Baseball By the Numbers: The Best Books on Baseball Stats

shelved under Sports

I thought it was time to share my favorite (and some of the best) baseball books focused on statistics. Some of these are oldies but goodies. I have tried to find books that should appeal to each type of statistics-minded fan, from the fans that attend the SABR conference to the casual baseball fan. For those like Jeff Francoeur, there’s even one book that doesn’t focus on statistics at all!

These types of books are useful in deciding who to pick for one’s fantasy baseball team, for definitively deciding whose hometown team manager is the worst (or the best) and for just learning about the mathematics behind baseball. If you like these books I recommend checking out fangraphs.com, hardballtimes.com, Rob Neyer’s Sweetspot blog on ESPN and Tom Tango’s blog.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

by Michael Lewis

Probably the most influential baseball book of the past few decades. It’s a business book masquerading as a baseball book. It’s a baseball book masquerading as a business book. A well-written explanation of how Billy Beane and took a small-market team and went head to head with the big-market teams like the Yankees and succeeded. This book brought statistical analysis to the mainstream. The book explores how the Oakland As used statistical analysis to sift through the data in order to find advantages like discovering what unrecognized skillsets prospects had to have in order to be successful in the majors. This basic idea has been copied frequently, most recently in the bestselling book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It recently served as the inspiration for Microsoft to set up a patent system analysis. If you will only read one baseball book or statistical book this is the one to read.

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The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball

The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball

by Andrew Dolphin, Mitchel Lichtman, Tom M. Tango, foreword by Pete Palmer

The bible for advanced baseball statistical analysis. Want to know if bringing in a pinch-hitter for a platoon advantage is worthwhile? Then this is the book for you. Not quite as readable as most baseball books, but it makes up for that in reference value. Probably the best indication of good the book is can be found in the fact that the Seattle Mariners new GM hired Tom Tango and which presumably has led to the organization being successful this year.

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Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong

Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong

by The Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts, edited by Jonah Keri

Ok, so you like baseball and want to know about why the stats-community disparages RBIs. Why isn’t batting average the end-all be-all? So you want to know the answers to the big questions and not just the very specific situations Tom Tango’s Book explores? This is the book for you. The book is eminently readable especially for a statistically-minded book. That’s partially due to the choice in chapter topics, that include questions like “Is Barry Bonds better than Babe Ruth?” The book is a little outdated but it’s still a good one. And very possibly a bargain book too!

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The Bad Guys Won!

The Bad Guys Won!

by Jeff Pearlman

If you’re going to read just one non-stats book this should be it. Well at least for Mets fans. This book is about the 69’ Mets one of the most raucous teams in history to win a World Series title. The book explores the off-field issues (adventures might be the better term) that the team had. For the Mets fan in me who grew up and watched the Mets choke away post-seasons like candy this is the type of team that I wish the current Mets had. Hear what prompted United Airlines to bill the Mets for $7500 in damages and how their manager tore the bill apart.

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The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics

The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics

by Alan Schwarz, foreword by Peter Gammons

A book about the history of statistics and their inventors. Full of tidbits and trivia, the Numbers Game is well-written and explores mankind’s fascination with statistics as well as the intertwined history of baseball. Within the first chapter, Schwarz details how newspaper baseball tables enabled fans to relive games as well as how baseball evolved from cricket. Good stuff.

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