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Wizardry: Baseball's All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealedby Michael Humphreys
Synopses & Reviews
Much of the credit for helping the Red Sox win the World Series went to a more scientific approach to baseball statistics, dubbed "sabermetrics" by its greatest proponent, Bill James. But one aspect of the game has defied quantification: the number of runs individual fielders save. Traditional fielding statistics count errors and plays made, but not hits fielders 'should' have reached. Major League teams have recently addressed this gap using proprietary records of the location of every batted ball, but the underlying data has been kept secret and will never exist for the first century of modern major league baseball history.
Now, in Wizardry, comes the long-awaited breakthrough, Defensive Runs (or Regression) Analysis (DRA), created by Michael A. Humphreys. Drawing on entirely public information available to any fan, and using clear concrete examples, Humphreys demonstrates how to apply classic statistical methods to estimate runs saved by fielders going back to 1893. Humphreys tests his results against other fielding measures, including published ratings based on proprietary batted ball location data, and explains their respective strengths and limitations. More than that, Humphreys introduces the first method for adjusting historical player ratings to take into account the expansion of baseball's talent pool due to population growth, integration, and international recruitment. From shortstop to left fielder, he presents and defends his list of the greatest fielders of all time with anecdote-rich essays. And he caps off this book with extensive on-line appendices, including downloadable files of single-season DRA ratings for every fielder since 1893.
Sabermetrics changed baseball and introduced a generation of young people to the art of statistical inference. Now a seasoned analyst makes the case for the biggest changes in historical player valuations in decades, while opening up new approaches for further exploration.
The systematic analysis of baseball statistics, often called "sabermetrics," has evolved in recent years to resemble something of a science, attracting fans from diverse professional and educational backgrounds, all fascinated by the analysis itself and its insights into the game. But one problem has defied solution: estimating runs saved by fielders throughout history. Traditional statistics include errors and plays made, but not hits that could or should have been prevented. The latter can now be estimated using records of the location of every batted ball, but the underlying data exists only for recent seasons and has generally been withheld from the public.
Now, in Wizardry, comes the long-awaited breakthrough. Drawing solely on freely available baseball statistics, Michael A. Humphreys shows how to apply classic statistical methods to estimate runs saved by fielders going back to 1893. Humphreys tests his results against other fielding measures, including published ratings based on proprietary batted ball location data, and explains their respective strengths and limitations. He also introduces a method for adjusting historical player ratings for increased competition due to population growth, integration, and international recruitment. Position by position, Humphreys identifies and profiles the greatest fielders of all time with anecdote-rich essays.
Sabermetrics changed baseball and introduced a generation to the art of statistical inference. Wizardry makes the case for the most significant changes in historical player valuation in decades, while opening up new approaches for further exploration.
Sabermetrics, the systematic analysis of baseball statistics, has evolved over time to resemble something of a science, attracting fans from diverse professional and educational backgrounds, all fascinated by both the analysis itself and the objective insights it provides into the game. Although fans and analysts have devoted exhaustive efforts to developing statistics that measure offensive performance, defensive metrics have historically been deemed too difficult to measure accurately and objectively.
In Wizardry: Baseball's All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed, Michael Humphreys introduces a system that conclusively quantifies fielding statistics and compares player performance from as early as 1893 by estimating how many runs each fielder "saved" or "allowed." While a number of methods for analyzing defense have recently gained exposure, they rely on expensive proprietary data held by professional sports statistics companies and only capture information drawn from the contemporary era. Humphreys' method, Defensive Runs Analysis (DRA), makes unique use of free, open source data available to the average fan and incorporates equalizing historical factors to place players from different eras on equal footing. Wizardry is the first book to systematically rank and profile the greatest fielders at each position from throughout major league history. To frame and validate his results, the author tests DRA data against other well-known statistical measures and also presents an analysis of other defensive statistical metrics.
Casual fans with little mathematical background will appreciate Wizardry's accessible style while professional statisticians will value the opportunity to validate Humphreys' methodology and results. Given the topic and the author's presentation of the material, the book will draw in both the serious, baseball statistics audience and the average fan.
About the Author
Michael A. Humphreys advises on tax aspects of international capital markets transactions at Ernst and Young LLP.
Table of Contents
Part One: Motivations and Methods
1. The Big Picture
2. One Way to Measure Fielding
3. Measuring the Many Measures of Fielding
4. Summing Up Fielding Careers in One Number . . . and Attaching Asterisks Thereto
5. Putting Top Players from Different Eras on 'Equal' Footing
Part Two: The Greatest Fielders of All-Time
7. Second Base
8. Center Field
9. Third Base
10. Right Field
11. Left Field
12. First Base
Part Three: Fielding in the Context of Pitching, Hitting and Base Running
14. (A Select Few of) Baseball's All-Time Greatest Pitchers
15. Incorporating Fielding Ratings into Overall Player Ratings
A. Defensive Regression Analysis ("DRA")
B. Notes on the history of fielding analysis
C. Chart of alternative fielding systems
D. Career DRA ratings for all fielders with 3,000 innings or estimated innings at one position
E. Single-season DRA ratings for all fielders since 1893 (Available book's website)
F. Certain data used to develop DRA (Available book's website)
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