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Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won
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Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  5,250 ratings  ·  350 reviews
In Scorecasting, University of Chicago behavioral economist Tobias Moskowitz teams up with veteran Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim to overturn some of the most cherished truisms of sports, and reveal the hidden forces that shape how basketball, baseball, football, and hockey games are played, won and lost.

Drawing from Moskowitz's original research, as well as stu
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by Crown Archetype (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Start your review of Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won
Finally, a book for those of us who read Moneyball and thought, "but I was told there would be math." This is a comprehensive statistical analysis of the unifying themes in all sports. Want to know why teams have a home field advantage? Just want to see mathematical proof that there is a home field advantage across all sports? Curious about whether or not "defense wins championships"? The answers that you seek are here.

More importantly, the fact that the authors look at a number of different spo
Jan 30, 2011 rated it liked it
This is basically Freakonomics for sports. And I say that as a good thing. A scholarly read that is still fun. The authors are intellectual but can still be regular fans. Not always easy to read as there are lots of statistics and numbers but if you are patient and think your way through they make good arguments for such subjects as Does Defense Really Win Championships? and When Do Refs Choke The Most?

Recommended to all casual plus sports fans.
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
There are two chapters in this book that should be read by anyone hoping to better understand sports outcomes, spanning pages 110-167 and breaking new ground concerning why teams win a higher percentage of home games than road games.

The conclusion is this - referee bias from social influence is the leading cause of home field advantage across all team sports

Baseball – Close pitches go the home team’s way more often, and most commonly in high leverage situations. The larger the crowd and the clo
A sports-loving numbers nerd's dream! Real review to follow, but it would be cruel to deny this recommendation for those who fit the bill! ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I love this book in theory, but, much like Freakonomics before it, the reality is disappointing. The pedestrian writing repeats itself innumerable times - to the point where I would almost recommend reading only every other paragraph (and maybe skipping the first and last sentences of those paragraphs). Several of the topics covered will be very familiar to anyone who follows intelligent sports reporting - the hot hand isn't real, calling a timeout to "freeze" your opponent is ineffective, coach ...more
Mar 22, 2011 rated it liked it
It's Freakonomics applied to sports. Unfortunately, this book doesn't hold attention quite as well as Freakonomics, but if you're a sports fan and a math nerd it's an interesting read. I think the book would have been better as a series of articles. Each chapter seems to stretch out as many pages as it can out of some pretty dull analysis. The book is at its best when it makes it point, provides a little bit of data and moves on. Toward the middle of the book the authors lag on some longer theme ...more
Adam Berry
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating statistical analysis of several different sports phenomena including home field advantage, hot/cold streaks, and strategies.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ironically I happened upon this book by chance. I'm glad I did. I think anyone with a love for sports and a basic understanding of statistics will enjoy this book. I was impressed with the authors' abilities to provide great statistical and logical analyses without negating the human element and without taking sports too seriously. It was a fun read and would make a great book club selection. ...more
Jamie Rogers
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this front to back in 24 hours, couldn’t recommend this enough for anyone interested in sports. (Requires basic knowledge of the American Big 4 but not a substantial amount)
Full of stats and explaintions. I say someone compare it to Freakanomics or sports. Pretty fair comparison. Numbers can help explain slumps, "luck" (good and bad), and even the use of PEDs. Fascinating stuff, this book. ...more
Chris Brady
Dec 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
The great biopsychosocial truth of sport. The elephant in the room that keeps us clutching to our seat.
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
The authors take a "Freakanomics"-style approach to sports "truisms", debunking some myths (don't bother icing the kicker) and breaking others down (the real reasons behind home-field advantage). I don't have a good reason to do so, but I'm going pros and cons for this review.

* Many of the findings were fascinating - the Mitchell Report data, the .299 hitter bit, breaking down the difference in value of blocked shots based on what happens to the ball subsequently, the size of the strik
Amy Woszczynski
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I’m a sports enthusiast and a researcher interested in organizational behavior and information systems. This book was right up my alley!

It would be interesting for you to follow up to the chapter on whistle swallowing since you can now evaluate the accuracy of every single pitch in baseball. That provides a larger data set to particularly look at those calls that are or are not made. It would also be interesting to look at the speed of the pitch in baseball vs. success (of pitchers and hitters).
Jason Roberson
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the read, albeit several themes were unnecessarily dragged out after the point was made. It is an intriguing book for sure.

Some excerpts for my own future reference:

This same loss aversion affects coaches. They behave much like the shortsighted mutual fund manager who forgoes long-term gains to avoid short-term losses. The coaches are motivated less by potential gain (touchdown) than by fear of a concrete loss (the relative certainty of points from a f
Steven Peterson
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Questions about sports that always come up: Why is the home team so often successful? Is there no I in team? Why are there more .300 hitters than .299 hitters? Why do golfers suck it up to avoid bogies but play it safe when looking for a birdie? In football, why is it so normal to punt on 4th down, no matter the situation? The4se and other issues are the focus of this quirky--but fun--volume. Sports fans will enjoy this; so, too, will students of the human condition.

I don't want to give away too
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting book, highlighting some interesting findings I was familiar with--such as that NFL teams "go for it" on fourth down way too infrequently, that there is little evidence for systematically "hot" players, and that draft picks later in the draft are undervalued relative to top picks--but also introduces several interesting new pieces of research.

