Archive for April, 2011

Economics is good for many things; what it’s not particularly suited for is answering purely statistical questions. What’s needed in a popular economics text are easy explanations of economic concepts, especially relating to a subject of interest. Unfortunately Bradbury’s writing isn’t adequate for this task. If I thought that economics was a dry subject I wouldn’t have studied it voluntarily. I was fortunate throughout my college career to have instructors who brought the subject to life even given the standard dry textbooks. Bradbury killed the subject again to the point where I wished I had kept the notes from a labor econ class I took in 1997 where we discussed various players’ unions.

What he is good at, like a lot of other popular business-oriented nonfiction writers, is raising questions and thinking about the answers in nonstandard ways. (However, many someones of my Internet acquaintance mentioned that Bill James had already covered the issue of left-handed catchers in the Historical Baseball Abstract; the only thing added here is some documentation from George Lindsey’s 1960s research.) The problem is that his nonstandard answers are extremely nonstandard in the case of his formulas for player evaluation. From what I’ve seen online they’re great for starting arguments but not at all good for resolving them.

The best question asked in the book (but not resolved to my satisfaction:) How do pitching coaches affect pitchers? Is it measurable? He uses Leo Mazzone as his example. It’s a very interesting question but if economics can answer it, it will be as a study of systems. Pitching coaches don’t work in isolation.

The baseball economics book I’d love to see is a game theory book. (None of the intro game theory books I’ve found have been particularly readable….) I’d also like to see some studies of decision-making behavior. I hope that a more skilled author than Bradbury tackles them.

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