The issue features two excellent sabermetric pieces. Pete Palmer’s essay concerned park effects in the American League, and is as good an introduction to the topic as I’ve ever seen. Pete’s later projects gained some sophistication, but this effort touches nearly all the basic issues. And Irv Matus, who apparently counted pitches for all the Mets’ games in 1976, authored an excellent examination of the impact of pitch counts on pitcher performance. I doubt this was the first time such an effort had been made, but if anyone published such a well-thought-through analysis before Matus I’ve not seen it.
Pete Palmer extends the Jim Reuter essay, on park factor calculations, from the previous issue of the Analyst. Palmer’s first extension demonstrates that Reuter’s method works better if the calculations are based on innings rather than games, and shows how to make the necessary adjustments. He also suggests a further, individual-player, version of the factor which he doesn’t fully describe. The second extension begins with the observation that a team’s offensive “park effect” is partly the product of not facing the local pitching staff; he adds adjustments to allow for that. James’ editorial comment takes issue with some of Palmer’s assumptions, pointing out that James and Palmer differ on the implicit meaning of context as applied to calculating park effects.
O’Brien’s contribution is a quick-n-dirty examination of the relative importance of hitting and pitching when a team’s record improves or regresses by .031 (5 games). He concludes that teams whose records improve might show improvement at either offense or defense (or both). While collapsing teams have generally similar numbers, it appears more likely that the cause is a decline in offensive production. He goes on to examine ballpark effects. (O’Brien’s getting better at writing up his studies, which is good.)
Mark Lazarus takes a look at the defensive support received by major league pitchers, as measured by error rates. He’s aware of, and discusses, the weaknesses in this analytical method. Nonetheless, this study turned out to be far more interesting than I expected. The anomalies reported in the data are especially interesting. This topic deserves more study. Not sure that I’ve seen such a work.
Bill James’ introductory note takes delight in the fact that two of these are followups on articles in earlier editions. Sabermetrics was a new field, back then, and the practitioners needed to cross-pollinate; Bill’s Analyst was a way to make that happen.
I rather expected the book to begin with an overview of the place scouting occupies in the typical baseball organization, with other chapters explicitly discussing the history and development of scouting practice, the role scouting plays in player development (and perhaps some discussion of how specific organizations have employed different scouting/player development strategies), and an explication of the things scouts look for when they watch a baseball game. The book contains all of that material, at least in part, but only the “what do they look” for part has a specific discussion, and that is tucked into a rather brief chapter introduction. The other general topics can be gleaned from the book’s material, but at best there are only partial summaries.
Once again, these offerings demonstrate an enormous amount of data collection and number crunching, long before Retrosheet and Baseball Reference. (Bill James comments on that in the introduction.) All in all, a useful outing, but flawed.
The best piece is Eugene Murdock’s profile/interview of 96-year-old Paddy Livingston, at that time the oldest living major leaguer. What makes the piece more than a reminiscence is Paddy’s attitude about the game; all things considered, he preferred to be home in Philadelphia. Not many journeyman players sit out entire seasons because they didn’t like the contract.
Bill James published 40 quarterly issues of a newsletter called The Baseball Analyst beginning in June of 1982. His idea was to “provide a place where people who have research they want to do can find a place to print it.” The first edition contained five articles, and was apparently edited by James: