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The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  964 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Written by three esteemed baseball statisticians, The Book continues where the legendary Bill James' Baseball Abstracts and Palmer and Thorn's The Hidden Game of Baseball left off more than twenty years ago. Continuing in the grand tradition of sabermetrics, the authors provide a revolutionary way to think about baseball with principles that can be applied at every level, ...more
Paperback, 385 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Potomac Books (first published March 10th 2007)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  964 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is so great.
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Who wouldn't want to read complex statistical equations followed by charts and graphs of different run expectancies and win expectancies that tell you exactly how every pitch in baseball should play out, then followed up with a game theory analysis of the game to show why you need to vary how every pitch in baseball should play out even from what SHOULD be correct?
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: sabermetrics lovers
as a baseball guy and a math guy, this book was GLORIOUS! The appendix of mathematical techniques used, and some descriptions why, truly puts Tom Tango in a class of his own. The stats were used well and when stats were unavailable he used simulations. And the piece de la resistance: Game Theory at the end of the book! He took into account bluffing, strategy, and how they affect the usefulness of various techniques. I could literally not ask for much more.

As a clarifier to the book, this book ex
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Bunting is almost always bad (other than from a game theory standpoint). As is stealing.
Bob Gustafson
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have some mathematical acumen and I'm a baseball fan, so based on reviews of this book, it had five stars before I open the cover. ("Open the cover" is a figure of speech. I bought the Kindle edition.)

The first chapter is an introduction and a definition of terms section. Fine. Analysis begins in chapter two. The text reads like an article from Nature or Science magazines with technical jargon in every sentence. The text is full of tables necessary to make points and are very good. Sadly, thei
Kevin Lanzone
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Not a FUN read, but any baseball stat junky is going to enjoy it. And if you coach baseball at any level, you might get a lot out of this for your team!
Michael Bradburn
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading for anyone who wants to learn the basics of sabermetrics and the direction of public baseball data analysis.
Kevin Christiansen
The book contains a lot of good information and analysis. The sheer volume of data, however, can make it a bit of a slog. The “by the book” summaries throughout help make things more digestible.
Keith Blackman
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Authors use high-level stats to determine optimal strategies
Steven Peterson
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
One of the common phrases that we hear in baseball is that a manager was playing by “the book.” That is, the manager was doing what the unwritten rules of baseball suggest. One example at the outset illustrates: walking a batter intentionally with first base open. This book, in essence, rewrites the book.

The authors use a detailed data base (including each at bat over a period of years) and then do a statistical analysis of results. And, they argue, the unwritten book is often wrong. The first c
Craig Werner
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
For Sabremetric aficionados only. The collaborators are statisticians in the Bill James mold and they do their work well. Usually, that makes for deadening reading--I'll admit to glazing over the tables increasingly in the second half of the book. Most of the take-home messages are predictable for those who follow the field. 1) Most of the sportscaster wisdom about the relationship between hot streaks and past match-ups and future performance is simply illusion. The only real indicator of future ...more
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pretty dry and dense, but fascinating if you are into baseball stats and sabermetrics.
For those who can make it through, the reward is a deeper understanding of the game and a more satisfying spectating experience.

The book tackled some great questions I had as a baseball fan - like the best situations for the steal and the bunt, how well batter/pitcher history predicts future face-offs, how real/useful hot/cold streaks are, how to optimize batting lineup and how much affect it has on wins, quant
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Good for what it is: an attempt to use rigorous mathematical modelling to determine the most statistically sound plays in baseball. It attempts to answer questions like when are the best and worst times to steal, hit and run, sac bunt, etc. It goes into some depth about how best to create a batting order and when to use a relief pitcher for maximum effect. There is even a chapter on if there is such a thing as being "clutch" and how long a hot/cold streak lasts.
But, while I don't question the ma
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
this is an interesting book about optimal strategy in baseball. It's certainly not for everyone, as it requires a non-trivial familiarity with statistics and an extreme interest not just in baseball but in baseball analytics.

