Baseball Hacks: A Review

Baseball Hacks : Tips & Tools for Analyzing and Winning with Statistics
Joseph Adler
O’Reilly Media, Inc.

This book started popping up for me on Amazon about six months ago. Every time I searched for a book on baseball, my cookies kept telling the folks at Amazon that I’d like this book. But why? I wondered. O’Reilly publishes computer books, what could they be doing publishing a baseball book? In fact, Baseball Hacks is a guide complete with 72 “hacks” for analyzing baseball data. Not only does it show you where to find data, but provides in-depth tools for extracting and analyzing what you get.

A few skills presented include:
– Spidering baseball data off the web, including MLB Gameday data.
– Writing Perl scripts to organize and extract play-by-play data.
– Using MySQL to make tables and extract information.
– Using R, to analyze data with linear regression and graphics tools.

Even if you are not skilled in any of these areas, the book walks you through them. The book is well-written with plenty of examples. Adler is clearly an accomplished sabermetrician with a vast knowledge of the practical tools of the sabermetrician. The book also includes small contributions from Tom Dierickx, Mark Johnson, Matthew Johnson, Ari Kaplan, Pete Palmer, and Brendan Roberts. Additionally, the book’s website has many other examples that are not in the book.

If you want to get into serious sabermetrics research, this is the book you need. And even if you already know a good bit about baseball analysis, there is plenty new in the book that you don’t know. I’ve already recommend the book to several people, and I’m sure I’ll have an opportunity to do so again soon.

4 Responses “Baseball Hacks: A Review”

  1. Vince says:

    Would you recommend the book for those of us interested in studying other sports (specifically football), or is it too baseball-centric?

  2. JC says:

    It’s really baseball focused. Certain things are similar, but I think you would be better off getting separate books on Perl, MySQL, R, etc.

  3. LatNam says:

    Hey, this is off-topic, I just wanted to tell you, JC, that I was at the barbershop today, and was reading through a copy of The Sporting News (Cover date was 3-10-06), and they had a story on Leo that you were mentioned in. (They called you a Sabrematrician from Georgia.) I just wanted to let you know in case you didn’t. Or something. ;)

  4. John W. says:

    I suppose I’m late to the party on this one. It’s about time I learned a little bit about Perl and MySQL and R so I can have an easier time with all the WPA data I’d like to track. If I have any free time between now and graduation (May 13), perhaps I can read up on all this and can get something going on my site for the 2006 Braves pitching staff.