Saturday, March 11, 2006

Book Review: The Book

You always hear managers, fans and broadcasters talk about "The Book":

Reporter: Why didn't you pinch hit for Infante in the 8th inning with the tying run on base?

Manager: The Book said to go with Infante in that situation.

Reporter: But everybody in the park knew he was going to strikeout.

Manager: If that situation comes up 100 times, I'll let Infante bat every time. I always play by The Book.

What is this Book? Sometimes they call it: "playing by the percentages". Playing by the percentages certainly sounds different from managing "by hunches" or "by feel" but what exactly does it mean?

Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin, three of the best sabermetricians around, have written a book about The Book. They call it: The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball. Using thousands of play by play accounts over several years, they try to determine what managers would do if they truely played the percentages. When deciding who should start or pinch hit or relieve in a tight spot, do you use the player with the hot hand or the one with the better long term track record? What is the best way to use your top relievers? When should sacrifice bunts be used? They do not claim to have definitive answers to these or many many other questions raised in the book but their analysis is as thorough as I've seen anywhere. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in baseball analysis and managerial strategy.

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