Wizardry: Baseball's All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed

Wizardry: Baseball's All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed

by Michael Humphreys
     
 

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The systematic analysis of baseball statistics, often called "sabermetrics," has evolved in recent years to resemble something of a science, attracting fans from diverse professional and educational backgrounds, all fascinated by the analysis itself and its insights into the game. But one problem has defied solution: estimating runs saved by fielders… See more details below

Overview


The systematic analysis of baseball statistics, often called "sabermetrics," has evolved in recent years to resemble something of a science, attracting fans from diverse professional and educational backgrounds, all fascinated by the analysis itself and its insights into the game. But one problem has defied solution: estimating runs saved by fielders throughout history. Traditional statistics include errors and plays made, but not hits that could or should have been prevented. The latter can now be estimated using records of the location of every batted ball, but the underlying data exists only for recent seasons and has generally been withheld from the public.

Now, in Wizardry, comes the long-awaited breakthrough. Drawing solely on freely available baseball statistics, Michael A. Humphreys shows how to apply classic statistical methods to estimate runs saved by fielders going back to 1893. Humphreys tests his results against other fielding measures, including published ratings based on proprietary batted ball location data, and explains their respective strengths and limitations. He also introduces a method for adjusting historical player ratings for increased competition due to population growth, integration, and international recruitment. Position by position, Humphreys identifies and profiles the greatest fielders of all time with anecdote-rich essays.

Sabermetrics changed baseball and introduced a generation to the art of statistical inference. Wizardry makes the case for the most significant changes in historical player valuation in decades, while opening up new approaches for further exploration.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The book of the season . . . comes from Michael Humphreys . . . who has spent years meticulously extracting reads on historical defensive performance from the flawed and fragmentary numbers we have to go by, and he now offers the definitive work on the subject . . . A careful, thoughtful system that will make you appreciate all the more the genius of the late Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon or the peripatetic and vastly underrated outfielder Kenny Lofton . . . A representation of the future of statistical sabermetrics, which in years to come is quite likely to become more focused less on telling the future than on wresting meaning out of the past." -- Tim Marchman, The Wall Street Journal

"Excellent." -- David Schoenfeld, ESPN ("Sweet Spot" blog)

"Humphreys writes capably and makes the math-heavy parts as readable as anyone could. The outcome should attract all dedicated baseball fans and stat hounds." -- Library Journal

"Michael Humphreys does for fielding what Neil deGrasse Tyson does for astrophysics: he takes an incredibly complex subject and makes a reader who once felt dumb feel smart. He has cut through the cloud of my unknowing and helped me to understand what major league fielding really is and how it can be quantified. Wizardry is the best book yet on the subject." -- Allen Barra, writer for The Wall Street Journal

"Fielding is the hardest aspect of baseball in which to rate performance. In his fascinating book, Michael Humphreys should get the Gold Glove for historical fielding evaluation. With carefully derived formulae, he rates Aaron, Clemente, Gordon and Hooper as saving 100+ runs more than does Total Baseball, while Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith saved their teams over 100 fewer. And that's just among Hall of Famers! Taken seriously, as it should be, this book will substantially shake up our all-around rankings of players." -- Michael J. Schell, Moffitt Cancer Center, author of Baseball's All-Time Best Hitters and Baseball's All-Time Best Sluggers

"Wizardry is a very engaging book. Out of all of the modern methods of evaluating fielding, [the method introduced in Wizardry, DRA,] is the one method where readers can duplicate the results. The defensive runs produced by DRA match up well with [published defensive runs estimates based on proprietary data]. While all of these defensive metrics can vary widely from season to season, they have their biggest impact when evaluating a player's defensive career. In a perfect world, the gatekeepers to the Hall of Fame will start to rely on defensive metrics such as DRA, rather than how many Gold Gloves a player won, to assess a player's defensive contributions on the field."--Philip A. Yates, The American Statistician

Library Journal
Humphreys takes a detailed look at the defensive baseball statistic he developed, which he calls Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA), designed to indicate how many runs a fielder saved from crossing the plate. Because his system uses existing statistics, RDA can be applied to players past and present. Humphreys skillfully reviews the best players at each position throughout baseball history (e.g., he rates Mark Belanger as best defensive shortstop according to DRA). It would have been helpful if he had included some average defensive statistics in his charts as a basis for comparison. The author also examines research done by other statisticians in analyzing players defensively while bringing up issues that affected how specific players performed. Humphreys writes capably and makes the math-heavy parts as readable as anyone could. The outcome should attract all dedicated baseball fans and stat hounds.—R.L.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195397765
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
03/30/2011
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

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