From William Morrow, The Inside Game published on April 21, 2020.
For years, Daniel Kahneman’s iconic work of behavioral science Thinking Fast and Slow has been required reading in front offices across Major League Baseball. In this smart, incisive, and eye-opening book, Keith Law applies Kahneman’s ideas about decision making to the game itself.
Baseball is a sport of decisions. Some are so small and routine they become the building blocks of the game itself—what pitch to throw or when to swing away. Others are so huge they dictate the future of franchises—when to make a strategic trade for a chance to win now, or when to offer a millions and a multi-year contract for a twenty-eight-year-old star. These decisions have long shaped the behavior of players, managers, and entire franchises. But as those choices have become more complex and data-driven, knowing what’s behind them has become key to understanding the sport. This fascinating, revelatory work explores as never before the essential question: What were they thinking?
Combining behavioral science and interviews with executives, managers, and players, Keith Law analyzes baseball’s biggest decision making successes and failures, looking at how gambles and calculated risks of all sizes and scales have shaped the sport, and how the game’s ongoing data revolution is rewriting decades of accepted decision making. In the process, he explores questions that have long been debated, from whether throwing harder really increases a player’s risk of serious injury to whether teams actually “overvalue” trade prospects.
Bringing his analytical and combative style to some of baseball’s longest running debates, Law deepens our knowledge of the sport in this entertaining work that is both fun and deeply informative.
Be sure to pick up a copy for yourself here.
Praise for Keith Law’s Smart Baseball
“Mr. Law’s book will increase any fan’s enjoyment of the sport.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Smart Baseball is an engaging account of the evolution of baseball metrics…His experience and insight make him uniquely qualified to answer the driving question in MLB today: how best to account for everything that happens on the field. This look is a must-read for the serious fan.” (–Billy Beane, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Oakland A’s)
“Law provides necessary insight into how front offices have come to evaluate talent…Smart Baseball is an essential and accessible primer on how data and analytics shape America’s Pastime, and where it’s headed. ” (–Sean Doolittle, pitcher, Oakland A’s)
“No flawed statistic is safe from Keith’s insights in this clear-eyed, data driven tour of the bases. Smart Baseball gives us a preview of the future as Keith introduces the stats that really matter in a way that all fans will enjoy.” (–Molly Knight, author of New York Times Bestseller The Best Team Money Can Buy)
“There is still, probably, someone in your life who thinks that “grit,” “intensity,” and “hustle” are more important than “on-base percentage” and “WHIP.” Give that person this book, and end the argument forever.” (–Mike Schur, co-creator of Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place)
“Smart Baseball can help any baseball follower evolve along with the game. It provides an insightful and thorough look at how this great game is being viewed now and into the future. Definitely a great read for anyone who loves baseball.” (–A.J. Hinch, manager, Houston Astros)
“In Smart Baseball, Keith Law deftly answers everything you always wanted to know about sabermetrics but were too afraid to ask. Its final three chapters probably each deserve their own books, and hopefully Law will oblige. I will think of Joey Bagodonuts often.” (– Molly Knight, author of New York Times Bestseller The Best Team Money Can Buy)
“Law brilliantly dismantles some of the game’s most sacred and most misleading statistics…with a style in which smart trumps snarky…Law challenges longtime fans to think differently about a game that he says has been hindered by inefficient traditions for far too long.’ (Publishers Weekly)
“[Law] shatters myths about how to accurately measure a baseball player’s ability and then explains modern criteria that offer better results…provides a spirited exploration of statistics sure to start arguments among devoted baseball fans… a smooth combination of erudition and his obvious love of the sport.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“In mercifully plain English, Law explains how the new statistical tools can answer questions that previously baffled baseball experts. A must-read for everyone who brings a curious head as well as an impassioned heart to the ballpark.” (Booklist)
About the Author
Keith Law is a senior baseball writer at The Athletic, and before joining The Athletic, he was a senior baseball writer for ESPN Insider. Previously he was also special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, handling all statistical analysis, and he wrote for Baseball Prospectus. He lives in Delaware. You can keep up with all the latest from Keith on Twitter.