View Full Version : The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascin. w/Stats
06-28-2004, 11:49 AM
This is Alan Schwarz' book. Advance word is really good.
It may be in some bookstores now on the east coast.
Looks very good that I will be interviewing Alan, for NetShrine.com, on the book.
Any questions that you would like to submit for consideration?
06-28-2004, 12:46 PM
I would be interested in his take on "why" there is such a fascination with stats and baseball. Is it related to how long the games has held national interest ? Is it because so many of us played the game, even at the simplest levels, even just in the back yard with 3 on 3's, and now want to understand something we vcould do, but maybe just not do quite well enough ?
The fascination goes back a very long time - before the money was so extravagant, and before Rotisserie leagues were so in vogue, and before the recent explosion of detailed, sabermetric style analysis. The fascination with the numbers has been with us almost as long as the game has been.
06-28-2004, 02:17 PM
Excellent - thanks.
No more questions? :(
06-29-2004, 12:05 PM
FWIW, I'm 30 pages into this book, and LOVING IT!
Cannot read about F.C. Lane without thinking of Lee. ;)
Highly recommend it, based on what I've read so far.
No more questions for Alan?
06-29-2004, 11:55 PM
Unless he covers it in the book, what does he think about fielding stats?
06-30-2004, 07:05 AM
I'm about 1/2 done.
FWIW, It's not so much about what he (alan) thinks - it's not a book about him - but what others think. There are points where various people, like Bill James, and their fielding stat opinions are mentioned.
06-30-2004, 03:30 PM
I'm about 70% done with the book.
I can't put it down. I can't wait to finish so I can read it again.
Just as good as Moneyball, if not better.
07-01-2004, 08:01 AM
Last chance today, before 4 PM, for questions!
BTW, I finished the book last night. Read it in two days - record time for me.
I've been reading "This Ain't Brain Surgery" now for months!
HIGH RECOMMEND THE BOOK!
07-02-2004, 01:04 PM
OK, I butchered this one.
Had a great interview with Alan this AM. We talked for about 40 minutes.
When I went to the tape to start to transcribe it, I realized that I had an equipment problem.
Looks like we're going to try this again next week. So, if you have a question, there's time to post it here.
07-02-2004, 01:38 PM
I am getting concerned that statheads are almost into a fantasy version of the game that has a noticeably different value system than what the actual participants believe in.
I wonder if Alan shaes my concern on this issue.
07-02-2004, 01:51 PM
I didn't get that from the book.
If I read it right, I came away with the feeling that Alan believes in the stats as the stat heads do - no such thing as clutch players, it's all a lot of luck, etc.
07-08-2004, 12:29 PM
Good links on the book.
FWIW, Alan and I are trying the interview again tomorrow.
07-08-2004, 04:08 PM
Very interesting! Looks like another squat session at B&N is in order!
Re: stats, I share the same question as Deep Blue. I have my own thoughts on why stats matter to people (and why they have always mattered), but will save that for later.
07-08-2004, 04:10 PM
Alan offered, in the butchered interview, a good line
stats allow intellectual traction
I love that expression
07-08-2004, 04:11 PM
Great line...pretty much in line with my own thoughts, but much more succinct!
07-09-2004, 10:42 AM
Schwarz did a great chat on ESPN yesterday. I think it gives you a good insight into his ways of viewing the game.
07-09-2004, 10:59 AM
We did the interview this AM!
Should be up soon - I need to transcribe it and then get his sign-off.
You should really like this one.
07-09-2004, 11:17 AM
Well I just bought his book at Amazon. Hope NS got credit for it and the other book I bought.
07-09-2004, 11:50 AM
07-09-2004, 04:13 PM
I am enough of a stathead to have actually read Earnshaw Cook's book in the 1970s. Most of it, anyway. He kinda lost me.
Lately I've noticed statheads splitting into sort of warring factions. There was the Bill James/Elias spats in the 90s, and of course the Moneyball/Scout dispute now, but among statheads, I've recently seen a lot of sniping among researchers--specifically, a lot of carping about Baseball Prospectus. (Maybe it's because business is slow so I've had more time to troll the Internet.)
I'm wondering whether Schwarz' book is largely a narrative or whether he passes judgement on others, and if the latter, if there are any researchers that are singled out for praise or criticism.
