Sunday, April 2, 2017

Review of "Teaching Statistics Using Baseball, Second Edition," by Jim Albert

Review of
Teaching Statistics Using Baseball, Second Edition, by Jim Albert, The Mathematical Association of America, Washington, D. C., 2017. 256 pp., $55.00 (paper). ISBN 9781939512161.

Five out of five stars
If you understand baseball, this book is an excellent way to learn statistics. However, if you are a novice regarding the basic actions, such as hits, outs, runs and sacrifice bunts, then you could experience a rarity. A book where the math is understood, but the events being described are not.
 As a longtime follower of baseball as well as a teacher of statistics, I found the exercises at the end of the chapters especially interesting. Debates about the relative quality of players have been a staple since baseball was organized, seeing those debates enhanced and codified by the use of mathematics swells you with pride.
 Unlike some other math textbooks, the strength of this one is the exercises. It is a rare occasion (nearly never) that I stop and work through some of the exercises when I am reading a math book for review. In many books the end of chapter exercises are sets of ditto problems where all in a group are essentially the same with the numbers changed. For example, a set of quadratic equations to be factored.
That is not the case here. One problem can be a computation of the value of a stolen base and the next the determination of the value of a sacrifice bunt. Hard data, not just impressions. All of the results are well known, yet the baseball traditionalists have yet to learn some of the better ways to do things. As opening day of the 2017 season approaches, the reader is pleased to learn once again that math is leading the way.
 If you spend the time explaining some of the basics of the game of baseball to the students that have no familiarity to it, this is an excellent text for the teaching of statistics. People that know the game will understand the value of mathematics in making and settling the universal arguments regarding which one is the better player.

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