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The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport Hardcover – May 9 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford Business Books; 1 edition (May 9 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804752877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804752879
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #401,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"When I read the book, I was impressed by the amount of effort that went into compiling the reams of data that underlie the work . . . The fundamental case the authors make is that the statistical analysis shows that the conventional wisdom about sports is dead wrong—that the data as the put it, "offers many surprises."—Joe Nocera, The New York Times
"In The Wages of Wins, the authors attempt to puncture some popular myths—saying that payroll and wins are not highly correlated, and that in baseball, football.attendance hasn't been significantly affected by players strikes or owner lockouts."—Sue Kirchhoff, USA Today

"In The Wages of Wins, the economists David J. Berri, Martin B. Schmidt, and Stacey L. Brook set out to solve the Iverson problem. Weighing the relative value of fouls, rebounds, shots taken, turnovers, and the like, they've created an algorithm that, they argue, comes closer than any previous statistical measure to capturing the true value of a basketball player . . . Looking at the findings that Berri, Schmidt, and Brook present is enough to make one wonder what exactly basketball experts—coaches, managers, sportswriters—know about basketball."—Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

"Wages is provocative, stimulating and challenging."—Dick Friedman, Sports Illustrated
"It is one thing when an obnoxious fan or sports talk show blowhard spouts off about who is the best player or why a certain team doesn't win games. It is quite another thing when three economics professors, which the authors of this book are, who love sports give you proof to back up their arguments. Not many casual basketball fans would agree that Allen Iverson isn't a very productive player, but the authors have the data to show otherwise. It is hard to argue when the cold hard facts are in front of your face... The Wages of Wins is a very important book in the field of sports economics and a very enjoyable and thought provoking read. It leaves you wanting a sequel to it (which, luckily, the writers hint at)."—

"Sports fans with an analytical bent shouldn't skip this book. And come to think of it, perhaps sports executives should be reading it as well."—The Free Lance-Star

"This book presents complex economic analysis in a breezy manner that the casual sports fan and econophobe will appreciate and enjoy. I plan to assign it to students and recommend it to friends."—Michael Leeds, Temple University, and author of The Economics of Sports

From the Inside Flap

Arguing about sports is as old as the games people play. Over the years sports debates have become muddled by many myths that do not match the numbers generated by those playing the games. In The Wages of Wins, the authors use layman's language and easy to follow examples based on their own academic research to debunk many of the most commonly held beliefs about sports.
In this updated version of their book, these authors explain why Allen Iverson leaving Philadelphia made the 76ers a better team, why the Yankees find it so hard to repeat their success from the late 1990s, and why even great quarterbacks like Brett Favre are consistently inconsistent. The book names names, and makes it abundantly clear that much of the decision making of coaches and general managers does not hold up to an analysis of the numbers. Whether you are a fantasy league fanatic or a casual weekend fan, much of what you believe about sports will change after reading this book.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars 18 reviews
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Topics, Good Value March 18 2007
By Bret Dougherty - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Who's the best of all-time?" "Who's better than Tom Brady?!" "Kobe is MVP!" When the conversations turn to sports, those types of questions always linger and don't leave my head for a while after a intense discussion...Then again, maybe, my ears are just ringing too hard.

Yet, these authors take a start at answering the myths and bombastic statements that surround sports and people's love and affinities for teams and athletes.

Like "Moneyball" proved, people tend to form their opinions from their own experiences in life, and they refuse to look at statistical evidence to support their theories. Yet, these authors utilize stats to show the holes in the myths such as why payroll and wins are highly coorelated, why quarterbacks should be judged by their Super Bowl rings, or why you can't give a true statistical value to basketball players and teams. The authors give solid evidence to support theories such as when the law of diminishing returns really does enter the picture in terms of productivity, why points are overvalued and why Kevin Garnett is the best player in the NBA, and just how valuable a NFL QB really is.

I still believe in the heart of an athlete and the role that a person has within a team. And, I found that the book doesn't give full due to the values of team chemistry, the effects of injuries, or how much value a role player like Manu Ginobili or Ron Harper can derive from other players on their team. However, the book not only makes a solid effort at answering the myths of sport, but I also realized how bizarre the statements and hype delivered by sports blowhards on TV and Talk Radio really are. That's why I give a thumbs-up to this read. The authors put substance behind the bizarre statements made by blow-hards and so-called experts.

Pick this up, and you'll be surprised at how far you'll be in front of the pack. That's a strong value.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Economists look at sports Freakonomics-style June 27 2006
By King Yao - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review: The Wages of Wins by David Berri, Martin Schmidt and Stacey Brook

This book is written by economists on their analysis in the world of sports. They tried to approach their work similar to the approach that fellow economist Steven Levitt did in his book Freakonomics (co-written with Stephen Dubner). The book is written for the non-economist so there is little math and economic mumbo-jumbo in the text. When the authors cannot get by without mentioning regression analysis or correlation, it does seem they try to explain it clearly with words and not just numbers. Still, this book will be enjoyed more by those that have at least a tiny grasp of these concepts.

