Mstation Book Reviews
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Sat, 02 Sep 2006

Baseball Hacks

Baseball Hacks Tips & Tools for Analyzing and Winning with Statistics 

Joseph Adler, O'Reilly

Many technical books these days are a bit odd in their organization, because their authors know that a lot of why you would have bought a book 20 years ago doesn't apply now that you can just google for information. The O'Reilly Hacks series is an honest attempt to address this problem by providing not just information, but informed guides to where to find information online.

In the case of Baseball, there is now a lot of information online which is useful to fans, and a guide to where to find it is quite interesting. I enjoyed browsing the sites listed in Hack #5, Follow the Game Online, although of course a good links page on the web would be even more user-friendly.

Of course, this isn't exactly what you'd expect from a book with "Hacks" in its title. You'd expect lots of technical stuff that would need or provide some programming background. So there are also hacks like #10, Get a MySQL Database of Player and Team Statistics and #13, Learn Perl. I don't know that these have anything to do with being able to follow baseball better, but if you like baseball and also want to learn more about MySQL or Perl, the instructions here seem clear and well-written. And the examples of what you can do once you've mastered those technical skills are quite a bit more real-world than most textbooks supply. For example, #56, measure park effects, or #40 to #46, various ways to compare batters.

So in summary, if you aren't interested in both programming and baseball, you probably don't want this book, but you aren't who O'Reilly is marketing it to, so you probably wouldn't. If you do want to apply programming to following your favorite team, it's a well-written guide to doing that.

Laura Conrad

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