Friday, April 30, 2004

For those of you who are interested in gaining a more about a scientific understanding of baseball I recommend you check out from your local library Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis and The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James. Lewis’ work offers a journalist’s broad overview of a scientific understanding of baseball first offered by James back in 1977, in the context of the Oakland A’s. Lewis attempts to answer the question: How is it that the Oakland A’s have been so successful despite the common sense notion that a high payroll equals dominance? Lewis argues that Billy Beane, using principles first developed by Bill James and later refined by the sabermetrics movement, has exploited a market inefficiency, allowing him to achieve great profit (games won) at little cost (payroll).

I also like the parts where Lewis refers to "the idiocy of the Boston Red Sox (Lewis, 2003, 177)." Scott Hatteberg's "cultivated approach to hitting--his thoughtfulness, his patience, his need for his decisions to be informed rather than reckless--was regarded by the Boston Red Sox as a deficiency. The Red Sox encouraged their player's mystical streaks." Referring to the patience of All-Star Wade Boggs, Lewis writes: "Boggs refusal to exhibit the encessary aggression led to his ostracism by the Red Sox. 'They would get on him for taking a walk when there was a guy on second," recalled Hatteberg. "They called him selfish for that (Lewis, 2003, 177).'"

Lest I be accused of too much bias: Lewis does not have any nice things to say about the Yanks or The Boss. In fact, he criticizes just about the whole baseball establishment. Lest I be accused of no bias: I relished the parts where the Red Sox were slammed. Of course, I think Bill James is working for them now.

Check out the Sabermetrics Manifesto by David Grabiner for more information regarding the objective measurement of baseball performance and the scientific process of developing better measures.
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