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Baseball Hacks by Joseph Adler

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Analyze Other Sports

Apply the techniques in this book to other sports.

This book focuses on baseball, but there is no reason you can’t spider the Web for data on other sports, save statistics in a database, and analyze the game using R and Excel.

However, there are some subtle and important differences between baseball and other sports. This hack presents a few of those key differences and explains how they should affect your analyses.

Possessions

In most team sports, one side has possession of the ball and tries to score against the other side. This is true in baseball: the batting team effectively has possession of the ball. It’s also true in basketball, football, hockey, soccer, rugby, cricket, and water polo—pretty much any team sport.

However, there is a very important difference between baseball and most other sports: baseball has no clock. In most other sports, the game lasts for a fixed period (unless there is a tie), and the two teams switch possession of the ball until the game is over. In baseball, the teams alternate possession for at least eight and a half innings, or until the game is delayed, the home team has had “last licks” and loses, or one team wins.

Why is this important? Well, it means some measurements work well for baseball and work poorly for other sports. In baseball, the number of points scored per plate appearance (or out, or inning) is very closely correlated with the number of points scored per game. Most games last about nine innings; most players bat ...

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