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Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball
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Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  2,255 ratings  ·  254 reviews
Predictably Irrational meets Moneyball in ESPN veteran writer and statistical analyst Keith Law’s iconoclastic look at the numbers game of baseball, proving why some of the most trusted stats are surprisingly wrong, explaining what numbers actually work, and exploring what the rise of Big Data means for the future of the sport.

For decades, statistics such as batting averag
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Harper Collins
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,255 ratings  ·  254 reviews

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Start your review of Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball
Will Byrnes
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I confess I find soccer, what the rest of the world calls football, boring. This is not the same as believing that soccer/football actually is boring. I am certain that it is not. But as someone who knows pretty much nil about the game, I lack the vision, the knowledge, the insight to be able to identify the finer points, to be able to articulate why this formation or that player are well set up to create a scoring opportunity or defend against a powerful offense. Sometimes it is pretty blatant ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: baseball
This is a MINOR LEAGUE book in my baseball library. (maybe the class C minors)
Availability. IN PRINT


This review is a combined review of two minor baseball books …. this one and Baseball Cards of the Sixties

I got this book as a gift. Anything about baseball will spark my interest, so I soon started reading it.

Not sure what my expectations were, if I had any … just thinking that I’d find it interesting, almost certainly.


Big disappoin
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is good for baseball fans in my particular situation. I'm a Braves fan that followed baseball closely in the 90s while the Braves were a strong team. Once they started losing in the 2000s, I stopped following baseball for a while. I got back into baseball about three years ago, and I was surprised to see quite a lot of new statistics being discussed that I didn't know anything about. This book explains what the new statistics are and why they are better than some of the older statistic ...more
Aaron Sinner
May 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: baseball
2017 CASEY Award nominee
Briefly: Five years too late

It’s not clear who the intended audience for Smart Baseball is. For the sabermetrically-minded, the book is a retread of well-known objections to the use of batting average, pitcher wins, and saves to assign value to players, followed by an outlining of established sabermetrics focuses like OBP, DIPS, and WAR. For those still eschewing the analytics approach, it’s ubiquitous enough today that this is a conscious choice, so I don’t know what the
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Keith Law was a one time co-host on one of the greatest baseball podcasts I've ever listened to, the short lived 'Baseball Today', which was inexplicably cancelled by ESPN. On that show, his blunt tone and snarky commentary on the old-guard were very influential in changing my perspective on baseball statistics and managerial blunders. Most of the work in Smart Baseball has been discussed by Law (and others) before, but it is a nice compilation of new-ish stats and how they increase our understa ...more
Chris Jaffe
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball, sports
The good news:
The last three chapters are fantastic.

The bad news:
The book is eighteen chapters long.

Look, I'm not really the target audience for this book. Law notes in the intro, "I try to build up from zero here, assuming you come into this book without knowledge of advanced statistics" (5). Yeah, he ain't kidding there, folks. The book is divided into three sections: 1) Smrt Baseball (which describes why old stats are bad), 2) Smart Baseball (which goes into the new stats and what they do ri
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, baseball
I seemed to have latched on to many of the raft of books about modern baseball statistics. In this, like many of the others out there, the author drills into the details of why old-school baseball stats are not good now, and in some cases were never good measurements or predictors. And, like most other books of its kind, it’s written in a snarky manner, which I forthwith dub “Snarklish”. This book goes in depth on the historic stats, like a pitcher’s won-loss record, defensive ratios, batting av ...more
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fun read!
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Knew a decent amount of what KLaw talked about but actually learned a lot about where a lot of the "dumb" stats came from. Would really recommend as an excellent primer on baseball stats for someone who wants to get into baseball analytics. ...more
Kyle Rapinchuk
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good introduction to sabermetrics and how advanced statistics are changing the way teams view player acquisition and development. He makes a strong case against traditional statistics like pitcher wins and batting average and explains and defends well the aid that stats like Batting Runs, dRS (defensive runs saved), and constructs like WAR (wins above replacement) provide.
Rob Neyer
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
First off, this book was not written for me; in fact, if you wanted to find the one baseball fan in the world for whom this book wasn't written, I might be that fan. Because I've been writing many of the same things in the book for ... well, I'm afraid it's been more than 20 years now. But if I were another sort of fan, one who hadn't been writing about this stuff for so long, I think I would be crazy for this book. I hope so, anyway. One might need an open mind, and one doesn't know how open on ...more
M.G. Bianco
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If you are interested in baseball, and specifically in statistics (the old ones and the new ones), then this is worth reading.

Keith Law is a bit of a jerk sometimes in the way he belittles people who appreciate the old statistics or who don't get the new ones. But it is worth reading past that.

