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Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong Paperback – Feb 27 2007

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Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong + The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First + Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (Feb. 27 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465005470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465005475
  • Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 15.6 x 22.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #44,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Quinn on Oct. 13 2008
Format: Paperback
Amazingly detailed analysis! If you're a fan of sabermetrics, and the Moneyball-era, you'll love this read. Incredible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. A. I. on March 6 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Highly recommended anthology of papers written by the first generation of B-P writers. Several of the pieces in this book are now regarded as classics of the new baseball statistical analysis.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow, almost had to get back to school to read this one! Lots of mathematical explanations abouts stats and mostly new ways to look a them. I loved this book, and i'll read it one more time eventually to be sure i've got everything to know in this bible.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Old Tin Bill on July 12 2009
Format: Paperback
If you are a statistics fanatic and think like a rocket scientist then this book is for you. I am not and was completely baffled by what I thought was useless information.
The authors have done a great job of amassing everything you didn't want to know about baseball and put their own spin on it.
After reading this book you may see baseball with different eyes - good or bad.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 40 reviews
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
The Numbers of the Game June 28 2006
By mrliteral - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Probably more than any other sport, baseball makes use of statistics. We see this with every baseball game on TV: not just the basic stats like batting average and home runs, but more detailed information like how well a particular batter does against a particular pitcher. The statistics on TV or in the newspaper, however, only scratch the surface. Baseball Between the Numbers provides a much more in depth look at the numbers behind the game and how to analyze them.

This process involves two parts. First, there is a look at the popular statistics to see how well they really track a player performance and contribution to the team. Batting average, for example, is not a really good indicator of performance; slugging percentage and on-base percentage provide a better reading. There is also a look at certain beliefs in baseball - such as the existence of clutch hitters - and whether they are based in reality or more of a myth.

The second part of this statistical analysis is coming up with new stats to provide more information. There are a lot of these, but the one that seems emphasized the most is VORP, Value over Replacement Player. In simple terms, VORP gives the value of a player compared to a replacement player of minimal major league skills (like a 0.200 batting average). If a player gets 200 hits in a year, he does not really contribute 200 hits to his team; instead, he contributes only the difference between his hit total and that of the replacement player; if this value is 110, then the player contributes 90 hits.

The purpose of all this analysis is two-fold. For one thing, it helps evaluate the potentials of players, so it is useful from a scouting perspective. It is also good for comparing players who played in different time periods. The introduction of the book gives a good example as it tries to show who the better player is, Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds. Superficially, some stats favor Ruth (such as batting average) while others favor Bonds (such as steals). But for any comparison to be legitimate, many other things need to be taken into account, particularly with the environment that the two played in; for example, Ruth played in a "whites-only" era that excluded many great players of other races. The more elaborate statistics take these differences into account; this particular analysis favors Ruth slightly, primarily because of his contributions as a pitcher.

To some extent, this book covers some of the same ground as a book I read a couple years back called Curve Ball, but it also offers a lot of new stuff too. The principal flaw with the book seems to be inadequate editing, leading to a lot of redundancies between chapters (which are written by different people); hence, we get the same explanation for what a statistic means over and over again. In addition, considering its importance to the game, pitching is underrepresented in the book; although covered, the primary emphasis is on batting. Other topics covered include fielding, base stealing and managing.

There is a danger with a book like this to get TOO into the statistics of the game and lose appreciation for the game itself. Statistics are great for looking at trends, but in any one given event, you can never be certain what's going to happen. That's why when it's the bottom of the ninth, two out and the tying run's at third, it doesn't really matter what the numbers say, and that's when baseball is at its most exciting. This book will make you look at the numbers of baseball more critically, but it won't diminish the pleasure of watching the game. Despite the flaws, I am giving this book five stars; for a baseball fan, this is a compelling read.
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining and informative overview of the key sabermetrics concepts March 15 2006
By Beanster - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Some of this will be old hat to those who already take stats like fielding independent pitching for granted, but it's a nice next step for baseball fans who enjoyed "Moneyball" and want to dive deeper into the numbers.