The authors do a lot of work on home-field advantage, finding that players do not actually perform better or worse at home versus
Oct 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Freakonomics with sports, or as people on Japers' Rink call it "FANCY STATS". Like Freakonomics, Scorecasting likes to turn people's perceptions on their heads, like determining why sports have home field advantage (spoiler alert: it's the refs).

The problem with a book like Scorecasting if you're a mathematics or economist or anyone who knows something about statistics is that you want to ask questions of the analysis. Things like sample size, how the authors controlled for various factors, corr
Feb 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Freakonomics for the sports buff... super fast read. Many interesting tidbits here, my favorite the fact teams are better off "going for it" on 4th down versus punting, which is something I’ve always thought. Given this “go for it” attitude is statistically favorable for the average team I have to think it's doubly favorable for the Chargers and their abysmal special teams play. Methinks Norv Turner needs a copy of this book. Also, I liked the numbers and reasons behind “home field advantage” (n ...more
Gabriel Pinkus
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book! I thought they made a few errors or were a little too confident in their findings a few times (if you data mine a lot, you're probably going to find coincidences... Even if the statistics appear to say each one is signficant... They also made some displays of data which were a bit misleading - They said the cub's attendance was less win-sensitive than any other team, and they used a bar graph in which the Yankees (I believe it was the Yankees) had a 0.9 sensitivity and the cubs a ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: early data in the Bundesliga is confirming the author’s views on home bias. Take away the crowds and home advantage disappears. VAR was already seeing a lessening of the impact.

Easy to read and entertaining book applying a combination of behavioural economics and "Freakonomics" style statistical analysis (eliminating other variables and often overturning conventional analysis) to (mainly American) sport. Interesting areas include: home bias being almost entirely due to crowd
Ben Iverson
Jan 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-stars
I enjoyed this book, and if you're a sports fan and like numbers you should definitely read it. I especially enjoyed the section on home field advantage, as it's something that I've wondered about for a long time. My only complaint is that the whole "why everything you thought was true is wrong" is way overplayed, in my opinion. Clearly, telling us that things we think are true really are wrong is a good way to catch attention and sell books. I just think it was a bit overbearing in this book. T ...more
Jan 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
There is nothing truly new or breakthrough in this book, but it is another solid entry in the sportsonomics category. While the conclusions mostly summarize previous studies, it's hard not to stand on some shoulders in this genre. Anyone who has read Wages of Wins or follows Beyond the Box Score, Fangraphs or Adanced NFL Stats will be familar with most of the concepts and possibly read some of these topics previously. Still, I'd rather someone read this and at least start to look at things diffe ...more
Less Moneyball than a sports-centric Freakonomics. I enjoyed the majority of the topics the authors delve into. I especially liked the review of home field advantage across sports. The research didn't seem as "cherry-picked" as some other recent books I've read - there are many explanations of how they are measuring or evaluating. I didn't appreciate a few chapters where they listed lots of statistics and numbers. On paper you can skip tables, but when they are read on the audiobook version, you ...more
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Eye-opening look at sports "truisms" through the lens of economists. Well worth reading. ...more
Greg Stoll
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a combination of Freakonomics (not that I’ve actually read it…) and Moneyball (but not just for baseball). I’ve read a few books like this but this was the most entertaining – the writing style is light and breezy but the analyses seem fairly well done. Some of my favorite chapters:

– Football teams should really really go for it more on fourth down than they do. One estimate showed that, in ~1000 fourth-down situations where they should have gone for it, they punted it away almost 9
Vaibhav Verma
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, Freakonomics but for sports. Maybe sometimes at fault for cunningly using data, Moskowitz and Wetheim made strong arguments about so many intriguing topics. They determine the underlying reason for home-court advantage. They analyze the NFL draft, explaining how blatantly one-sided draft trades keep occurring. They mention a high school football team that never settles for a field goal or a punt, going for it on fourth down every time - even deep in their own terri ...more
Clay Kallam
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
"Scorecasting" is one of those books that not only don't reward close reading, but actually wind up discouraging it -- and not because the basic ideas are lacking, but rather that those basic ideas are pretty much all there is.

It's like "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People": All you need to do is read the habit itself, and you've pretty much covered the topic. The rest of the chapter is essentially filler, and that's the story with "Scorecasting" as well. For example, there are two chapt
Premal Vora
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Mythbusters for sports". It's about time someone wrote this book. Who better than a bright economist and a Sports Illustrated writer who also happen to be long-time friends and passionate about sports?!

Does defense wins games? Is there a "hot hand" phenomenon in sports (or for any other activity for that matter)? Is there a home-team advantage? (Yes, clearly there is one -- but in this book they go way beyond documenting the home-team advantage and argue why it exists -- the answer took me by s
Mar 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Very interesting, and much more math in it then similar books. I enjoyed it, but can't say Id read it again. The book essentially takes Richard Thalers ideas and applies them to sports, hardly a new idea, but they cover it well, and back up all their claims. The main issue I had was their inability to appreciate positional value in football (IE a franchise QB is worth far more then a generational RB, looking at you NYG), and their under-weighting of winning now for GM's and HC's on a short leash ...more
Leyton S
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I actually really enjoyed this book. It was a very a very quick read, and I enjoyed the pace and the statistics and studies mixed into every chapter. I thought towards the end that the authors were starting to run out of things to talk about but overall still very good. It didn't really affect me personally, but it did give me even more sporting knowledge and now I will have new perspectives when watching as much sports as I do. I also gained a lot of insights about life too. I learned that I ne ...more
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