The USSM Reading List
People ask me all the time what books I recommend to get into baseball analysis, or strategy, or cool stuff like that — “I’m new to baseball. How do I get smarter in a hurry?”. This is going to change a ton, but here’s a start, and I’ll edit this as I think of more.
Baseball Prospectus 2006. Under $12, which has to be worth it even if I’m not in it.
Dollar Sign on the Muscle. Learn about how scouting works and when it works, in this informative and enjoyable book.
Moneyball, Michael Lewis, tells the story of how the A’s looked to undervalued qualities to compete. There are notable deficiencies here that may make some people throw the book across the room, as Lewis at times chooses the narrative of the story over… a less-sensational but perhaps truer path. And yet, it’s a must-read, if only because it’s full of things that have become in-jokes in the baseball world (picking machine!)
Earl Weaver on Strategy, Earl Weaver and Terry Pluto. Last time I mentioned this, I wrote “One of my favorite books. Weaver was one of the smartest managers to sit on a bench, and despite his reputation, one of the most adaptable: he won with speed, without it, with power, with slap hitters, he won and won and kept winning. There are very few things in this book that have proven unsupported by evidence Ã¯Â¿Â½ people quote Weaver not because heÃ¯Â¿Â½s Weaver, but because heÃ¯Â¿Â½s Weaver and heÃ¯Â¿Â½s right. Warning: may make watching games with some managers almost painful.”
I’ve re-read it since then, and I dig it.
Seattle Mariner Baseball
Out of Left Field, by Art Thiel. A unique look into how the team works under the local ownership group. Great insights into how some major events in team history unfolded. I have some dumb complaints, but if you read us, you should own this book. (update: here’s my review of it for the Seattle Weekly)
Stathead, concept and practice
It’s a little repetitive, but I recommend Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game by Jim Albert, and Jay Bennett is a great look into how huge random variation and luck affect statistics. Which reminds me of a cool BP article I never wrote. D’oh.
Paths to Glory, Mark Armour, Dan Levitt. I love this book. It’s about the great teams in baseball history, how they were built, and how they died. I was fascinated.
Or check out some Rob Neyer action. Baseball Dynasties, by Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein looks at the best teams and tries to sort out which was the best, and why. Or Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Lineups which, and I mean this in the best possible way, is great bathroom reading — you can pick it up, read some cool stuff for a couple minutes, and stop. Mine sits by the computer for when I’m compiling something or whatever, but others highly recommend it near porcelain seats.
Baseball Economics and Power
Baseball and Billions, by Andrew Zimbalist, is a classic must-read book for anyone intrested in why you shouldn’t listen to any team’s cries of poverty.
General Science-type Stuff
Astrology for Baseball Analysts, Keaton and Adler. Many people don’t know this, but one of the best predictors of pitcher success is the astrological sign they were born under. Never be afraid to look to new sources of analytical information, I always say.
Okay, so I’m just kidding — that’s not a link to Astrology for Baseball Analysts.
This Ain’t Brain Surgery, Larry Dierker. (thanks to tede for the reminder) Lots of interesting stuff about his career as a player, a sportscaster, and particularly his experience as the manager for the Astros. Dierker is smart and the book’s enjoyable and well-written. I’d have hired him.