The First Reviews of Stumbling on Wins!!

Posted on March 17, 2010 by

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Our next book – Stumbling on Wins (FT Press) – will officially be released next week. But you can already order the book at Amazon.com (in hardcover and the Kindle edition).  And now we have some early reviews.

Henry Abbott has actually offered two comments on the book.  On the back cover of the book you will see the following:

“This book takes the hallowed traditions of sports decision making and pokes them with a sharp stick.”

That is a great sentence on the book.  But 17 words is not enough.  Henry has also offered more than 2,500 words at TrueHoop.  In “The robots are coming, and they’re cranky”, Henry details what he likes about our latest (quite a bit) and what he isn’t quite as thrilled about.  All in all, it’s a very good discussion of our book.  So please check it out.

And Chicago Tim – an commenter at this blog – also has had a chance to read our latest (via Kindle).  Here are the comments he posted a couple of hours ago:

I’ve now finished The Wages of Wins and Stumbling on Wins on my Kindle. I liked them and recommend them. I’ll admit that I don’t follow all the math, and I don’t understand the disputes between various sports statisticians. But you and your co-authors do a good job of making your theories sound plausible to non-experts like me. And although the statisticians seem to disagree about precisely which statistics to use, they tend to agree that GMs in all sports persistently make many mistakes based on conventional wisdom.

I like to have the theories you cite in the back of my head when I read sports stories, so that I can question the conventional wisdom. Maybe it is okay that the Chicago Bears don’t have a first-round draft pick. Maybe the Chicago Blackhawks don’t need to spend big money on a goalie. Maybe the Chicago Bulls don’t need to spend big money on a coach. And maybe the Chicago Cubs and White Sox can improve their farm system by drafting more college players and position players, and fewer high schoolers and pitchers.

In Stumbling on Wins, your latest book, I like the way you link sports stories to the broader economy and even, perhaps, to broader theories of social and political science. Maybe people don’t act rationally, because they can’t compute all the variables and rely on conventional wisdom. Maybe they act irrationally repeatedly, decade after decade after decade. Maybe some of our heroes don’t deserve their fame, and some forgotten people should be remembered and given their due. If highly-paid experts make these mistakes in sports, a relatively-closed environment with many objective measurements of performance, how much more likely is it that we make such mistakes outside of the narrow world of sports?

I would have liked even more stories, and a more detailed discussion of sports like hockey and soccer. But I guess I’m just greedy.

I will say that having read this blog pretty regularly, there were some stories I recognized and already knew. However, in the books you do present the arguments more systematically and thoroughly, and there is much in the books that I do not remember from your blog. I also found some redundancy between the first book and the second, since you couldn’t assume that everyone was familiar with the first. But you put the more complex equations in the appendices, where I was free to skip or skim them.

Finally, I like your dry sense of humor, of which there are many examples in both books and in this blog. If anything, you undersell your theories. Some of them are pretty shocking, such as the possibility that black quarterbacks are systematically undervalued.

One nitpick: in most cases “use” can be substituted for “utilize.” In rare cases, “utilize” is more appropriate, that is, when you utilize an object for a purpose not originally intended, such as picking your teeth with your knife.

We look forward to seeing much more discussion of our book over the next few months.  And we encourage everyone to buy the book and participate. Or if you don’t want to participate, just buy the book :)

– DJ

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