I’ve been delayed posting today due to (a) a job interview and (b) writing an email response. The email response was from an aunt who found out I was writing a baseball blog, but who has no experience with the game and so asked me to recommend some reading materials. Well, I got wild and provided a lengthy response.
The MLB.com (this link is simply the homepage for the site), beginning on this page; at the left you will find links to the later sections of the document.can be found on the web at the always awesome web site,
However, the best one-source guide to baseball rules, along with illustrations and a very helpful text, is the really cool new book Baseball Field Guide.
On thing to remember about baseball is the unique nature of the game: the defense controls the ball and the pace of the game. In tennis the server puts the ball in play and can score as a result of superior service. In baseball, the pitcher puts the ball in play, but he and his teammates can only prevent the other team from scoring.
There have been many guides to, but here are the few I recommend with a few caveats. (I think watching a lot of games is the best means to figure stuff out at first, though watching them on TV is deceptive since the cameras can only see little bits of the field at a time.)
Major League catcher, and a color analyst for FOX Sports’ baseball coverage wrote a decent book, Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Smart People, but the book demonstrates McCarver’s smarty-pants demeanor, and his tendency to forget that he’s supposed to be writing a book to help people understand the game more rather than trying to impress upon them how much they don’t know., a former
From the “X for Dummies” line of titles is Joe Morgan‘s Baseball For Dummies, which is very basic, as well as reflecting a few of Morgan’s out-of-date biases. Don’t get me wrong: Morgan is a Hall of Fame player, the best second baseman to even lace on cleats, and one of the great, great players from my childhood. But some of his thinking about the game…is practically medieval. He really is coming close, these days, to crossing over into bitter old man territory when he discusses the game and his distaste for the kind of advanced statistical analysis that I think expands (at least my own) understanding of the game.
An better book that either McCarver’s or Morgan’s–though its author did not play Major League baseball nor does he broadcast the game–is a relatively new book, Zack Hample’s Watching Baseball Smarter. I read (uhm, devoured) this book in about four hours one day sitting in the local . It is very thoughtful and enthusiastic. The only caveat is that one must be willing to sit down and look out for the things Hample discusses or else it doesn’t hold much value. So watch some baseball!
My favorite of the “fan’s guiide to the game” genre is an old book in its third edition, Leonard Koppet’s Thinking Fan’s Guide to Baseball. Now, this book gets a mediocre rating at Amazon.com, but that’s because most of the reviewer already are pretty savvy baseball watchers and they wanted more, so much more, out of the book. Oh well.
The best overall book about the game is also an oceanic immersion in its history and assumes a great deal of knowledge about the game,The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. I actually here that the o
riginal (1988) Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract may be the best baseball book ever written, and I just ordered my copy from a used bookstore last night.
The magisterial documentary, Ken Burns’ Baseball, is also worth one’s time, and it is available from Netflix. There is a companion text. I have been watching the documentary, and I am learning a great deal.
Baseball, due to its non-continuous action and the primacy of the pitcher-batter interaction, is actually a sport that is very, very amenable to statistical analysis. Scoring chances are made up of discrete moments during batter-pitcher interactions. What happens in those moments can be described in numbers. Therefore, statistics have more to do with what is actually going on in baseball to a much greater degree of precision than they do in any other sport.
You might think I would refer you to a baseball encyclopedia, but why bother with a Baseball Reference.com has every piece of data in such books, and much, much more, and is updated daily. It is simply the best one-stop resource for baseball research (such as the First Pitch Strike study I am doing about the results of the pitcher throwing, believe it or not, a first pitch strike to a batter…it really improves things for the pitcher and his team).fifteen pound–book when the website
The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts produced Baseball Between the Numbers, which may be the best pure number crunching tome I’ve ever read. They don’t just slice and dice numbers better than pretty much anyone else, but they really can write. As much as I read, the quality of writing comes to mean more and more to me, and I would stack their baseball writing up against almost anyone else’s except for Roger Kahn, Roger Angell, and, Bill James, all of whom are so good as to make me embarassed by what I am doing at this blog. I recommend that book for those willing to do lots and lots of hard thinking about the stuff. It’s not light reading.
For an introduction to the kind of spreadsheet fun I like to play around with, some mathematics professors have written Understanding Sabermetrics, though for a lot of people who bother to read this blog, or, more to the point FanGraphs, The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, the Baseball Analysts, or similar sites, it will likely prove too basic.
While some intellectually lazy sportwriters (Dan Shaugnessy, Steve Cameron, Randy Galloway, to name a few) sneer at advanced statistical analysis, they are really highlighting their own ignorance: addiction to statistical descriptions of players has always pervaded the game of baseball, ever since discovered baseball and began writing about it. Alan Schwartz’s The Numbers Game: Baseball’s Lifelong Fascination With Statistics recounts the history of the game’s statistics and nicely discusses how growing interest in the game by professional statisticians and analysts generated all sorts of interesting (and useful) insights into the game. What prevented this kind of work from really reaching large audiences in previous decades was the lack of computing power. With an Excel spreadsheet and Baseball Reference I can crank out more analysis in mere moments than people could do in months in the fifties, sixties, seventies, and a lot of the eighties.
At this point, we’re all tired, so lets all watch baseball smarter! To the ballpark!!!
“Twinkie Talk” answers the question “How Good Are the Twins?” in two posts, one about the offense and one about the pitching. (These links will appear below, as well, just so no one can miss the terrific analysis Erin has done at “Twinkie Talk”; in fact, you should take a moment an bookmark that blog, for it is always worth a Twins’ fan’s time.)
ead from your fundamental posterior orifice, do some statistical analysis and realize that Slama belongs in the Show!
The question for the day is if the Rangers miss Rudy Jaramillo, their old hitting coach.
Meanwhile, a comparison of stats from a year ago, and for those who doubted or blamed Rudy for the Rangers’ ’09 offensive slide, the early “numbers,” even the “deep count” geek numbers, work against them.
Not counting Thursday night:
Pitches per plate appearance: 3.8 then and now.
Walks: 140 now, 122 a year ago. (Thank you, Elvis, and also Justin Smoak.)
Strikeouts: 288 now, 335 a year ago.
Batting average: .265 now, .272 a year ago.
Home runs: 37 now, 57 a year ago.
Runs: 194 now, 221 a year ago
And worst of all:
Hitting with runners in scoring position: .241 now and .267 a year ago.
In 2009, the Rangers finished seventh in the American League in OPS and seventh in scoring.
In 2010, the Rangers rank sixth in the American League in OPS and fifth in scoring.
I’m not sure what else to say about this. The Rangers apparently decided that no hitting coach, even one with Jaramillo’s track record, is worth “big money and a multiyear deal.” Nothing that’s happened this season would support the argument that they were wrong.
But analyzing the Rangers’ hitters without accounting for league context just isn’t good enough. I don’t know how much money the Rangers saved when they didn’t match (or exceed) the Cubs’ offer to Jaramillo. But a fourth of the way into the season, it looks like that money was probably better spent elsewhere.
tive standing that matters here. That is, the context matters.
I realize that if you are reading this post, you almost certainly don’t need this primer, but it is a well-written and informative post, so I thought I’d link to it.
Now just one final note: Runs Batted In is the worst cited statistic. RBIs are a result of inherited runners on base more than they are of the batter’s ability. Theoretically, yes, a batter with a higher batting average and/or slugging will get more RBIs, but they’re very unfair to good hitters in bad line ups. There have been a lot of damn seasons in history where a hitter had a better than average offensive season and still had 60 or fewer RBIs.