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 book of the season . . . comes from Michael Humphreys . . . who has spent years meticulously extracting reads on historical defensive performance from the flawed and fragmentary numbers we have to go by, and he now offers the definitive work on the subject . . . A careful, thoughtful system that will make you appreciate all the more the genius of the late Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon or the peripatetic and vastly underrated outfielder Kenny Lofton . . . A representation of the future of statistical sabermetrics, which in years to come is quite likely to become more focused less on telling the future than on wresting meaning out of the past." -- Tim Marchman, The Wall Street Journal
"Excellent." -- David Schoenfeld, ESPN ("Sweet Spot" blog)
"Humphreys writes capably and makes the math-heavy parts as readable as anyone could. The outcome should attract all dedicated baseball fans and stat hounds." -- Library Journal
"Michael Humphreys does for fielding what Neil deGrasse Tyson does for astrophysics: he takes an incredibly complex subject and makes a reader who once felt dumb feel smart. He has cut through the cloud of my unknowing and helped me to understand what major league fielding really is and how it can be quantified. Wizardry is the best book yet on the subject." -- Allen Barra, writer for The Wall Street Journal
"Fielding is the hardest aspect of baseball in which to rate performance. In his fascinating book, Michael Humphreys should get the Gold Glove for historical fielding evaluation. With carefully derived formulae, he rates Aaron, Clemente, Gordon and Hooper as saving 100+ runs more than does Total Baseball, while Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith saved their teams over 100 fewer. And that's just among Hall of Famers! Taken seriously, as it should be, this book will substantially shake up our all-around rankings of players." -- Michael J. Schell, Moffitt Cancer Center, author of Baseball's All-Time Best Hitters and Baseball's All-Time Best Sluggers
"Wizardry is a very engaging book. Out of all of the modern methods of evaluating fielding, [the method introduced in Wizardry, DRA,] is the one method where readers can duplicate the results. The defensive runs produced by DRA match up well with [published defensive runs estimates based on proprietary data]. While all of these defensive metrics can vary widely from season to season, they have their biggest impact when evaluating a player's defensive career. In a perfect world, the gatekeepers to the Hall of Fame will start to rely on defensive metrics such as DRA, rather than how many Gold Gloves a player won, to assess a player's defensive contributions on the field."--Philip A. Yates, The American Statistician
"Bluegrass Baseball performs a reality check for prospective players and owners in the minor leagues."and#8212;Dorothy Seymour Mills, New York Journal of Books
"While Bluegrass Baseball is centered in Kentucky, the experiences of the players and employees are universal. It provides excellent insight into just what the minor leagues mean to just about anyone involved in the game."and#8212;James Bailey, Baseball America
"With depth and sensitivity, Cengel details the grind faced by owners, players, trainers, groundskeepers, ushers, broadcasters, mascots and even local families who take in ball players as boarders in their homes. Life in the minors is devoid of chartered planes, fame and fortune, but these vivid, personal stories of ordinary people with a dedicated passion and drive for the game will serve as inspiration for all."and#8212;Kathleen Gerard, Shelf Awareness
"From the front office scheming wacky promos to trainers shopping for the team to players struggling for a shot to The Show, this nitty-gritty account puts you in that minor-league clubhouse. So well done youand#8217;ll smell the bus fumes and hear that heckler over on the Bluegrass Baseball third-base line."and#8212;Society for American Baseball Research
andquot;Bluegrass Baseball portrays its large cast of characters with honesty and journalistic skill. It is a fast and engaging read.andquot;andmdash;Jeffrey P. Beck, AETHLON: The Journal of Sport Literature
"This was a fascinating way to look at minor league life from all levels and all angles. . . . If you are a fan of baseball and especially like to see the human side of these players that get out there every night for our entertainment, I would surely recommend picking up Bluegrass Baseball."and#8212;Daniel Shoptaw, C70 at the Bat
andldquo;A compelling, detailed and richly nuanced biography, Mover and Shaker
