Get the free MySQL database and install it on your PC.
I hate to start this chapter with a hack about a piece of software instead of a hack about baseball statistics, but most of the hacks in this chapter require a database. This hack shows you how to install MySQL, a free database. If you already have a database (like Microsoft Access), you can skip ahead to the next hack.
A database organizes information into tables. Each table is organized into a set of columns that describe different attributes of the data, and a set of rows (called records) that contain different items of data. For example, a database of batting statistics might have columns representing player names, at bats, and hits, and rows representing players. Every value in a column is of the same type and can be referred to by the name of the column. In many respects, a table is similar to data in a spreadsheet.
In this book, we manipulate data with several pieces of software—Microsoft Excel, Perl, and R. You’re probably wondering why I’m suggesting yet another way to manipulate data. Why do you need a database if you already have a spreadsheet? A database has several important advantages over a spreadsheet:
In a spreadsheet, you can enter any value anywhere at any time. (Or, you can use difficult procedures to restrict the contents of cells.) This can be convenient, but it can also lead to mistakes. In a database, you precisely define what is allowed in every column. Computer science ...