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Book Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game by Jim Albert (2003-04-08)

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Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game by Jim Albert (2003-04-08)

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Review Text

  • By John A. Mitchell III on December 29, 2008

    For anyone who wishes to understand cause and effect in baseball, this is a very insightful book. The authors clearly and convincingly demonstrate that many of the statistical outcomes we generally attribute to a player's ability are really nothing more than random effects. For example, a player with a lifetime batting average of .300 who hits .280 during a season is said to have had an "off year." The authors show that any player who has a true batting ability to produce base hits in 30% of his at bats (i.e., a .300 hitter) can be expected to hit .280 or less or .320 or higher about one-third of the time. For someone who grew up thinking that all these year-to-year fluctuations were the result of "good years" and "bad years," the very significant impact of randomness came as a rude awakening! But for the serious student of the game, this is a critically important insight.Similarly, the authors show that a team's win-loss record during any single season may not reflect the team's real ability. Again, in 162 game season, randomness rears its head. It is not that uncommon for a team to win 12 to 15 games less (or more) than its underlying talent would suggest.As we reduce the number of games in a series (for example, consider the typical best-of-seven post-season playoff format), the effects of randomness are greatly magnified. Thus it is not at all uncommon for the best major league team in any season to fail to win the World Series."Curve Ball" is well written, and the authors do a good job of explaining the statistical models they employ. I often find myself returning to this book to refresh my understanding of baseball probabilities.The one deficiency that bothers me most is the lack of a subject index. Thus the reader is forced to thumb through the book to locate some particular topic of interest. But even so, this is an excellent book that belongs in any good baseball library.

  • By mrliteral on June 3, 2002

    More than any other sport, baseball is a game of statistics. This book goes behind the numbers and looks at where the true patterns are and where the seeming patterns are just the result of chance.As an example, the book discusses how, in general, hitting is not affected by night play or day play; on the other hand, there is an effect for facing a right-hander versus a southpaw, based on the side of the plate you are on.Generally well-written, this book only sometimes gets bogged down in statistical calculations and is generally accessible to the nonmathematician. The main flaw in the book is its emphasis on hitting and the relative lack of writing on pitching. While there is plenty of discussion on the value of batting average, slugging percentage or on-base percentage in determining runs scored, there is no similar discussion on ERA or strikeouts and its impact on wins.The other problem I find with the book is it removes some of the mystique of the game. It's sometimes more fun not to overanalyze things; it's kind of like watching a magic show; if you understand what's happening, you feel smarter but some of the pleasure has gone away. Which is not to say that I'm not going to continue enjoying baseball, but I will look at the game with more scrutiny when it comes to all the statistics that are cited.

  • By D. G. Hulan on July 31, 2006

    I enjoyed this book a lot, but it's definitely for people who are serious about the use of statistics, not for fans looking to settle arguments about "who was better." You don't have to be a statistician, but you need to have some understanding of the basis of the math of statistics to understand this book.

  • By James Braswell on June 2, 2014

    Excellent book on the role of chance and probability theory as reflected by baseball statistics and also individual and team play. Written for the baseball fan who does not need a degree in higher mathematics.

  • By mrliteral on June 3, 2002

    More than any other sport, baseball is a game of statistics. This book goes behind the numbers and looks at where the true patterns are and where the seeming patterns are just the result of chance.As an example, the book discusses how, in general, hitting is not affected by night play or day play; on the other hand, there is an effect for facing a right-hander versus a southpaw, based on the side of the plate you are on.Generally well-written, this book only sometimes gets bogged down in statistical calculations and is generally accessible to the nonmathematician. The main flaw in the book is its emphasis on hitting and the relative lack of writing on pitching. While there is plenty of discussion on the value of batting average, slugging percentage or on-base percentage in determining runs scored, there is no similar discussion on ERA or strikeouts and its impact on wins.The other problem I find with the book is it removes some of the mystique of the game. It's sometimes more fun not to overanalyze things; it's kind of like watching a magic show; if you understand what's happening, you feel smarter but some of the pleasure has gone away. Which is not to say that I'm not going to continue enjoying baseball, but I will look at the game with more scrutiny when it comes to all the statistics that are cited.

  • By average on September 2, 2007

    A look at baseball from a sports statistics and published mathematical analysis front. Interesting, but not as ground breaking as some of the amateur non university researchers came up with not too much later. A bit of an overview.


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