The topics that are covered in this book include: the impact of strikes/lockouts in professional sports on fan attendance, competitive balance in major sports leagues, who is better: Shaq or Kobe (the designing of a model to value a NBA players contribution to team wins), and the inconsistency of NFL quarterbacks. A general theme throughout the book is to step away from the long-held beliefs of sports fans and GMs, but to look at issues and problems from an analytical perspective. The results they get from the data are often interesting and different than one would expect.

The topics are thought-provoking (although not always 100% convincing, it does make you think deeply about many issues) and the book is easy to read. The authors' goal of transforming their articles in economics journals into a book for everyone is a success. These economists even inject some humor throughout the book! Overall, I recommend this book to all sports fans, particularly NBA fans.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intro to the analysis of sports based on analytics. Nov. 16 2007
By G. Caprio - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
WoW is a great introduction to thinking more critically about sports and how we define "the best".
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Put Reality in Your Fantasy League Aug. 17 2006
By MadLibsAreFun - Published on
Format: Hardcover
To enjoy this book, you have to like either statistics or sports. Preferably both: *The Wages of Wins* is a crash course in *Freakonomics* for the really, really motivated guys in your fantasy baseball league.

But even if you only like competition and not the numbers, *The Wages of Wins* (Stanford Business Books) lives up to its subtitle, "Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport."

It takes measure by using plenty of numbers -- authors David Berri, Martin Schmidt and Stacey Brook are economists, after all -- but also by relegating most of the statistics to the (lengthy) footnotes. And it keeps a sense of humor: There's a running joke about the NBA and its "short supply of tall people."

Economists are such cards. But they're also capable of exploding a few sporting myths: Can owners use giant payrolls to buy themselves championships? (No.) Don't fans prefer leagues that are competitively balanced? (Not really.) Does having a superstar lead to increased ticket sales? (Only for the other teams.)

Turns out that superstars don't help their teammates play better, don't perform better in crunch time, don't elevate their game during the playoffs. Oh, and NBA coaches and scouts basically don't know what they're doing: With draft prospects and veterans both, they overemphasize the value of scoring while greatly undervaluing things like shooting percentage, assists and rebounds -- you know, the stuff that wins games.

Quarterbacks, moreover, aren't anywhere near as essential to a team's won-loss record as the NFL's rating system implies. One of the book's funniest passages is the account of how the NFL came up with its convoluted, inaccurate quarterback rating.

Naturally, in among all the standard deviations and regression analyses and Gini Coefficients, the authors devise their own methods for rating quarterbacks and power forwards. The math isn't impossible to follow, and it's fun to watch Philadelphia 76ers guard Allan Iverson being used as a whipping boy. (Sure, he's a scoring machine, but only because he coughs up the rock a lot and shoots with no discernible conscience.)

Still, if you're "not the competitive type" and not a bean-counter, what does *The Wages of Wins* have to offer? The performance measures devised by Berri et al. aren't applicable to regular Joes, mostly because mid-level managers don't usually rate their employees in 17 separate statistical categories. But stats, the authors remind us, measure all the things that players are doing when we're not watching. Your wages for reading *Wins*? A healthy distrust of the conventional wisdom. Whatever we're sure about is probably wrong.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucid writing, entertaining argument and a passionate subject. This is like a fresh breeze. May 29 2006
By D. Stuart - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Berry and his co-authors take a really fresh approach here to the world of sport, and look at the big dollars that get spent - or mispent - by teams that want to win at all costs. The mistake that team owners are making, according to the authors, is that they are looking at the wrong statistics of success. When you buy a player, what are the vital stats that really matter?

The book is at once disheartening (money buys one hell of a lot of the points we see on the various league tables) but then also entirely heartening: individual sportspeople, and b-teams still rock the game and lift their performance way above the odds.

The difference is that many managers and coaches (and us fans for that matter focus on the wrong numbers. We count the goals that a player scores, but discount the fumbles, the turnovers and the other dynamics of team play. A star goal shooter may actually be bad for the team's chance of winning.

Sports these days is dominated by statistics. You listen to a commentary and you hear the win/lose ratios, the all-time earnings figures, the goals, the assists and what have you. Well here the authors put another set of very relevant numbers on the table - and show how they reached these conclusions. Their arguments are pretty convincing and as a result I think we'll be talking about this book for some time to come - and pondering the nature of sports today and whether Player X really is greater than Player Y. What a fresh piece of writing! Buy it - I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did.