Also, he may overstate his case sometimes and assume he is more convincing than he is. Nonetheless, the information he presents about the statistics is worth considering.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I slogged through this book. Lots of math, and stats and new ways to look at the game I love. Not really into trying to understand a lot of what the stat geeks are trying to do with baseball. But its the way people are looking at the game these days so I try to keep up with it.
May 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
His smug-ness comes through his writing....good thing I got this from thrift books....
Margaret Sullivan
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I stumbled across Keith Law's Twitter account in a discussion about his icon photo, which was the cover of this book. It sounded like a book that I needed to read; my beloved Phillies are, somewhat belatedly, embracing statistical analysis, including all these odd new stats like OBP+ and WAR and I don't know what. I have struggled to understand the new statistics, and it turns out that I don't really have to understand the stats themselves (though they can be interesting to my liberal arts major ...more
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love baseball. I love how a game that looks so simple is really so complicated. I love how the game unites different generations of fans. It crosses national borders, it blurs skin colors The only thing that matters are the numbers.
The author proposes that the stats that we’ve been accustomed to for so long really don’t tell us the big picture are outdated or are just useless.
It was hard to digest some of the material and statements put forth by the author but in most cases he uses the data
Jason Röhde
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball, 2018
Keith Law hits a solid 4 for 5 with a line drive out for the 5th AB in this book. He does a great job of explaining the statistical analysis used in baseball today and helps me see that the stats I grew up on (AVG, HR, RBI for hitters and W, ERA and SO for pitchers) are a small piece of a huge puzzle and mostly irrelevant now in comparison to those used today.

While the book will help me understand the columns of Law, Rob Neyer, and the guys at Baseball Prospectus better, it won’t help my haples
Maurice Rubino
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Smart Baseball, The Info you Need to Appreciate the Game

I have always devoured baseball stats, played table baseball games as a kid (APBA was my choice and later the computer version) so Smart Baseball was a perfect read for someone like me. I also believe it will enhance the enjoyment and understanding of anyone who simply enjoys watching the game. This book provides he information to help you discern the value and also question the stats that have defined the game for years.
Michael Martz
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
'Smart Baseball', by ESPN's Keith Law, is off the charts great if you're a baseball fan and interested in the 'new' stats that are changing, and helping us understand, the game. Law is an ex-scout/front-office guy who is articulate, knowledgeable, and opinionated, and you don't need much more than that. I consider myself highly educated in all things baseball, but I learned a ton from this book. Highly, highly recommended. ...more
Tyler Parris
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Law does a great job of storytelling with data, and the book is not only useful for baseball fans, but I point people to it in corporate workshops because an important subtext of the book is that so-called big data (having more data) isn't as important as it is to question the data you already see every day and ask better questions about it, and use that data to influence or make better decisions, or change the "game," at work. ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Keith Law excellently explains WHY "new" stats and metrics are superior to "traditional" ones. He does so without getting too technical so that even a casual fan can understand his points. Explaining these sabermetrics requires a lot of context, which Law provides in detail. This is an easy and important read for the modern baseball fan. ...more
Steven Jacobs
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A few parts were a little dull for me, but I learned a lot and enjoyed reading this book.
Blake Jones
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
pretty good, I learned a lot. everything you think about baseball stats is probably a fair amount different than reality.
Jim Patton
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best baseball books I have ever read! It's Smart (Pun!) and funny!! ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baseball
Excellent book. A little snarky at times (having the feel of the converted man being unable to remember that he was once a non-believer, too), but an excellent explanation of what is wrong with many existing stats and why others are better. The writing is strong and the examples are interesting, though one does find oneself hoping he won't go after a favorite player... I suspect I'd rate this higher if the first half (the "what's wrong" part) didn't feel like well-trod ground. That's not really ...more
Jason Hallmark
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
Got this book for Christmas and it has barely left my reach since. It is an absolutely fantastic look at all the statistics used in the game of baseball, and how the way we think about the game and it’s players are being radically changed. A MUST read!
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not for hardcore fans

This is a great book for people that aren't familiar with baseball stats. If you've read fangraphs over the past few years then it's probably too simple to be a super engaging read.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Overall I found Keith Law to be an annoyingly smug author. The first third of the book was full of (in my opinion, mostly correct) disassembly and destruction of overused and misleading baseball stats, but done in a way that seems meant to shame and embarrass anyone who didn't already share Law's opinions.

"This line of thinking, of course, is dumber than a sack of hair" - Quote about the pitcher wins stat.

"How has more than a half century passed without this obviously flawed statistic losing its
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, baseball
Read for the 2017 PopSugar reading challenge. Since I write about baseball, I'm checking it off as "A book with career advice."

The subtitle of this book is quite a mouthful, but you can simply think of it as Smart Baseball, because that's what it mostly aspires to explain. For a long time, up until fairly recently, baseball stats were limited to fans as the ones you'd find on the back of baseball cards growing up - things like batting average, RBIs, wins and saves for pitchers, and so on. Steadi
Wayne Evans
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
It's a nice general overall introduction to baseball stats.
Agree with the assessments for the old Stats; that is, there are some stats that were created to demonstrate a value of a player of which really doesn't. However, these are a good foundation for better and/or used in combination of new stats. STating that, there are some that only value the most - highest numbers!!
The new stats are good and better; yet, these have some issues themselves (but are much better). Again, used with other new
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Play Book Tag: Smart Baseball by Keith Law - 4 stars 1 12 Oct 03, 2017 03:56AM  

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Keith Law is a senior baseball writer for and ESPN Scouts, Inc. He was formerly a writer for Baseball Prospectus and worked in the front office for the Toronto Blue Jays. He is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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