In the spring of 2008, my colleague, Professor Larry Levine, knowing how much baseball was part of my life, suggested that I offer a course which introduces a student to the area of mathematics called sabermetrics. Sabermetrics uses statistics to replace subjective decisions in baseball with objective decisions. This course would be offered as part of our new sports minor at Quinnipiac. The idea intrigued me because it would give me an opportunity to teach an introductory statistics course wrapped around baseball data. Upon approval of the course, I began looking for a textbook. Unfortunately, although there are many books that use sabermetrics , I could not find a book that met my goal of teaching a true introductory statistics course applied to baseball data. In the summer of 2008, I began writing my lecture notes for my new course called Baseball and Statistics.
That summer, I received an email from Trevor Lipscomb, an editor for Johns Hopkins University Press, asking if I was interested in writing a book for my new course. I sent him my newly written lecture notes and he sent them to a reviewer. The reviewer thought the idea was good but the notes needed a lot of work. Trevor told me to rewrite the notes which I did. This time the reviewer approved the notes. The Board of Directors at John Hopkins University then approved the book project. I met with Trevor and signed a contract and the creation of the book, Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball was started.
Immediately, I began to have second thoughts. I said to myself “what am I doing.” I remembered that in high school and college my writing ability, judged by my teachers and professors, was at most at a B level (probably a C+). I then rationalized that I needed a textbook for my course so I would write my notes in the form of a book and even if it was never published it would still be used in my course. I had nothing to lose. As the chapters progressed, I would have campus copy print the chapters for the students. If it wasn’t for the course, the book probably would never have finished. From 2008 to 2012, the students enrolled in my course offered many valuable suggestions to improve the book and the book started to take shape. My philosophy was to provide all the necessary mathematics within the book. Topics like sets, linear equations, and graphical techniques are part of the book. My other idea was to focus on technology. For example, the student would first learn the theory behind linear regression and then use Excel to find the actual linear regression equation.
In 2010, my editor and friend Trevor left Johns Hopkins and took the editor’s job at Catholic University. He said that with him gone the new editor might not want to continue the project. Was the book dead? The new editor was Vincent Burke, Ph.D. It turned out he encouraged me to continue the project. At this time, the book had expanded to over 800 pages and 21 chapters. Vincent met with me and told me to streamline the book. For a one semester course it was just too long. His idea was to reduce the chapters to 18 and take out of each chapter the material that did not involve statistics. I remember his words “if it is not statistics it is out.” At the end of each chapter, I had included topics from the history of baseball. Such topics as the origin of baseball, how the Hall of Fame got to Cooperstown, and the Black Sox Scandal were deleted from the book. The book was then slimmed down to fewer than 600 pages. He told me that many books were never finished because the author was never satisfied and would continue to rewrite the text. Vincent then made the following proclamation “The book is done.” By that he meant the only thing left to do was to edit the chapters. At the end of 2011, the content of the book was done; but the book was far from finished. To be continued …