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Monday Morning Reading List: "Beyond Batting Average"

A bit over a month ago, we here at DRaysBay learned that we were throwing around lots of fancy statistics and abbreviations that not everyone knew. Well, we knew we were throwing around lots of advanced stats, but what we didn't realize was how many people had questions about them. Thus, to help make our articles more accessible on a daily basis, we created the Sabermetrics Library to provide you readers with a handy reference guide for further learning and exploration. We also created a free online course for people new to sabermetics, hoping to cover all the necessary topics in a clear, flowing format. And now, I'd like to present to everyone a book that should hop to the top of your reading list: Beyond Batting Average by Lee Panas. 

If you want to learn more about sabermetrics, there are numerous books you could buy and read.  Baseball Between the Numbers. The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball. The Baseball Economist. Moneyball. All of these are books that, from personal experience, I'd highly recommend to aspiring saberists. However, many of these books assume at least somewhat of a background knowledge of sabermetrics and dwell on sabermetric principles as opposed to the specific statistics. Not that there's anything wrong with that - like I said, those books are all great resources - but I feel like Beyond Batting Average is the best book I've seen yet for sabermetric newbies. As Lee explains:

There is so much more talk about sabermetrics now than there was a few years ago and I have noticed that more people want to learn about it. However, I feel as if the field is moving too fast and that a lot of people have been overwhelmed by the amount of new information. The purpose of this book is to put all the new metrics in one place and to organize the information into a coherent story.

In short, it's awesome. More after the jump.

After entering into the blogosphere in 2005, Lee has been writing about the Detroit Tigers over at his blog Tiger Tales ever since. He's a knowledgeable writer and an experienced saberist, as he's been dabbling in baseball statistics ever since he became interested in the subject during a college statistics course. Although I was unfamiliar with his work until reading his book, Lee is a reliable source and is well versed in sabermetric principles, statistics, and history - all of which is readily apparent within the first few chapters.

The book focuses mainly on sabermetric statistics, but Lee works his readers into each concept gradually, first starting at basic statistics and principles before advancing on to more complicated but more accurate methods. He gives a thorough background on each statistic that he covers, explaining how they are calculated mathematically and providing step-by-step examples.  There were quite a few statistics that he mentions that I was never aware of - Runs Participated In, Gross Production Average, Extra-On-Base Percentage - and some of his descriptions helped cleared up lurking questions that I had in my mind (for example, there's a whole chapter about linear weights and how they're calculated and applied).

Subject-wise, you couldn't get much more all-inclusive than this book. Lee touches upon everything you could think of - offense, pitching, defense, catcher defense, linear weights, environment adjustments, relief pitching, Pythagorean win-loss, etc. - and he covers them all in depth. In the defense section alone, Lee starts off talking about fielding percentage but then move on to discuss range factor, adjusted range factor, zone rating, play-by-play systems, Ultimate Zone Rating, Probabilistic Model of Range, Total Zone....and even a couple others. Also, as a baseball history buff, I loved that the book contained a  section on the history of baseball statistics (and I have to say, I was intrigued to learn that people complained about Batting Average when it was created for the same reasons we decry it now). Coming in at only 150 pages, it's a relatively short book but man, it crams a lot of information into those pages.

In short, this book is everything I was hoping the Sabermetrics Library could be, but it does a heck of a better job at it. Lee's writing is clear and concise, but also quite engaging for a topic that can sometimes get quite nerdy and dull. If you're looking to learn more about sabermetrics and want a book to start you off on the right foot, this is a great book to look into. And even if you already know a good deal about sabermetrics, it's a really handy reference tool. I consider myself well versed in baseball statistics, but I learned a decent bit from the book and I'm sure that I'll be referring to it whenever I have questions over the course of the season. Thanks Lee, this is a keeper.

You can purchase "Beyond Batting Average" in paperback ($14) or as a PDF file ($7). For more on Lee Panas, see his blog, Tiger Tales.