clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Regarding Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

via <a href="">Amazon</a>
via Amazon

Before we start, I'm recommending that you buy Scorecasting here. That's one of those Amazon store links, but feel safe in knowing that nobody ever uses those links with us.

The book though. That's a long title, right? When I finally get around to writing my book, I'm going to title it Foulweather Fan: A Treatise on the Principles Behind Principals as Pertaining to Fans Specifically for the San Diego Padres Baseball Club with a Minor Mention of the Other Teams in the National League West.

I don't know if anybody would read it, but I'm pretty sure everybody would read it.

Let me really start off by saying that I'm a firm believer that a good strategy has a clear goal in mind and tactics to support the strategy. In addition to that, a good strategy has the following:

  1. Exceptions to the rules
  2. A process for mitigating luck

Don't let anybody tell you that there's no such thing as luck. Your Sabermetric types might call them "outlying datapoints" or "regressions to the mean". It's actually called "luck". The trick is in how you handle these sorts of things. Do you just follow "conventional wisdom" or do you have a good strategy that takes into account the idea that you have to adjust for factors that you really can't control.

That said, I really enjoyed Scorecasting because it also hits both sides of the fence. Sports traditionalists will hopefully consider their beliefs in a different way and the statistically minded people will be forced to consider more options in the regression models that they've clung to. Scorecasting really jumps on those exceptions to the "rules" that have cropped up for no good reason over the years and also takes a stab at pointing out what's luck and what isn't luck.

OK I'm going to jump the rest of the review after the jump, because you're probably just wanting to talk to each other and this review is getting in the way.


So I've told you that I enjoyed the book, but let me also follow up with this claim: In their effort to prove the "interesting" finding, I feel like some things were left off of the table. 

For example, there is a chapter that attempts to explain what drives home field advantage across all of sports. Although they say that the primary factor is in the way officials call the game, their explanation is in the basic idea that, at a certain level, officials will call the game in favor of the home team because they basically want people to be happy.

This makes sense to me, but I wished that they had touched on the specific things that a home crowd tries to affect. In basketball, the home crowd apparently can't affect free throws and those numbers are explained, but there is no discussion of whether or not a home crowd can cause the away team to have a disproportion number of delay of game penalties. Maybe there actually isn't a difference, but this (among a few other things) felt like such a glaring omission that it made me question the rest of their findings.

Still, I've extrapolated exactly what we can do to affect games at Petco Park so that the Padres win:


  1. Show up. The home field advantage is stronger when people are in the ballpark.
  2. Pay for the good seats. The home field advantage works when people are physically closer to the field of play.
  3. Root for the Padres. The home field advantage works because umpires want people to go home happy.
Easy peasy, right? 

The other big (for baseball) thing that they note is how game officials will call the game in an effort to make it more dramatic. For example, on 3-0 counts, umpires are much more likely to call strikes for pitches outside of the strikezone. You thought taking a pitch on 3-0 was right? Sorry, the strike zone is bigger in those cases. Red light? BORING. The umpire (maybe subconsciously) wants you to swing, Sally. Similarly for 0-2 counts, a player might better off holding up instead of protecting the plate as umpires are more likely to mistakenly call a strike a ball.

It's these kinds of things that Scorecasting covers for all the major sports. Some of it seems more well thought out than others of it, but I like it just for how it challenges so many different conventions.

Things I'd like to see in a followup:

Homefield advantage for baseball's metagame 
Is the San Diego Discount a real thing? How might a player's value rise or fall from playing in a pitcher friendly versus hitter friendly park? Can the Padres take advantage of Petco Park that way?

Happiness Index
I'm still convinced that there are some short term factors that affect walk up ticket sales. Scorecasting shows us that streaks are based pretty much on luck, but how do those streaks affect fans? Can we take advantage?

Contract Years
Do players play better doing particular contract years or is this an illusion?

All in all, I highly recommend the book. Use our Amazon link if you love us, or don't. Your choice.