Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Keith Law's 'Smart Baseball' May Just Change Your Mind

We'll admit it, most of us here at FenwayNation are statistics "agnostics". We can see the clear contribution of "sabermetrics" to understanding the game, but we also pine for the old "gut" method of managing and the traditional stats that go with it. So, we approached Keith Law's new book, Smart Baseball (HarperCollins) with some trepidation. From the very first chapter, the ESPN senior baseball analyst makes a compelling case that data analytics are not only the correct way to understand the game—they also drive the business of baseball in the 21st century. Law meticulously lays out the flaws in almost every "old" statistic we grew up on—from batting average to pitching saves and win-loss records. For example, in deconstructing "batting average", he correctly points out the following: "Batting average doesn't tell you how often a player gets a hit, but how often he gets a hit ignoring times he draws a walk, gets hit by a pitch, hits a sacrifice fly, makes a successful sacrifice bunt, or reaches via catchers's interference". Get it? All of those things qualify as 'plate appearances", but not 'at-bats'. With very little tricky math (thank goodness!), Law shows how the last fifteen years of baseball metrics are the only real way to interpret player performance and value. If you are afraid to confront the Sabermetric revolution, read Law's book. It will painlessly take you over the ramparts without a scratch. This is a must read for rabid and casual fans alike. You can purchase the book through Amazon HERE.