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The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed [Paperback]

J.C. Bradbury
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 26 2008
Freakonomics meets Moneyball in this provocative exposé of baseball?s most fiercely debated controversies and some of its oldest, most dearly held myths

Providing far more than a mere collection of numbers, economics professor and popular blogger J.C. Bradbury, shines the light of his economic thinking on baseball, exposing the power of tradeoffs, competition, and incentives. Utilizing his own ?sabernomic? approach, Bradbury dissects baseball topics such as:
? Did steroids have nothing to do with the recent homerun records? Incredibly, Bradbury?s research reveals steroids probably had little impact.
? Which players are ridiculously overvalued? Bradbury lists all players by team with their revenue value to the team listed in dollars?including a dishonor role of those players with negative values?updated in paperback to include the 2007 season.
? Does it help to lobby for balls and strikes?

Statistics alone aren?t enough anymore. This is a refreshing, lucid, and powerful read for fans, fantasy buffs, and players?as well as coaches at all levels?who want to know what is really happening on the field.

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From Publishers Weekly

Subjecting recent baseball debates to plentiful regression analyses, Kennesaw State economist Bradbury gamely fuses our national pastime and the "dismal science" somewhat in the spirit of Steven Levitt (Freakonomics), Michael Lewis (Moneyball) and Bill James (Baseball Between the Numbers). Like the latter, Bradbury offers a front-office perspective on labor (that's the players), salaries, managerial influence, steroids, market size and the like. Like a scrappy role player, Bradbury's enthusiasm is evident (he's a Braves supporter); he offers a chapter on managers' ability to work the umps ("it appears that most managers don't seem to have any real impact in arguing balls and strikes") and investigates top pitching coach Leo Mazzone's contributions. A blogger at his Web site (a play on the acronym SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research), Bradbury, while not forging new ground, shines in the closing chapters, in which he convincingly bucks the conventional wisdom that Major League Baseball behaves like a monopoly. While the numbers crunched are more of the Financial Times than the box score kind, the issues the book deals with are those discussed in many a barroom. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Bradbury would be the first guy to tell you that baseball fans are the most statistically minded sports fans out there. And he should know: he is an economics professor and a baseball addict (and a popular blogger, too). Here, he tackles some of the game's most cherished truisms and controversies. Is being left-handed really a disadvantage for a catcher? What role, really, do steroids play in being a home-run king? (You may be surprised at the answer.) How can we effectively evaluate a player's value to his team? Ball fans may be shocked at how relevant economics is to their favorite game, and economists may find an exciting new application for their specialty. Like John Allen Paulos, author of such "popular math" books as A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (1995), Bradbury writes with a smooth, accessible style and makes the tricky game of numbers seem both straightforward and exciting. Like Bill James' Abstracts (2003), this volume could become essential reading for baseball fans. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Packed with details. Oct. 13 2008
Definitely a fan of this book! If you're heavily into the 'numbers' aspect of the game, it's sure not to disappoint. A caveat, it's VERY economics based, right into graphs, charts, etc. Very detailed. Some was over my head, but incredible detail.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An economist writes about baseball June 2 2007
By King Yao - Published on
Bradbury is an associate professor of Economics. He wrote this book with an economists' viewpoint on baseball. He may have gone too in-depths in economics for some people's taste, but being an economics major in college, I enjoyed it and re-learned a few concepts. He covers some topics that have were previously discussed by folks like Bill James, Voros McCracken, Michael Lewis and Jay Gould (and gives them due credit). Topics that were new to me that I found interesting included the effect of "protection" by the on-deck hitter, managers lobbying for balls and strikes, and the baseball monopoly.

I enjoyed this book and I recommend it to baseball fans that are not afraid of charts, numbers and economic concepts. I would be the first in line to buy his second book if Bradbury expands his economic analysis and writing into other sports.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting look at baseball from a unique perspective April 10 2007
By Joy Avery - Published on
Very accessible, very interesting look at baseball. Bradbury tackles both high-profile issues in baseball (steroids, spending disparity amongst teams) as well as ideas you might not have even considered. (What can we learn from trends in hit batsmen?) I recommend this book to baseball fans with an interest in learning more about the inner-workings of the game as well as economists with even a passing interest in the sport.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inquiring Minds Wander from This Book Aug. 25 2007
By Paul Bohannon - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I work with economic theorists all the time, but I am not going to tell you this is a good book. Pieces of it are. Bradbury dwells on the steriods issue, prattling on and on about the lack of evidence. Yet, no where does he accept the challenge of studying the relative performances of the individuals to determine the effect of steriods. Rather, he just says it has never been proven. He even blurs the distinction of taking steriods for performance reasons vs. health reasons (and he never considers the differences in the steriods themselves!)

Some of his economic observations are interesting, those where he really studies the game and statistics. I, for one, can find other, more rewarding but boring books to give me a Saturday afternoon snooze. And Bradbury should stick to his statistical analysis of the game (where he excels), not the policy points (where he only debates under the ruse of economic theories).
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Good things tend to be scarce, ..." July 1 2007
By NotToto - Published on
This quote starts chapter 13, and applies to this book as well. The Baseball Economist holds its own and then some when compared to most sabermetric stats books out there. It contains an ecletic but interesting collection of subjects like Freakanomics, presented within a baseball/economic context like MoneyBall. This isn't a book specifically about the economics of baseball, it is more about how the author applies economic methods to answer certain baseball related questions.

That sounds kind of dry, but the author is a better writer than I am, so the book is quite interesting. The first section I found particularly convincing, as it applies principles of economics to identifying why the DH promotes more hit batsmen, why there are almost no lefty catchers, and the over-ratedness of the protection afforded by the on deck hitter. Latter chapters discuss how baseball differs from a true monopoly, and how this has worked to the benefit of the fans.

In the Epilogue, the author writes that he considered calling this book, "An Economist Ruins Baseball", which I'm glad he didn't. That would have done a disservice to this book. Very interesting book to the general baseball fan, and not just a number cruncher book. Probably the best baseball book I have read since MoneyBall.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Applying Economic Theory to Baseball April 5 2007
By John Matlock - Published on
Economics is not just the study of money. The field has developed all kinds of analytical tools for looking beyond the obvious statistics to find underlying traits, causes, or simply new unknown information.

In this book Dr. Bradbury a professor of economics and a baseball fan looks at baseball through the eyes and science of economics. The result is some surprising findings in all kinds of areas such as the use of steroids, scouting practices, establishing a real value (as opposed to salaries) for players, why are there no left handed catchers, does location in a big city or small city make any difference.

To the baseball fan, the results of his analysis are going to be very interesting. To the more statistical minded, the approach to solving different kinds of problems is somethat could be used in a wide variety of situations where economics theory could provide insight not otherwise visible.

All in all, an easy to read book that brings economics theories to light with clarity and understanding.
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