The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics [NOOK Book]


Most baseball fans, players and even team executives assume that the National Pastime's infatuation with statistics is simply a byproduct of the information age, a phenomenon that blossomed only after the arrival of Bill James and computers in the 1980s. They couldn't be more wrong.

In this unprecedented new book, Alan Schwarz - whom bestselling Moneyball author Michael Lewis calls "one of today's best baseball journalists" - provides the ...
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The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics

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Most baseball fans, players and even team executives assume that the National Pastime's infatuation with statistics is simply a byproduct of the information age, a phenomenon that blossomed only after the arrival of Bill James and computers in the 1980s. They couldn't be more wrong.

In this unprecedented new book, Alan Schwarz - whom bestselling Moneyball author Michael Lewis calls "one of today's best baseball journalists" - provides the first-ever history of baseball statistics, showing how baseball and its numbers have been inseparable ever since the pastime's birth in 1845. He tells the history of this obsession through the lives of the people who felt it most: Henry Chadwick, the 19th-century writer who invented the first box score and harped endlessly about which statistics mattered and which did not; Allan Roth, Branch Rickey's right-hand numbers man with the late-1940s Brooklyn Dodgers; Earnshaw Cook, a scientist and Manhattan Project veteran who retired to pursue inventing the perfect baseball statistic; John Dewan, a former Strat-O-Matic maven who built STATS Inc. into a multimillion-dollar powerhouse for statistics over the Internet; and dozens more.

Almost every baseball fan for 150 years has been drawn to the game by its statistics, whether through newspaper box scores, the backs of Topps baseball cards, The Baseball Encyclopedia, or fantasy leagues. Today's most ardent stat scientists, known as "sabermetricians," spend hundreds of hours coming up with new ways to capture the game in numbers, and engage in holy wars over which statistics are best. Some of these men - and women -- are even being hired by major league teams to bring an understanding of statistics to a sport that for so long shunned it.

Taken together, Schwarz paints a history not just of baseball statistics, but of the soul of the sport itself. The Numbers Game will be an invaluable part of any fan's library and go down as one of the sport's classic books.

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Editorial Reviews

George F. Will
… if you do not even know who A-Rod is, you will still enjoy the story of baseball's progress to today's information abundance as it is told by Alan Schwarz, a senior writer for Baseball America, in The Numbers Game. Its lessons extend beyond baseball to politics and much else. It is an Information Age story about how new abilities to measure things beget new behaviors. The evolution of that cornucopia of information from its birth in 1845 to today's iterations is, in Schwarz's lively telling, a history of the game's path to the present.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Sports journalist Schwarz brings to the fore this intelligent, smartly researched and often hilarious look at the use of statistics in baseball, which Schwarz definitively shows to "date back to the game's earliest days in the 19th century." It will delight any fan who memorizes the numbers on the back of trading cards or pores over newspaper box scores. The book's success is rooted in its focus on the people "obsessed with baseball's statistics ever since the box score started it all in 1845," rather than being about the statistics themselves. The reader is presented with enthusiastic but unvarnished looks at such key figures as Henry Chadwick, whose love for numbers led to his inventing the box score grid that remains, Schwarz shows, "virtually unchanged to this day"; Allan Roth, the numbers man hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers who was as important to the team's success as its famed GM Branch Rickey; and the all-but-forgotten work of George Lindsey, one of the first people to apply statistical analysis to weigh various baseball strategies. Delivered in a delightfully breezy and confident style, this volume also serves as an excellent alternate or parallel history of the sport, as we see how the statistics influenced the game itself-such as the banning of the spitball-as much as they were used to detail individual games. Agent, Esther Newberg. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Beyond even the pleasure of a big win for the home team, what baseball fans really enjoy is debating the relative merits of players, and that comes down to statistics. Schwarz, a writer for and Baseball America, gives us not statistics themselves but their historical progression to the center of the game. He shows their evolution from a time when about the only thing fans could find out about their favorite batters was how many times they appeared at the plate and how many runs they scored, to the computer-enhanced age when we can discuss a hitter's OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and a pitcher's "true" value based on his SNWL (Support Neutral Win-Loss). Along the way, the author introduces the men who steadily refined the state of the art of baseball statistics, the teams who first began using statistics other than mere ERA and batting average to make personnel decisions, and the controversies begat by the march of statistics (Is on-base percentage more important than batting average? Is clutch hitting merely a function of chance?). Casual fans will almost certainly find something here to pique their interest, while raving statistics buffs will devour it. Recommended for most medium to large public libraries.-Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"One of the most engrossing histories of baseball ever."
--From the Foreword by Peter Gammons

"A romp . . . Schwarz merrily keeps ratcheting up the book's wows-per-page average."
--The Washington Post

"The pastime behind the national pastime . . . a very human look at generations of baseball fanatics."
--The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A riveting history of the search for new baseball knowledge."
--Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball

"The language of baseball is statistics, and Alan Schwarz gives us an unprecedented look at one of the world's great romance languages. Schwarz deftly illuminates the history and relevance of baseball statistics and is at the tops of his game introducing the people behind the numbers."
--Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

"Alan Schwarz makes statistics as interesting as games and the people who play them. Who knew that numbers could have such personality?"
--Sally Jenkins, author of Funny Cide and the bestselling It's Not About the Bike

"One of the very best baseball journalists working today, (Schwarz) has written a wonderful history that will appeal even to those with no particular interest in the game . . . Remarkable."
--The New York Observer

"An enormously entertaining and engrossing book that should be read by everyone."
--The Seattle Times

"An essential book for any baseball library, one that simultaneously makes for breezy reading and holds up as an essential piece of research."
--The Chicago Sports Review

"What sounds potentially dry -- a stat freak family tree -- is instead a lush landscape of eccentric scientists, pack-rat alcoholics, back-stabbing partners and a minimum-wage night watchman whose essays created a sensation (perhaps you've heard of Bill James)."
--The San Jose Mercury News

"Reads like a whodunit . . . with a season-full of heretofore under-reported facts, nuances and stories."
--Long Beach Press-Telegram

"Intelligent, smartly researched and often hilarious."
--Publishers Weekly

"Alan Schwarz turns the numbers of baseball into musical notes. He makes you understand them, he makes you care about them, and in the end, he makes you share his passion for them."
--Mike Lupica, New York Daily News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466856080
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/29/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 797,364
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Alan Schwarz is an investigative reporter for The New York Times and the author of The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics and Once Upon a Game: Baseball's Greatest Memories.

He was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for his reporting on the effect of concussions in sports, which was credited with improving safety policies both among athletes and the military.

Before joining the Times in 2007, Schwarz was known primarily as the Senior Writer of Baseball America magazine, a columnist for and a frequent contributor to dozens of national publications.

Read other articles by Alan Schwarz.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Introduction xiii
1 Bless Them, Father 1
2 The Second Generation 22
3 The Sultans of Stats 43
4 Darwins of the Diamond 67
5 Big Mac 92
6 Bill James 111
7 From Field to Front Office 133
8 All the Record Books Are Wrong 155
9 The Arms Dealer Goes to War 173
10 Luck and Where to Find It 195
11 The March of On-Base Percentage 215
12 In God We Trust; All Others Must Have Data 234
Acknowledgments 255
Index 257
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