Predictably Irrational meets Moneyball in ESPN veteran writer and statistical analyst Keith Law’s iconoclastic look at the numbers game of baseball, proving why some of the most trusted stats are surprisingly wrong, explaining what numbers actually work, and exploring what the rise of Big Data means for the future of the sport.
For decades, statistics such as batting average, saves recorded, and pitching won-lost records have been used to measure individual players’ and teams’ potential and success. But in the past fifteen years, a revolutionary new standard of measurement—sabermetrics—has been embraced by front offices in Major League Baseball and among fantasy baseball enthusiasts. But while sabermetrics is recognized as being smarter and more accurate, traditionalists, including journalists, fans, and managers, stubbornly believe that the "old" way—a combination of outdated numbers and "gut" instinct—is still the best way. Baseball, they argue, should be run by people, not by numbers.?
In this informative and provocative book, teh renowned ESPN analyst and senior baseball writer demolishes a century’s worth of accepted wisdom, making the definitive case against the long-established view. Armed with concrete examples from different eras of baseball history, logic, a little math, and lively commentary, he shows how the allegiance to these numbers—dating back to the beginning of the professional game—is firmly rooted not in accuracy or success, but in baseball’s irrational adherence to tradition.
While Law gores sacred cows, from clutch performers to RBIs to the infamous save rule, he also demystifies sabermetrics, explaining what these "new" numbers really are and why they’re vital. He also considers the game’s future, examining how teams are using Data—from PhDs to sophisticated statistical databases—to build future rosters; changes that will transform baseball and all of professional sports.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In some ways, the game of baseball is like a math problem—and Keith Law is here to solve it. In this fascinating read, the sports journalist calmly debunks some commonly accepted myths about the arithmetic behind the game, while demystifying the formulas behind the newer and more accurate statistics. Making the case against stalwart metrics like RBI, ERA, and batting average, he explains why advanced statistics (like sabermetrics) are what Major League Baseball teams are really using to evaluate players. Law brings a clear-eyed determination to his arguments, and we found him pretty persuasive! After all, nostalgia can’t override the analytical superiority of the formulas developed by Bill James and his disciples. Best of all, Law discusses all of this in language that even the most math-adverse fan can understand. Anyone who’s ever wanted a simple explanation of WAR (wins above replacement) will love it. Smart Baseball gives you all the insight you need to follow the sport in the 21st century.
Baseball is full of truisms based on statistics, and Law sets out to debunk as many of them as he can. ESPN senior baseball writer Law brilliantly dismantles some of the game's most sacred and most misleading statistics including pitcher wins and saves, RBIs, and stolen bases with a style in which smart trumps snarky. In fact, his book's title is perfect. Law writes for the seasoned and savvy baseball fan, arguing that W stats such as WOBA (weighted on-base average), WRC (weighted runs created), WPA (win probability added), and WAR (wins above replacement) help teams and analysts place a more precise value on any given player's production. Law boldly second-guesses real-game decisions made by managers and makes his case with examples that range from the sport's early days through the 2016 postseason. As a new baseball season begins, Law challenges longtime fans to think differently about a game that he says has been hindered by inefficient traditions for far too long.
Exceptional, must read.