To many sport fans, statistics can seem more than a bit nerdy. Whether you are watching football, basketball, or rugby, you probably care more about the game as it plays out right before your eyes or the final score than a bunch of cryptic numbers. Yet in Wages of Wins, Berri and Schmidt explore the importance of statistics. They'll show you how a little knowledge goes a long way when placing bets. While some of the theories contained in this book are a bit controversial, they are certainly worth a look. The authors do a great job of illustrating key concepts, which makes this title useful for bettors and sport enthusiasts who aren't mathematically or statistically inclined.
After originally being just a little bit sceptical about how entertaining a book about the economics and maths of sport could be, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves engrossed in the theories and, in some cases, controversies presented in The Wages of Wins.
It’s an area of sport that’s not often spoken about by the vast majority, as some would argue that statistics have no bearing on the outcome of a sporting event. However, regardless of your opinion on the theories discussed in The Wages of Wins, it becomes apparent that these very statistics can come in extremely useful, especially for the sporting gambler.
As the authors set out to prove, statistics in games such as American football, basketball, and baseball can be analysed so you can make educated wagers, as opposed to simply placing bets on a whim. While The Wages of Wins has been praised for its overall statistical insights, it’s worth observing that some of the theories which are discussed in this book have come under considerable attack from other economists and sports fans.
For example, the ‘Wins Produced’ model, which argues that NBA victories can more or less be predicted thanks to a number of linear regressions, has been hit with substantial criticism. Negative claims about the theory consisted of treating the effect as the cause and overvaluing and undervaluing certain elements of the game, such as rebounds per game and shooting percentage.
Whether or not these criticisms stand true is up for interpretation, but what is certain is that the sports bettor won’t be caused any harm by leafing through The Wages of Wins. The more mathematically minded may even be able to adapt and apply some of the theories used to other sports or even other areas of gambling.
The book offers a whistle-stop tour of some of the USA's biggest sports, but still contains enough theoretical insight to entertain readers who aren’t completely obsessed with baseball or basketball. In particular, we found the section that compares the best quarterbacks in the NFL to be especially intriguing. While some may not be too familiar with American football and all of its workings, it’s still a worthwhile read purely to appreciate the logic used in creating the system. This makes The Wages of Wins ideal for the mathematically and logically minded.
Being written by three economics professors – David J. Berri, Martin B. Schmidt and Stacey L. Brook – there are times where the prose perhaps doesn’t flow quite as well as other books. However, chances are that if you’re interested in the stats behind sports, you’d no doubt choose hard mathematical facts over poetic prose.
A nice touch is that those looking to delve further in to the topic and controversies surrounding are able to do so through The Wages of Win Journal. This can be found online and is still being updated more than five years on from first published. Among other things, it provides interested souls with the opportunity to read David J. Berri’s thoughts about criticisms of his models and of sporting events, such as the NBA Finals.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the book, although admittedly not economics professors, we find the vast majority of what’s described in The Wages of Wins to be both interesting and logical. Certainly, the mathematically minded gambler will be able to make use of some of the theories put forward, while those not so savvy will at least be in for an interesting read.