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The Hidden Game of Baseball

A Revolutionary Approach to Baseball and Its Statistics


With a New Introduction by the Authors and a Foreword by Keith Law

The Hidden Game of Baseball

A Revolutionary Approach to Baseball and Its Statistics


With a New Introduction by the Authors and a Foreword by Keith Law
Long before Moneyball became a sensation or Nate Silver turned the knowledge he’d honed on baseball into electoral gold, John Thorn and Pete Palmer were using statistics to shake the foundations of the game. First published in 1984, The Hidden Game of Baseball ushered in the sabermetric revolution by demonstrating that we were thinking about baseball stats—and thus the game itself—all wrong. Instead of praising sluggers for gaudy RBI totals or pitchers for wins, Thorn and Palmer argued in favor of more subtle measurements that correlated much more closely to the ultimate goal: winning baseball games.
            The new gospel promulgated by Thorn and Palmer opened the door for a flood of new questions, such as how a ballpark’s layout helps or hinders offense or whether a strikeout really is worse than another kind of out. Taking questions like these seriously—and backing up the answers with data—launched a new era, showing fans, journalists, scouts, executives, and even players themselves a new, better way to look at the game.
            This brand-new edition retains the body of the original, with its rich, accessible analysis rooted in a deep love of baseball, while adding a new introduction by the authors tracing the book’s influence over the years. A foreword by ESPN’s lead baseball analyst, Keith Law, details The Hidden Game’s central role in the transformation of baseball coverage and team management and shows how teams continue to reap the benefits of Thorn and Palmer’s insights today. Thirty years after its original publication, The Hidden Game is still bringing the high heat—a true classic of baseball literature.


“I read the original so many times over the years that I wore out the binding and had to buy another at a premium years later.”

Jim Furtado, Baseball Think Factory

“The re-release of The Hidden Game of Baseball will expose a new generation of baseball fans to one of the most important baseball books ever written. Thorn and Palmer ranking Barry Bonds as the best player of all time in the new appendix just makes a great book even greater . . . and more ripe for fun debates.”

Jonah Keri, author of The Extra 2% and Up, Up, and Away

“As grateful as I was for the publication of The Hidden Game of Baseball when it first showed up on my bookshelf, I’m even more grateful now. It’s as insightful today as it was then. And it’s a reminder that we haven’t applauded Thorn and Palmer nearly loudly enough for their incredible contributions to the use and understanding of the awesome numbers of baseball.”

Jayson Stark, senior baseball writer,

“Just as one cannot know the great American novel without Twain and Hemingway, one cannot know modern baseball analysis without Thorn and Palmer.”

Rob Neyer, FOX Sports

“If you’ve always wanted to read this book, but had trouble finding it in second-hand bookstores, or you’ve never read it at all . . . go get it now. It’s a must-have in every stats-oriented fan’s library.”

Value Over Replacement Grit

“Credit should be given to Thorn and Palmer, who were using a novel battery of statistics way back in 1984, when the first edition of The Hidden Game of Baseball introduced sabermetric analysis of the sport. . . . This updated edition adds a new introduction by the authors that traces the book’s influence over the past three decades.”

Daily Beast

Table of Contents


1. The Music of Sphere and Ash
2. What’s Wrong with Traditional Baseball Statistics
3. The New Statistics
4. The Linear Weights System
5. There’s No Place Like Home
6. The Theory of Relativity and Other Absolute Truths
7. The Good Old Days Are Now
8. The Book . . . and the Computer
9. Rising to the Occasion
10. 44 Percent of Baseball
11. Measuring the Unmeasurable
12. What Makes Teams Win
13. Great Single-Season Performances
14. The Ultimate Baseball Statistic
15. Rumblings in the Pantheon

Key to Symbols Used in the Tables

Tables: 1. Lifetime Leaders
2. Single-Season Leaders
3. Season-by-Season Records, 1876–1984
4. Complete Player Data, 1984

Appendix: Top 500 Players of All Time (through 2013)

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