Scorecasting (2011) by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim is another book that takes the ‘onomics’ approach to sport. Following in the footsteps of Moneyball and Soccernomics the book looks at how evaluation of data leads to conclusions that are often not what people commonly believe or that are used by coaches. Moskowitz is a finance professors and Wertheim is a writer for Sports Illustrated.
The book is well written and uses the common non-fiction method of a story about a particular athlete or coach interspersed with an argument from the data. Most of the chapters are self-contained essays.
The book looks at which leagues are equal, which they attribute to the difference in spending power, ‘streaks’ which are shown as usual to be nothing more than the result of humans seeing patterns, why American Football teams should punt less on the 4th down, the effect of people trying harder to get par or to get their statistical average over some arbitrary number, usually with a 0 at the end, how much star players matter in the NBA and most controversially why they argue that the home advantage comes about. Moskowitz and Wertheim state that it is the product of the fans influencing decisions at home. In the London Review of books this view is contested.
There are other good sections on the value of defence, how referees try prefer to make bad no calls rather than bad calls and on who is more likely to use performance enhancing drugs in sports.There is also an interesting section on how some teams home attendance figures are more affected by results than others.
It’s a good book in the genre of looking at how spreadsheets being applied to sports changes the game. Due to the nature of the book being a collection of largely independent sections it doesn’t deliver quite the same package of insights that the more concentrated Moneyball and Soccernomics do but it’s well worth a read for anyone interested in sport and math.