on July 29, 2011
Well, Soccernomics was the first sports book to use the Freakonomics' model and come up a winner. Now Scorecasting does the same. Lots of food for thought about sports from why home field/court/ice advantage is so strong (and you'll be surprised exactly why that is so) to the reason the Chicago Cubs are cursed (and it's not due to a billy goat, black cat or Bartman).
L. Jon Wertheim is a terrific writer who has mainly written about tennis and basketball both in book form and for Sports illustrated. Although the book can get bogged down in stat analysis a bit (I did not love the pie charts or bar graphs), it's not really a stathead book. The chapters are pretty short and sweet so there's no time to get bored. You don't like one chapter, move on. They are more like little sports essays or vignettes.
The great thing is it makes you think and how many sports books let alone Web sites or blogs get you to do that?
on June 18, 2011
This is a great book for any sports fan, or even a behavioral psychologist/data analyst/economist with a passing interest in them, since those three areas are constantly highlighted throughout the book. There's a multitude of sections, each one explaining a phenomenon of sports, or explaining it away, all with the use of in-depth, objective statistics. It's written at a level anyone can understand as well. The best section of the book deals with home-field advantage in sports, and it's truly fascinating to discover what drives it. Although baseball fans will probably derive the most enjoyment from this book, fans of all sports will get their fill from Scorecasting.
Entertaining at best, uneven throughout. Seems like the authors had a good idea and outstretched it to fill a book. There are many more cases in sports to mine the data and see where it takes you, there is a whole industry around this, and bars the world over with fans eager to discuss the findings. My point: you can do it well (thorough analysis and great writing) or rush to publish a half-baked product. This one is close to the latter.
Ever wonder why it is often those little decisions and choices in the world of sports that make the all-important difference as to the outcome of the game? For someone like myself who has been an avid fan of professional football, baseball, and basketball for years, there are some proven strategies and game-changing plays out there that greatly increase a team's chances of winning on a more regular basis or improve the chances of the game being more competitive right up to the final whistle. Moskowitz and Wertheim investigate a number of these time-honored tactics as to their prevelancy and success in achieving their ultimate goals. The big question they ask repeatedly in their research is whether these assumptions are valid in their claims or if they even exist in the first place. Such potential influencing actions as whistle swallowing where refs put their whistles away and let the teams play, to single knock-out competition during playoffs, to certain players being more susceptible to using steroids, to the fourth-down play in the red zone,to what determines the resale price of a ticket, to the momentum swing caused by a blocked shot or punt, to the impact of home court advantage, to the advantage of fouling Shaquille O'Neal, to whether one should adopt a loss-averse attitude in the closing minutes of a game are covered here. The authors believe that the evidence in each of these areas shows, with rare exceptions such as a Belichick proclivity for gambling in impossible places on the field, that most of these game behaviours are statistically valid though at times hard to explain. Who, in their right mind, can explain why the price of a ticket to the Final Four increases fourteen-fold once it has been purchases? Or who can explain why some teams and coaches gamble on fourth down on their side of the field when other than the fact that the ultimate stakes are extremely high at that moment in the game. I found this book to be very useful in its examination of professional sports are managed and scripted with respect to the final score. Read a baseball scorecard, a football playbook, or a basketball clipboard and it becomes very plain that it is the little psychological things on and off the diamond, gridiron, and court that make the biggest difference as to winning or losing.