shows Oandrsquo;Malley as a shrewd and daring businessman who become a major force behind key changes in the sport. . . . The real insight of Mr. McCueandrsquo;s book is that Oandrsquo;Malley was a man who embraced risk and adapted well to new situations.andrdquo;andmdash;Paul Dickson, Wall Street Journal
and#8220;One of the best and most important baseball books of the year, and one thatand#8217;s been a long time comin.and#8217;and#8221;and#8212;Allen Barra, Dallas Morning News
and#8220;Outstanding. . . . I really canand#8217;t recommend Mover and Shaker highly enough.and#8221;and#8212;Rob Neyer, FoxSports.com
and#8220;Andy McCue has written the definitive biography of the fascinating and elusive Walter Oand#8217;Malley, the man who changed the way a country thinks about its national pastime. Wise and engaging. A must-read for every historian of the game.and#8221;and#8212;Michael Shapiro, author of The Last Good Season
and#8220;McCue covers this with an expertand#8217;s hand . . . in this highly readable account of perhaps the most influential baseball owner of the last century.and#8221;and#8212;Seamheads.com
"However you use this book, the important thing is this: it belongs in a place of honor on your shelf of Cardinal literature. To paraphrase Mr. Buck, "Itand#8217;s a winner!""and#8212;C70 at the Bat
"[Drama and Pride in the Gateway City] should find its way to the shelves of anyone seriously interested in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals."and#8212;Roger Launius's Blog
"Drama and Pride in the Gateway City is an invaluable contribution to baseball history and research because it presents for the first time all of the team's players, coaches, and selected writers, announcers, front-office personnel together and tells their unique story, indeed giving them a voice."and#8212;Gregory H. Wolf, Journal of Sport History
and#8220;1947 was something else. Being twenty-one and in my first season, it felt marvelous to be on the Yankees, playing in Yankee Stadium with all those guys. Then winning the World Series against the Dodgersand#8212;that was awfully exciting.and#8221;and#8212;Yogi Berra
and#8220;For all people interested in baseball and the Yankees, this book should be an enjoyable one. Virtually all these players were products of and#8216;The Greatest Generation.and#8217; The vast majority of us were in the service of our country in World War II. . . . It was a team without rancor or discord. Ownership consisting of Larry MacPhail, Dan Topping, and Del Webb were supportive and balanced effectively the needs of being accessible but not intrusive. . . . It was a terrific Yankee year.and#8221;and#8212;Robert W. and#8220;Bobbyand#8221; Brown, MD, former Yankees player and president of the American League 1984and#8211;94
"[Bridging Two Dynasties is] an intense and evocative study. . . . The pieces are written in the lively voices of writers deeply instilled with Yankees lore. Fans of the historical Yankees are likely to love this. For every Yankees collection."and#8212;Library Journal
"This is a well-researched, informative book that puts a pivotal year of Yankees history into proper perspective. New York had flashier stars, better pitchers and hitters and gaudier statistics in other years, but the 1947 squad deserves some respect, too."and#8212;Bob D'Angelo, Tampa Tribune
"An exceptional piece of work."and#8212;C70 at the Bat
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.
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.
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.
WINNER OF THE 2014 SEYMOUR MEDAL sponsored by the Society for American Baseball Research; Finalist for 2014 SABR Larry Ritter Award
Though his pitching career lasted only a few seasons, Howard Ellsworth and#8220;Smoky Joeand#8221; Wood was one of the most dominating figures in baseball historyand#8212;a man many consider the best baseball player who is not in the Hall of Fame. About his fastball, Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson once said: and#8220;Listen, mister, no man alive can throw harder than Smoky Joe Wood.and#8221;and#160;
Smoky Joe Wood chronicles the singular life befitting such a baseball legend. Wood got his start impersonating a female on the National Bloomer Girls team. A natural athlete, he pitched for the Boston Red Sox at eighteen, won twenty-one games and threw a no-hitter at twenty-one, and had a 34-5 record plus three wins in the 1912 World Series, for a 1.91 ERA, when he was just twenty-two. Then in 1913 Wood suffered devastating injuries to his right hand and shoulder that forced him to pitch in pain for two more years. After sitting out the 1916 season, he came back as a converted outfielder and played another five years for the Cleveland Indians before retiring to coach the Yale University baseball team.
