Friday, November 09, 2012

BC2012: Stumbling on Wins by David J. Berri and Martin B. Schmidt

The authors are economists who apply statistical analysis to professional sports. If you've seen or read Moneyball, which the authors mention, you understand the revolutionary potential of such an approach. My biggest problem with Stumbling on Wins is too much basketball.* I soldiered through the main text, but I will confess to skimming the footnotes and the appendix where the NBA was concerned. I notice now that there are separate Kindle editions for basketball and football. The authors also discuss hockey, particularly the impact of goalies, and a few baseball issues.

Though this is a book for the geekiest of sports fans, it includes some interesting analysis that anyone can follow. I have heard some of these arguments before, such as how NFL teams should "go for it" on fourth down more than they do. But there are some unusual perspectives as well. For example, the authors argue that kickers provide more value to their teams by kicking off well (deep, hard to return, giving the other team poor field position) than by making field goals.

Overall, Stumbling on Wins is interesting but not great. It was worth reading but not worth recommending/passing on to others. I suppose I might consider their earlier volume, The Wages of Wins, but only if there's less NBA content.

* Short, fat kids like me hated basketball because we sucked at it. Later I lived in Chicago during the Michael Jordan years, and if that couldn't make me like basketball, nothing ever will.

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