Mini Book Review: Beyond Batting Average

Lee Panas, of Tiger Tales fame, has published a book for those interested in learning more about sabermetrics. It’s called Beyond Batting Average and… well, I’ll let the book speak for itself:

This comprehensive sabermetrics primer will introduce fans to these new measures with easy to understand explanations and examples. It will also illustrate the evolution of baseball statistics from simple traditional measures to the more complex metrics used today. You will learn how all the statistics are connected to winning and losing games, how to interpret them and how to apply them to performance on the field. By the end of this book, you should be able to evaluate players and teams through statistics more thoroughly and accurately than you could before.

I first “met” the author on the old AOL STATS message boards back in the mid-’90s. He was one of the more articulate posters there, and his work has only gotten better over the years. This book is no exception.

For fans who are unfamiliar with or intimidated by advanced metrics, Beyond Batting Average serves as an excellent starting point. It helps readers understand why the old familiar statistics aren’t necessarily the best ones to use, introduces various newer metrics (and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each), and shows how to derive and employ each of these metrics.

Why did Panas feel the need to write Beyond Batting Average? He addresses this in an interview at Bless You Boys (which I found thanks to another review of his book at DRaysBay):

One of the things which I think sets my book apart is that I assume no prior reader knowledge of sabermetrics. There is so much more talk about sabermetrics now than there was a few years ago and I have noticed that more people want to learn about it. However, I feel as if the field is moving too fast and that a lot of people have been overwhelmed by the amount of new information. The purpose of this book is to put all the new metrics in one place and to organize the information into a coherent story.

Panas, who also is a colleague of mine at Baseball Prospectus, lays everything out in logical order and with simple-to-understand explanations, often including real-world examples to illustrate concepts. Beyond Batting Average manages to be accessible without dumbing down its message.

It also avoids much of the rhetoric and posturing that often accompany discussion of advanced concepts. If you’re looking for inside jokes or a smug sense of superiority, this book isn’t for you. If, however, you are new to the world of sabermetrics and wish to increase your understanding without being made to feel like an idiot, you’ll want a copy of Beyond Batting Average, which you can buy here.

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