07-09-2004, 04:32 PM
Dude - good to see you.
Agreed, BP takes a lot of heat now. I think it's because the media has appointed them the stat think tank of the internet and they are many, many more out there, not associated to BP, who do the same level work, or better - and those people are ticked that the media just wants to have BP be the king. So, they beat on BP.
Alan doesn't really pass judgement, flat out, for the most part, on anyone in the book. But, he does it, in one way - - he picks and chooses who to go into detail on.
For example, there's pages and pages on Elias. But, not some much on Howe - other than a mention that they had a service too. I think, in his way, Alan is saying that Elias was more important than Howe.
You will love this book. You were one of the first that I thought of after reading it. You should get it.
07-09-2004, 04:49 PM
Hey, good to be back, though it'll probably be a brief appearance.
I think Elias has been more significant than Howe because Elias came up with new statistics (I think LIPS is theirs, for example) that have entered the baseball lexicon. That, and they published an annual edition with research and opinions (though not as good as BP or James, IMHO). Howe has produced more statistics, but has it done as much research?
The BP thing is kind of petty. Yeah, they've got a halo, but there are baseball-oriented websites that link to other sites but not BP. I've seen some people knock them for the sin of charging for their research. Nothing wrong with capitalism, in my book. (Speaking of books, I'm currently reading one on Enron, so Schwarz will have to wait.)
07-09-2004, 05:40 PM
Enron? Which one, Hank or Tommie?
07-10-2004, 11:54 AM
Lately I've noticed statheads splitting into sort of warring factions.
I've been saying that for a while.
Other than being entrenched, which comes with all of its inherent advantages in remaining entrenched, that's one of the problems that sabermetrics has in gaining wider acceptance.
Traditional stats analysis is unified. Batting average, good. RBI, good. "Wins", good, "Saves", good.
Sabermetric is divided--
RCAA, good. No, RCAA, bad. WRAP good. No, WRAP bad, RCAA good.
Compare to league average, good. No, compare to league average, bad. Compare to replacement value, good. No, replacement value is garbage.
Win shares, good. No, win shares, bad.
I'm not saying debate is bad. But, I am saying that the lack of unity is one of the reasons why less people follow sabermetrics. Also, there is the sheep factor. It is easy for the public sheep to blindly follow a unified triple crown stats view than it is for them to have to think for themselves to decide what sabermetric camps they want to join. That's especially the case when sheep, by their very definition, aren't doing any real thinking.
07-10-2004, 02:52 PM
Sabermetrics is divided.
(OK, that's not a precise quote; I paraphrased.)
Yes, there are arguments on the periphery. But sabermetrics has put forward some irrefutable truths:
1. Fielding statistics, as they are, are misleading at best, and often irrelevant. So are observations. (Jeter's dive into the stands at the Stadium is one of the most dramatic fielding plays I've seen, but that doesn't mean he's not a butcher at short.)
2. OBP and SLG are the most important batting figures.
3. Park effects are real and important, for both hitters and pitchers.
4. RBIs and saves are often a function of opportunities rather than "clutch ability."
If every sportswriter and broadcaster could just accept those (or similar) basic truths, everyone's understanding of the game would improve. I think the arguments about RC vs. Win Shares vs. replacement value vs. OPS vs. SLOB, etc., etc., are tremendously valuable, and the kind of stuff those of us reading this care about, but it's really all at the periphery and, in my opinion, not worth fighting over. Other issues, like fielding metrics and pitcher abuse and RBI opportunities, are so nascent that nobody's close to an answer.
I don't know exactly what my point is here, except that it is sort of early in the game for people to be splitting into factions. There's still too much we don't know.
07-10-2004, 02:56 PM
PS - Back on the topic of the book - I remember reading in a SABR publication years ago an essay about BA vs. SLG. The writer said that BA is like asking someone how much change they have in their pockets, and the person responding, "Seven coins" rather than saying how much they're worth.
That was written by somebody nearly 100 years ago trying to explain why Gaavy Cravath , fer cryin' out loud, was worth more than his BA.
07-10-2004, 03:53 PM
The coins reference is also mentioned in this book a few times.
07-12-2004, 11:28 AM
Good review of the book: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1836155
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