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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.
"...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!" — Baseballnotebook.com
"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)
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
Posted April 14, 2009
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