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Stumbling on Wins : Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports,9780132357784

Stumbling on Wins : Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports

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FT Press
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"This book takes the hallowed traditions of sports decision-making and pokes them with a sharp stick." Henry Abbott, founder of TrueHoop, housed at "Moneyballshould have been called ls""Stumbling On Winscovers 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 and, in this book, they explain why coaches, players, and fans cannot afford to ignore the stats if they want to win.Moneyballgave us an inkling of what is to come, but this is the real deal." Stefan Szymanski, author of Soccernomics andPlaybooks and Checkbooks "Stumbling On Winslays 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 Winsreveals that sports are more than entertainment; they tell us something important about ourselves." J.C. Bradbury, author ofThe Baseball Economist "This book isnrs"t just about sports statistics. InStumbling 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, Donrs"t they want to win? Every sports fan asks that question. And no wonder! Teams have an immense amount of detailed, quantifiable information to draw upon. They have powerful incentives for making good decisions. Everyone sees the results of their choices, and the consequences for failure are severe. And yet, they keep making the same mistakes over and over again...mistakes yours"d think theyrs"d learn how to avoid! Now, two leading sports economists reveal those mistakes in basketball, baseball, football, and hockeyand explain why sports decision-makers never seem to learn their lessons. Yours"ll learn which statistics are linked to wins and which arenrs"thellip;and which statistics can predict the future and which canrs"t (information that just might help you dominate your next fantasy league!). The next quantum leap beyondMoneyball, this book offers powerful new insights into all human decision-making. Because if multimillion dollar sports teams are getting it wrong this badly, how do you know yours"re not? bull; Do better coaches really win more?

Author Biography

David J. Berri is associate professor of economics at Southern Utah University. He has written extensively on sports economics for academic journals, newspapers, and magazines, including The New York Times.

Martin B. Schmidt, professor of economics at the College of William and Mary, specializes in sports economics and macroeconomics. His writing has appeared in the field’s leading academic and general interest journals, including The New York Times.

Berri and Schmidt coauthored The Wages of Wins and maintain a popular blog, The Wages of Wins Journal, which discusses the economics of sports decision-making (

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments . . . xi

About the Authors . . . xiii

Preface . . . xv

Chapter 1: Maybe the Fans Are Right . . . 1

Sporting Rationality. . . 3

Crunchers, “Experts,” and the Wrath of Randomness . . . 5

A Century of Mistakes in Baseball . . . 7

Chapter 2: Defending Isiah . . . 13

Isiah Thomas Illustrates How Money Can’t Buy You Love . . . 14

Getting Paid in the NBA. . . 20

Coaching Contradictions. . . 23

Isiah’s Defense. . . 28

Chapter 3: The Search for Useful Stats . . . 33

Identifying the Most “Useful” Numbers . . . 33

The Most Important Position in Team Sports? . . . 39

Assigning Wins and Losses . . . 47

Chapter 4: Football in Black and White . . . 49

A Brief History of the Black Quarterback . . . 50

Performance in Black and White . . . 55

Quarterback Pay in Black and White . . . 63

Chapter 5: Finding the Face of the Franchise . . . 67

Birth of the Draft . . . 68

The Problem with Picking First . . . 69

How to Get Picked First? . . . 78

Back to Kostka. . . . 80

Chapter 6: The Pareto Principle and Drafting Mistakes . . . 83

The Pareto Principle and Losing to Win . . . 83

The NBA Draft and NBA Performance. . . 93

Catching a Baseball Draft . . . 100

Chapter 7: Inefficient on the Field . . . 103

Just Go For It! . . . 106

Evaluating the Little Man in Football . . . 113

The Hot Hand and Coaching Contradictions . . . 115

Chapter 8: Is It the Teacher or the Students? . . . 119

The Wealth of Coaching . . . 120

“Take Your’n and Beat His’n” . . . 122

Deck Chairs? . . . 125

Growing Older and Diminishing Returns . . . 126

Putting the Picture Together . . . 132

Chapter 9: Painting a Bigger Picture . . . 135

Appendix A: Measuring Wins Produced in the NBA . . . 141

A Very Brief Introduction to Regression Analysis . . . 141

Modeling Wins in the NBA . . . 143

Calculating Wins Produced in the NBA. . . 148

Win Score and PAWS48 . . . 154

A Comment on Alternatives . . . 156

Three Objections to Wins Produced for the NBA . . . 158

Appendix B: Measuring Wins Produced in the NFL . . . 161

Endnotes . . . 173

Chapter 1 . . . 173

Chapter 2 . . . 176

Chapter 3 . . . 181

Chapter 4 . . . 186

Chapter 5 . . . 189

Chapter 6 . . . 194

Chapter 7 . . . 198

Chapter 8 . . . 202

Chapter 9 . . . 207

References . . . 209

Books and Articles . . . 209

Web Sites . . . 222

Index . . . 225

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