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March 26, 2006

Review: Behind-The-Scenes Baseball


I've just finished reading Behind-The-Scenes Baseball: Real-Life Applications of Statistical Analysis Actually Used by Major League Teams...and Other Stories by Doug Decatur.

Decatur has been a statistical consultant to big league teams for 15 years - mostly for the Brewers, Reds, Cubs and Astros.

Behind-The-Scenes Baseball is broken into three parts. The first section is a collection of "insider" stories from his days as a consultant. The second section is a "G.M. IQ Test" of 100 questions. And, the third and last section is a focus/case study on the 2004 & 2005 Phil Garner Astros. (Decatur has worked with Garner for a while and they have a strong relationship.)

This book is a quick read - you can get through it in a day.

While I didn't find the insider stories in the first section to be very juicy, they were not boring.

I did enjoy the "G.M. IQ Test" very much. Basically, it's a quiz on the findings of Bill James, Baseball Prospectus, John Dewan, STATS Inc., and Decatur himself.

From a Yankees fan perspective, I found these questions most interesting:

1. Assuming the 2004 Yankees and Red Sox were equal teams, what was the mathematical chance that the Red Sox would come back from 0-3 in the ALCS?

2. True or False - For a manager, there is a positive correlation between the number of young players developed into full-time starters and the number of championships won.

[The answers will follow at the close of this review.]

The third section of the book was also interesting - to see the work behind the curtain on the 2004 Astros comeback and the Astros play in the 2005 postseason. One item in there was extremely interesting to me:

"In all seven of the postseason series in 2005, the team in each series with the better regular DER [Defensive Efficiency Record] won that postseason series."

See, when I wrote about the Yankees 2005 ALDS issues back in October, and said:

Defense. Like just about every game this series, the Angels turn hits into outs while the Yankees turn outs into base runners. That Crosby-Sheffield crash reminded me of Blair-Reggie collision back on May 12,1978 (when A.O. went inside the park). Sad part is, even without the crash, I don't think Sheffield makes the grab there.

....I was not just kidding.

On the whole, I recommend reading Behind-The-Scenes Baseball. The "G.M. IQ Test" alone makes it worth it.

Answers to the above questions:

1. 6.25% [From John Dewan's Stat of the Week, 10/20/04.]
2. True. [This is taken from a study on managers in the Baseball Report Card.]

Posted by Steve Lombardi at March 26, 2006 10:39 PM


6.25%, of course, assumes a 50-50 chance of winning at home and on the road. The right answer, therefore, would seem to be "less than 6.25%" -- just to add to how depressing that was....

Posted by: Fred Vincy [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 27, 2006 04:03 PM


Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 28, 2006 10:32 AM