Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 12, 2007
BASEBALL: The Baseball Economist
This Thursday, a new title aimed at the analytical-minded baseball fan will hit the shelves: The Baseball Economist, by J.C. Bradbury, who writes the Sabernomics blog. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of the book.
Now, I will admit, first of all, that I find "business of baseball" issues dreary and depressing (that's one of the two reasons I rarely write about them here, the other being that my law firm does too much work for companies engaged in the business for me to discuss them without wading into a hornet's nest of conflicts). Something like a third of this book is devoted to "business of baseball" issues, and I have thus far only skimmed those parts. Your mileage may vary as to your interest level in the topic.
The title notwithstanding, though, the book isn't principally a book of economics but a book applying the analytical tools used by economists to statistical and other data about baseball. On the whole, I found the book incisive and well-written, as you would expect from Bradbury. Probably the best chapter (the book is basically a collection of 16 essays on distinct subjects) was a careful study of the case for Leo Mazzone for the Hall of Fame. There are also particularly interesting reviews of manager lobbying for ball and strike calls (using a comparison of data from Questec and non-Questec parks) and the demise of left-handed throwing catchers.
The book isn't perfect; as tends to happen sometimes with sabermetric authors trying to figure out what to write for general vs. experienced audiences, there's a chapter called "How to Judge a Hitter or a Pitcher," most of which will be old hat to most people who have read a Bill James or Rob Neyer book along the way (which is most of the people who will buy this book). Then again, as I said I'm probably giving short shrift to the economic stuff in here. For those of you looking for a thoughtful supplement to your annual baseball reading list, check it out.