But for those with such interests, this book presents interesting research in very readable form, particularly on the high value of platoons (given that pinch-hitters perform much worse than on days when they start), the optimal use of relievers (way more than they're used
Mar 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, sports
A review and statistical analysis of strategies in baseball. The authors pick through baseball ideas very methodically, and the book's organization is its biggest virtue. It really steps you carefully through each consideration and checks each possibility. The best sections are the chapters on bunting and intentional walks. Unfortunately the thoroughness is done up to a fault; the writing style gets a little repetitive and could really have used some editorial work. There are also some methodolo ...more
Jun 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: baseball nerds
Shelves: baseball
It's a little dry at times, zooming through some of the math with the assumption that the reader's pretty able to follow without much explanation (this is often true), but it's insightful. Of special value is the application of game theory to typical SABR research. Largely because of this aspect, the book frequently refutes not only conventional wisdom (though less often that you might expect), but also "conventional sabermetric wisdom." The book gives adequate credit to managers for doing their ...more
Zeb Snyder
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Great, great stuff. You know how baseball guys claim to "play the percentages" or operate "by the book" (often a justification for a tactical decision that didn't work out)? Well, this IS The Book. The authors have looked at statistics for all sorts of situations, and analyzed what the correct tactic is in those situations. It is packed with data and analysis, but also helpful summaries that allow you to skip through some of the gory statistical calculations. Should I bunt here? Should I leave t ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports-non-fic
Loved every page. So good for anyone who like to be an armchair manager or GM or even someone who just coaches co-ed softball. Worth reading just for the section on optimal line-up construction. But also, really good analysis of why top relievers should be used more, the debatable term "clutch hitter" and how streaks don't really predict future performance at all.
A real eye opener for me was the section on batter vs. pitcher, and how hitters don't really "own" a particular pitcher and vice versa
Nov 05, 2011 rated it liked it
"The Book" will tell you why MLB managers are luddites who make horrible decisions without consulting readily available statistics. Some smart baseball team someday will hire a coach explicitly responsible for in-game tactics. Until then, fans are sometimes smarter than the paid managers who run the game.
Some topics:
_ Optimal lineup construction
_ Appropriate situations for sacrifice bunting
_ Intentional walks
_ "Clutch" performances
_ Righty vs. lefty match-ups
_ Bullpen management
Oliver Kim
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I bought this book expecting something like Bill James or Moneyball - it isn't. Really, this book is more like a mathematical treatise or a textbook than a regular non-fiction book. More than half of its content is formulas and various calculations, followed up by brief, pithy little conclusions about their implications on the way baseball is played. It's good, and for armchair GMs, it's enlightening, but be forewarned that this is not Moneyball.
Chris Witt
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great reference and read for folks into baseball strategy. I have seen The Book misrepresented more often than The Bible, so I am glad I read it myself at last.

Made me appreciate the complications and intricacies of baseball strategy even more than I already did.

If you have thought about reading this before, stop stalling and get a copy.

A word of caution: not for the mathematically deficient.
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it

Although a bit dated with most of its research covering the increased run scoring environment of the steroid era, this is an interesting study of baseball strategy that will appeal to most sabrmetrically inclined baseball fans. Many baseball managers claim to manage "by the book" when they make decisions according to what conventional wisdom dictates. Tango, Lichtman and Dolphin have done the research to show what decisions they should actually make and in what percentages.
Lee (Rocky)
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
For the most part, the concepts explored in this book are things I'm already familiar with. It was probably a lot more groundbreaking when it came out, but by now a lot of this stuff is pretty widely known among those who are interested in sabermetrics, though there were a few findings that surprised me. The math was, for the most part, over my head, though explained well enough that I understood the point even if I didn't quite understand how they got there.
Gary Geiger
The Son of The Hidden Game of Baseball. Tom, Andy, and Mitchel do a good job here explaining some concepts like lineup costruction and when or when not to bunt. I've been reading about sabermetrics since the 1980's so I grokked it. But it may be daunting if you aren't familiar with baseball analytics.
Geoff Young
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's been a while since I last read this, but when it comes to baseball analytics, these guys really know their stuff. The concepts are novel and well presented, the writing is clear. If you're interested in learning more about the numbers behind the game and how those numbers inform (or should inform) decision processes, this book is well worth your time.
May 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Dry as a 2 year old bag of Doritos (TM) but a wonderful book for the true baseball nerd. Now, when I scream at Joe Morgan/Tim McCarver/The-Current-Manager-of-the-Yankees on the tv, I have mounds of nearly incomprehensible statistics to back me up. Huzzah!
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Baseball stat fans
Recommended to Arithmomaniac by:
Most books on sabermetrics are about who used to be the better player. Any book which is nearly exhaustive on the relevance of sabermetrics to modern play is a joy to read. With easy language and just the right amount of math, it makes up for its occasional lack of editing and statistical rigor.
Jan 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Any mathematically-inclined baseball fan NEEDS to read this book. This is a tome that shows where a lot of the recent developments in sabermetrics originated. But I know only about .1% of this site would ever be interested in this book.
Sam Larson
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is the deep end of the sabrmetrics pool. It is probably the most thorough introduction to reasoned baseball analysis. Daunting as an introduction to sabr but a great as a reference for the already initiated.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing sabermetrics book with very thorough investigations and simple explanations. Awesome insights and cool metrics and methods. Easy intro to sabermetrics book for somebody wishing to dive in more but not too fast.
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