Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scorecasting: The Hidden Influcnes Behind How Sports and Played and Games are Won

Howard had a good post a few days ago on a Sports Illustrated article by Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz on the causes of home-field advantages in sports. Howard relates their article to the umpire-judge analogy, a favorite topic on this blog.

If you're interested in reading more about Jon and Tobias's work, you can now purchase their book on Amazon: Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won. I haven't read it yet, but I saw Jon and Tobias present on their book while it was a work-in-progress at last year's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and it sounded awesome.

I also noticed these very encouraging reader reviews on Amazon:
This latest addition in the Freakonomics-driven behavioral economics genre is probably the best. It is Scorecasting and to a sports fan it is a can't-put-down type of book. The book is written extremely well with a mixture of famous sporting anecdotes and hard statistics that include research of the authors and others.

Some of the eye-opening subject include:

1. very solid evidence that umpires bias games - however what is interesting is the bias is not random. The bias tells a story.
2. the subject of home-field advantage was mesmerizing. Turns out not at all what sports pundits tells us are true or at least not in the way you might think so.
3. incentives lie at the heart of the Chicago Cubs dismal century.
4. great use of numbers to show how desperate baseball players are to have a batting average of at least 0.300.
5. a look into why some stats are not telling us all we need to know (i.e. blocked shot stats in basketball).
6. why don't football coaches go for it on 4th down when it is a statistically correct move?

Turns out that psychology (namely loss aversion) and incentives dictate a lot of sports decision making . . . Great, fast read. Highly recommended.

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[From another customer review]:

Some quick examples from chapters I enjoyed:

Why you should (almost) never punt in football, including an example of a coach who followed the philosophy to a state title. Also, why most coaches still punt, in spite of the evidence.

Why Tim Duncan's 149 blocked shots are more valuable than Dwight Howard's 232 (Answer: Duncan tends to block the ball to his teammates, Howard tends toward the spectacular swat that goes into the 4th row...then back to the other team.)

The incredible differences in strike zones when comparing a 3-0 count to a 0-2 count. (Hint: umps expand the zone in the former, shrink the zone in the latter, allowing the hitter to determine the outcome)