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Stumbling on Wins by David J. Berri and Martin B. Schmidt

Book - Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports

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Interesting "Tell Friends at the Bar" Material

  • Jun 9, 2010

Stumbling on Wins by David J. Berri and Martin B. Schmidt is an entertaining read breaking down economic inefficiencies related to the sporting world.  Think Freakonomics for the ESPN crowd. 

I really enjoyed reading Stumbling on Wins and think I have become a more well-rounded sports fan because of it. The book takes the basic concepts of the Michael Lewis's Moneyball and expands them intelligently to hundreds of new scenarios and issues within American sports. Until recently, the wide world of sports literature hadn't really dabbled much into mathematics - most books are merely historical tales of courage and perseverance. This book, however, examines everything from a strictly statistical viewpoint and comes away with some really fascinating stuff. For sports fans and standard deviation nerds alike (I personally fall into both categories), it's great to see some legitimate mathematical processing poured into these age-old concepts.

The book is especially fun when one's favorite sports teams and stars get pulled into the equation; everytime I heard a Pistons or Tigers citation I felt a little bit of hometown pride tinge in my heart. Berri and Schmidt expertly spread around their examples around a wide variety of leagues and markets so that everyone can feel involved.

My biggest gripe with the book would have to be its overly America-centric point of view. The book's analysis focuses solely on the four major US sports: football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. Although these are the sports that 99% of the audience is most familiar with, I would have enjoyed getting to learn more about similar economic conundrums in the European soccer leagues, for instance. It would have been nice to know whether or not the same mistakes take place all over the world or if they turn out to be a uniquely American situation.

The book is interesting and could turn out to be highly useful for both casual sports fans and managers/coaches. It helps to add an even greater level of complexity to a sports world already obsessed with statistics and performance measures. As the title of the review suggests, I didn't really gain anything groundbreaking but did pick up some good bits for debate the next time I'm in the pub and see a $10-million dollar signing take place on the screen. +3

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Quick Tip by . June 18, 2010
Read something about micro economics before reading this to get a good idea of what the authors are talking about.
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Ted ()
Ranked #1513
I'm a 22-year old recent college graduate.
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