Book Review: The Book

While it may seem commonplace today, and even a requirement, to use advanced statistics to measure the success of baseball players, a decade ago, these methods weren’t nearly as widely accepted. While Bill James certainly did his due diligence, along with those at Baseball Prospectus (and many others), there was still a long tentative feelings about advanced statistics and deeper percentages when this work came out. The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball came out in 2007 just as the sabermetrics community was really taking off and the acceptance of Moneyball was becoming mainstream. Authors Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin come together to bring readers a definitive look at how to manage a baseball team based on various looks at percentages.

Many common baseball discussion topics are covered in the book. Including statistics for each batter/pitcher matchup, the benefits of platooning and when (and when not) to do it, the risks and rewards of intentional walks and sacrifices, whether or not someone can actually be clutch and many other topics such as when it may be most appropriate to steal a base. The authors’ claim is that what they say in their book is what baseball teams really should be doing to build and evaluate their teams.

The work includes a foreword by Pete Palmer, who has been involved in baseball analytics since the 1960s and basically explains why the book is relevant and a must read from his perspective.

To give potential readers a taste of what to expect, here are a few of the chapter names:

  • Toolshed
  • Mano a Mano
  • Batting (Dis)Order
  • Starting Pitchers
  • To Sacrifice of Not
  • Running Wild
  • Don’t Try This At Home

In addition to the descriptive writing, the book also includes no less than 140 different charts, or tables, to help illustrate the points the authors are making about each subject. Here is a taste of some of the tables that are shared and some this reviewer found especially interesting:

  • Batter/Pitcher In Season Following Pitcher Owning Batter
  • Batter Performances, By Quality, Against Good Pitchers
  • Run Values, By Event and Base/Out State
  • Runs to End of Inning, By Event
  • Batter/Pitcher Performances By Groundball/Flyball Tendencies
  • The 10 Best Clutch Seasons
  • The 10 Worst Clutch Hitters
  • The 10 Best Clutch Skills
  • The 10 Worst Stretch Pitchers

For each category mentioned, there is an opposite chart for the reverse look. For example, if there is a chart for the worst, there is a chart for the best or if there is a chart for batters owning pitchers, there is a chart for pitchers owning batters. It’s interesting to see how the statistics have evolved over the past decade. 2007 doesn’t seem all that long ago, but the move to accept sabermetrics during that decade has been considerable as now it is seen as basically the only correct way to try to build a team. That being said, most of what the three authors in the book is still relevant to the statistics that are used today.

The work is published by Potomac Books and retails for $21.95.

Baseball Reflections Rating: 3.75/5

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