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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.
Forget the steroid-addled, overpaid, and unmotivated players: Americaand#8217;s pastime is still alive and well, and is still the heartfelt sport itand#8217;s always beenand#8212;in the Minor Leagues. And nowhere is this truer than in Kentucky, whose rich baseball history continues to play out in the four teams profiled in this book. Following these teams through the 2010 seasonand#8212;the triumphs, struggles, and big league hopes and dreamsand#8212;the book tells the larger story of baseball in Americaand#8217;s smaller venues, where the game in its purest form is still valued and warmly embraced.and#160;
The story begins before the season with national-anthem singing tryouts in Lexington, then tags along with players, staffs, and fans at home, in the office, and on the field, offering a rare glimpse of the unglamorous reality of Minor League ball. From the front-office staff in Bowling Green planning kooky promotions, to a trainer grocery shopping for a team on forty dollars a day, to a new wife coming to terms with her husbandand#8217;s transitory lifestyle, to a father struggling to make it back to the Majors and a Cuban defector blowing everyone away with a 100-mph-plus fastball these are the people who live to make baseball happen, in all its nitty-gritty glory.
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.
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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