Just Finished: Scorecasting

I just finished an enjoyable read of Scorecasting.  It’s kind of like Freakonomics applied to sports.  It’s fully qualified name is:

Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won

I found out about it through a plug on the Freakonomics blog and since I loved both Freakonomics books and read the blog daily I thought getting a new copy of this was worth it.  I put it on my Amazon wishlist and the birthday fairy put it underneath my pillow.

While nothing can match that first time you read Freakonomics in shear nerdy pleasure Scorecasting has made the best attempt so far.  It’s at least as good as SuperFreakonomics if not slightly better.  The authors are sports iconoclasts and statistics are their tools.  They go through all major sports: football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer challenging conventional wisdom.  They follow the Freakonomics format where each chapter starts with asking about a conventional wisdom like “is there a home team advantage and why” and then explore why it may or not be true.

In general they do a very good job of explaining their statistics to justify their conclusions.  This is the biggest difference between the book and how sports commentary or news use statistics without justification.  There are a couple chapters I found weaker, maybe 2 out of about 20.  In these I thought they took the form of long essay with more assertions than explanations, but those were the shortest chapters and were greatly out weighed by the strength of the other chapters.  Some highlight chapters for me were “Are the Chicago Cubs cursed?”, “Whistle Swallowing” and “Rounding First”.  IN the plug on the Freakonomics blog they were really hyping up the home field advantage analysis, but I thought it dragged on a little too long in the book.  Still I got the book so it did its job.

Highly recommended.  An easy fun read and good conversation material.

Next up up on the reading list is fiction, since I alternate, and I’m going to read Spindrift.  It’s the last in a series I started a while back.  Stay tuned.