The book is arranged into 27 short chapters - one for each out in a regulation game, obviously - which frame each concept through an interesting question like, does Derek Jeter deserve a Gold Glove? This makes the more esoteric concepts easier to relate to, although familiarity and ease with numbers, charts and probability concepts helps a lot. The questions also serve as a reminder that the conclusions and predictive powers of this type of analysis have major implications for real world GM's, managers and players, as well as fans and fantasy leagues.

Quibbles: some of the analysis occasionally feels unbaked, which is understandable given this is an emerging field dealing with enormous amounts of data and probabilities. The writers do acknowledge this, such as when comparing pitching stats to relatively more reliable batting stats. It would also be nice to have more real life examples to back up each conclusion, including more quotes from GM's and managers - now that there are a number of admitted practitioners - on how they have used these concepts and with what results.

All in all, certainly not the last word on this subject, but a very good introduction.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A must for any baseball fan March 15 2006
By A. Pagano - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Derek Jeter bunts Robinson Cano over to second base in the 10th inning of a tie game. Is this an example of a team leader doing whatever it takes to win or an example of a career .300 hitter foolishly giving up a critical out? David Ortiz hits yet another game-winning home run. That man is "clutch." Or is he? The authors of "Baseball Between the Numbers" turn conventional baseball wisdom on its head in a series of chapters each dealing with a specific aspect of the game. They cover everything from the value of stolen bases to the economic impact of new ballparks. This book takes the reader step by step through the type of analysis that has increasingly influenced baseball decision makers from Billy Beane's "Moneyball" approach to Theo Epstein's Red Sox.

You don't have to be a math major to get the points of the book, but some basic knowledge of statistical principles is a big help. It's easy to get lost in the numbers sometimes, and the presence of numerous typographical errors and incorrect charts exacerbates the problem.

This book should be required reading for any baseball fan. If you're already familiar with sabremetrics and how statheads view the baseball universe, this book consolidates many of the key ideas in one volume. If you're not, this is a great introduction.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Pretty good read, but... Nov. 9 2006
By Moonlight Graham - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book. However, it felt like a big advertisement for Baseball Prospectus, a site which I actually subscribe to and read quite often. This book didn't bring any real new information to the table that they don't already cover on their site, so if you're choosing between the two, just subscribe to their site.

My biggest disappointment is that while they explain what Eqa and VORP are, in essense, they don't tell me exactly how they calculate it. I suppose they are protecting their assets, but one of the pleasure of reading Bill James is knowing his thought process in coming up with formulas that measure performance. As the Baseball Prospectus team would have it, I'm supposed to trust that VORP measures it precisely without me being able to understand exactly why. That irritates me, but it might not get to you.

The book is fairly well-written and is entertaining enough to pick up if you're interested in this kind of book.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
enjoyable for any baseball fan, but annoying at points May 24 2006
By Russell A. Carleton - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book consists of 29 chapters, in which some decision-making aspect of baseball is scrutinized by the evidence, all the way from whether attempting to steal a base is a good idea or whether that new stadium was a good idea. Be warned: this is a book written by Sabermetricians. If you're a fan of the romance and pageantry of baseball and recoil at the thought of managing with a computer, rather than by instinct, this book will offend you. (Psychology says systematic data is much better than instinct.) However, for the casual fan, this is a way of looking at the game from a new angle. The subtitle really does encapsulate the book. A lot of what you think you know about baseball is wrong, and the data are there to prove it.

The writing is uneven (it's a edited compilation of essays), and at times, the writers are too quick to introduce and explain complicated Sabermetric concepts. Folks unfamiliar with Sabermetrics will be a little befuddled at times, although a good slow read of the book serves as an excellent introduction to the field. In fairness, this is not a boring book either. Concepts are introduced and explained within context, and the numbers never overwhelm.

Hardcore statisticians will probably nitpick some of their methods, (e.g., "significant at the 90% level"... why did they set their alpha level so high?) and another review has pointed out that their work was a little sloppy, but even still most of the points are minor and probably wouldn't affect their overall conclusions. However, hardcore baseball statisticians have a reputation for not letting minor things pass...

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