With details culled from interviews and family archives, this biography, the first of this rugged player of the Deadball Era, brings to life one of the genuine characters of baseball history.
One of the most influential and controversial team owners in professional sports history, Walter Oand#8217;Malley (1903and#8211;79) is best rememberedand#8212;and still reviled by manyand#8212;for moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Yet much of the Oand#8217;Malley story leading up to the Dodgersand#8217; move is unknown or created from myth, and there is substantially more to the man. When he entered the public eye, the self-constructed family background and early life he presented was gilded. Later his personal story was distorted by some New York sportswriters, who hated him for moving the Dodgers.and#160;and#160;
and#160;In Mover and Shaker Andy McCue presents for the first time an objective, complete, and nuanced account of Oand#8217;Malleyand#8217;s life. He also departs from the overly sentimentalized accounts of Oand#8217;Malley as either villain or angel and reveals him first and foremost as a rational, hardheaded businessman, who was a major force in baseball for three decades and whose management and marketing practices radically changed the shape of the game.
By 1964 the storied St. Louis Cardinals had gone seventeen years without so much as a pennant. Things began to turn around in 1953, when August A. Busch Jr. bought the team and famously asked where all the black players were. Under the leadership of men like Bing Devine and Johnny Keane, the Cardinals began signing talented players regardless of color, and slowly their star started to rise again.
Drama and Pride in the Gateway City commemorates the team that Bing Devine built, the 1964 team that prevailed in one of the tightest three-way pennant races of all time and then went on to win the World Series, beating the New York Yankees in the full seven games. All the men come alive in these pagesand#8212;pitchers Ray Sadecki and Bob Gibson, players Lou Brock, Curt Flood, and Bobby Shantz, manager Johnny Keane, his coaches, the Cardinalsand#8217; broadcasters, and Bill White, who would one day run the entire National Leagueand#8212;along with the dramatic events that made the 1964 Cardinals such a memorable club in a memorable year.
Of all the New York Yankees championship teams, the 1947 club seemed the least likely. Bridging the gap between the dynasties of Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel, the team, managed by Bucky Harris, was coming off three non-pennant-winning seasons and given little chance to unseat the defending American League champion Boston Red Sox. And yet, led by Joe DiMaggio, this un-Yankees-like squad of rookies, retreads, and a few solid veterans easily won the pennant over the Detroit Tigers and the heavily favored Red Sox, along the way compiling an American Leagueand#8211;record nineteen-game winning streak. They then went on to defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers in a dramatic seven-game World Series that was the first to be televised and the first to feature an African American player.
Bridging Two Dynasties commemorates this historic cluband#8212;the players, on the field and off, and the events surrounding their remarkable season. Along with player biographies, including those of future Hall of Famers DiMaggio, Bucky Harris, Yogi Berra, and Phil Rizzuto, the book features a seasonal timeline and covers pertinent topics such as the winning streak, the Yankeesand#8217; involvement in Leo Durocherand#8217;s suspension, and the thrilling World Series.
About the Author
John Harry Stahl has contributed to four previous Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) books and is a member of SABRand#8217;s Baseball Biography Project (BioProject), which consists of more than two thousand biographies of Major and Minor League players, coaches, managers, and executives/owners. Bill Nowlin, vice president of SABR since 2004, has written more than thirty-five Red Soxand#8211;related books, most recently Fenway Park at 100: Baseballand#8217;s Hometown.
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)