Stumbling on Wins

[You should write down this citation: Berri, David and Schmidt, Martin. Stumbling on Wins. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2010.  And if you share the thinking of the writers on this site, you also should read this book.  It is one of a collection of sports analytic reads that we think broaden the aperture of professional sports thinking and reaffirm the case for data-driven analysis being more consistently applied in our greatest games.]    


Stumbling on Wins is a textbook look at sports statistics. Two esteemed economics professors have given readers a solid view of the opportunity to improve professional sports management through the use of data.  Enjoyably, it takes you beyond just baseball‐focused Moneyball to explore all of the bigs and, in the process, frame “a roadmap of behavioral economics that runs right through your local sports arena.”

Here is a quick tasting plate to give you a sense of the book.  The authors use a salary equals performance model to conclude second round picks consistently come out on top.  They also show that there is no value in icing the kicker. In fact, it actually helps the kicker.  As for coaching, with the possible exception of legendary Phil Jackson, most coaches do not have a significant effect on team performance.  In baseball, it is unwise to steal bases unless you can convert your steals at least 70% of the time.  In basketball, the economic theory of the Pareto Principle holds true: 80% of your wins come from 20% of your players.  You get the idea.

Authors, like Soccernomics author Stefan Szymaski, call it “an important book.” Bloggers, such as Henry Abbott, said the book takes sports decision‐making “and pokes [it] with a sharp stick.”  We agree.  Stumbling on Wins is an exceptional read. Berri and Schmidt don’t speculate. They use data to make their case.  In the process, they leave readers with a far better view of how data can be used to drive better decision-making in professional sports.

Powers Trigg

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments on “Stumbling on Wins
  1. Sturges says:

    Great book. It is in the same class as Scorecasting or Soccernomics. Nice review….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *