examining the notion of streaks, situational effects, and new measures of performance. Finally, they look at the ways that statistical models -- and chance -- can predict individuals' performances and teams' wins. All this offers readers an interesting way to learn the basic concepts of the often-daunting field of statistics.
Sci-Tech Book News
Two statisticians and baseball fans advocate a fresh approach to statistics that permits baseball enthusiasts to increase their understanding of baseball numbers and further appreciate the game. Some of the themes explored include situational statistics, the phenomenon of 'streaks,' or alternatives to traditional measures such as the time-honored batting average.
"Numbers add to the beauty of baseball . . . Baseball is a lovely dance of numbers . . . [Jim Albert and Jay Bennett] have taken the sport's statistical bent to a new extreme . . . CURVE BALL is a study in how the game is wonderfully prone to numerical study. . . . for numerical loyalists, this book delivers a new degree of bliss."
Library Journal
Baseball is a fascinating game for the statistical analyst. On the surface it appears so simple and limited. But the more closely one studies the game, the more, it seems, there is to know. The coauthors are both former chairs of the American Statistical Association Section on Statistics in Sports and fans of the Philadelphia Phillies. Though there are many other books about baseball statistics, these authors are particularly sophisticated statisticians. As they illuminate baseball, they demonstrate the power of college-level statistics to interpret the numbers. Starting with simplified board game simulations, the authors show how to model player performance or predict game outcomes. Then they use actual statistics to make the models more complex and true to life. Part of the fun is that statistical results can be counterintuitive. Does the best team always win the World Series? Not necessarily. No matter how talented other teams are, the element of chance means that Phillies fans can still hope for victory. Recommended for public and academic libraries, especially in cities with a major league baseball team. Amy Brunvand, Univ. of Utah Lib., Salt Lake City Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Two statisticians and baseball fans advocate a fresh approach to statistics that permits baseball enthusiasts to increase their understanding of baseball numbers and further appreciate the game. Some of the themes explored include situational statistics, the phenomenon of "streaks," or alternatives to traditional measures such as the time-honored batting average. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
From the reviews:

"...a most interesting and useful introduction to the subject. It should make enjoyable reading for physicists who are also baseball fans, and it ought to be required reading for baseball managers, executives, and commentators." PHYSICS TODAY

"...a smart and energetic collection of essays on baseball statistics. Curve Ball doesn't play misty-eyed homage to baseball's traditions and conventional wisdoms....This is great stuff....Curve Ball makes clear how pleasurable [stats] can be, and arguably how important, to view the great American game with real precision." — The Wall Street Journal

"Rating: 4.5 out of 5. Must own!" —

"In [Curve Ball] Albert & Bennett explain the game in ways the conventional press - even titans such as Bill James - cannot." — Baseball America

"[The book] illustrates how statistical reasoning can be useful in teasing out the role of chance from performance in baseball to better assess ability....Curve Ball represents another advance in the genre of baseball and statistics books." — Journal of the American Statistical Association

"This is a very good, fun and highly interesting book, applying some straightforward, and some more difficult, statistical estimation and modeling concepts to baseball. … I am a statistician, and mostly Bayesian at that, and this definitely enhanced my interest and enjoyment of the book. … Initially this book starts out as a sneaky introduction to statistics and Bayesian concepts, however, it turns into a delight for sports fans and statisticians alike. Highly recommended … ." (Richard Gerlach, Gazette, Vol. 31 (5), 2004)

"This book treats a wide variety of topics, including: comparing measures of batting ability; the impact of situation on performance; streaks; measuring a player’s clutch performance; and did the best team win the World Series. This book has the appealing quality that you can start reading at almost any chapter and enjoy and understand the journey. And for those of us who are not statisticians by training, we can also learn some statistics." (Zentralblatt für Didaktik der Mathematik, September, 2003)

"Curve Ball … is a necessary addition to any library. … Written for all followers of baseball, this book caters to those who find joy in reading (and if you are like me, memorizing) the statistics on the backs of baseball cards or who played baseball simulation games … . For readers possessing no knowledge of statistics, this book is a great way of learning how to view and interpret data from a statistician’s standpoint. Readers with statistics backgrounds will enjoy the book … ." (Jonathan L. Templin, Chance, Vol. 15 (4), 2002)

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780387988160
  • Publisher: Springer New York
  • Publication date: 6/8/2001
  • Edition description: 2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 0.94 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface to the Paperback Edition; Introduction; Ch01: Simple Models from Tabletop Baseball Games; Ch02: Exploring Baseball Data; Ch03: Introducing Probability; Ch04: Situational Effects; Ch05: Streakiness (Or, The Hot Hand); Ch06: Measuring Offensive Performance; Ch07: Average Runs per Play; Ch08: The Curvature of Baseball; Ch09: Making Sense of Baseball Strategy; Ch10: Measuring Clutch Play; Ch11: Prediction; Ch12: Did the Best Team Win?; Ch13: Post-Game Comments (A Brief Afterword); Appendix: Baseball Games; Glossary; Bibliography; Index

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)