The Wall Street Journal, the Final Four, and Many More Reviews

Posted on March 30, 2010 by


Does the Final Four Boost Your Draft Stock?  

This is the question posed by David Biderman of the Wall Street Journal.  His answer – drawn from Stumbling on Wins – is illustrated with a few examples of the link between a Final Four appearance and draft position.  He also notes perhaps the best college player left in the current Final Four.   

More Reviews?

Speaking of Stumbling on Wins (a frequent topic lately), there is another review I wished to post.  But before I get to that, I thought I should comment on the practice of posting reviews.  My sense – or perhaps it’s just my hope – is that many readers of the Wages of Wins Journal have already bought Stumbling on Wins [and if you haven’t, why not? :) ].  So posting reviews of the book is a bit like trying to sell you the car you just bought as you drive off the lot.  In other words, the reviews might seem a bit redundant in this forum.

So to avoid further redundancy, let me just post a collection of positive reviews.  For those who bought the book, you know that most of the following are found on the cover of the book.  The final review – which is longer – was just offered in the past few days.  And this final review – as I note below – offers some guidelines for people who wish to explore in more detail the topics covered in our book.

Many Reviews

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

— Henry Abbott, founder of TrueHoop, housed at   

“‘Moneyball’ should have been called ‘MoneyBaseball.Stumbling on Wins covers everything else. Every general manager needs to buy this book to save his owner money. Every fan needs to buy this book to know when it makes sense to yell at the general manager.”

— Darren Rovell, CNBC Sports Business Reporter

“This is an important book. Berri and Schmidt have been leaders of the revolution in the analysis of team performance in sports, in this book, they explain why coaches, players and fans cannot afford to ignore the stats if they want to win. Moneyball gave us an inkling of what is to come, but this is the real deal.”

— Stefan Szymanski, author of Soccernomics and Playbooks and Checkbooks

“Stumbling on Wins lays it all out—a roadmap of behavioral economics, that runs straight through your favorite sports arena.  Brilliant stuff, beautifully written, and sure to captivate any student of economics, or sports.”

— Justin Wolfers, Associate Professor of Business and Public Policy, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; writer for

 “Berri and Schmidt are true pioneers of modern sports economics, proving time and again that sports are the perfect laboratory for social science research. Stumbling On Wins reveals that sports are more than entertainment; they tell us something important about ourselves.”

 — JC Bradbury, author The Baseball Economist and founder of Sabernomics

 “This book isn’t just about sports statistics. In Stumbling On Wins, Berri and Schmidt have a compelling story to tell about how people make decisions in sports, and the stats narrate the story. This is a fresh and revealing look at how decision-makers frequently miss the mark and how they can do better.”

 — Brian Burke,

This last review is from Ryan Rodenberg from “Legal Aspects of Sports Blog” and a professor at Florida State.  Ryan doesn’t just explain why he likes the book, he also explains how to maximize what can be learned from Stumbling on Wins

I pre-ordered this book on several months ago and it arrived 10 days ago. I read Wages of Wins by the same authors and was looking forward to reading their latest book. In the past several years, a number of books have used fascinating academic research as a platform for books that challenged the conventional wisdom about a multitude of issues. The most recent highly successful example of this was Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Berri and Schmidt’s Stumbling on Wins does the same thing for sports, and it is a great read. In sum, the authors use findings from a number of sports economics research articles to explain why decision-makers in the sports industry may be getting it wrong. I like this approach and wanted to highlight three aspects in this review:

1. The chapters can be read quickly or slowly (or both). Here is what I mean by that – I read the book quickly over the course of several days, but then went back and perused the footnotes and accompanying website – [] – for more detail on topics I was interested in. The footnotes contain a wealth of information. The website includes supplemental data. It was a good decision by the authors to structure the book in such way, as curious readers like me are able to see the source of the research discussed.

2. Since Moneyball by Michael Lewis, there have been a number of books and websites devoted to player ratings and metrics. Stumbling on Wins covers such player-specific issues, but also delves into other areas. The best analysis in this area is that applied to coaching and impact of certain coaches on player performance and team performance. Chapter Two is entitled Defending Isiah, but looks at a number of NBA coaches. Really interesting findings! I was able to guess some who some of the best coaches were, but others really surprised me.

3. Chapter Seven, titled Inefficient on the Field, was my favorite. Both base stealing and going for it on fourth down were discussed. The story about the high school coach in Arkansas who doesn’t punt the ball was eye-opening, as the same issue came up earlier this year in the NFL game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.

The writing style is witty and reader-friendly. The book will probably appeal to sports fans the most, but it may also appeal to any decision-maker, in the sports industry or otherwise, who wants to learn about how academic research can sometimes help in business. For that reason, Stumbling on Wins is probably best categorized as both a sports book and a business book. I would recommend it for both categories. I would similarly recommend Wayne Winston’s Mathletics published last year.

– DJ

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