The Bill James Baseball Abstract, 1982: a review

Revised review after rereading 5/1/2011:

For many 60ish baseball fans, this book was our introduction to sabermetrics. I’d already heard of the James Abstracts, because some sportswriter I read occasionally quoted from them (Koppett, I imagine; probably others), but hadn’t read one until I found this in a bookstore. I loved it.

In retrospect, Bill clearly intended the book as a sabermetric primer. It introduces many of his basic thought structures, sometimes in depth, but it’s directed at folks who haven’t given baseball statistics the in depth consideration he’s brought to the subject. Much fun, for all that.

A significant portion of this book was originally written for earlier, self-published editions of the Abstract. I presume they were polished up, though I’ve not checked that; what I can see without checking is that they are clearly adaptations. He’s addressing a new audience, and introducing them to his methods.

The book ends with an important discussion summarizing lots of information, based on many studies, about the effect of aging on ballplayers. At this point much of the information is accepted wisdom; in 1982 it was pioneering work.

Ends: “Bye. See you next year.”


My original review, 8/18/2008: The first Bill James Abstract which was published nationally. While this is not the most important sabermetric book, it’s the book which introduced many of us to systematic baseball analysis. Very significant, for that.

Bill’s a wonderful writer. Even if you hate statistics, he’s worth reading.


This review was originally published on LibraryThing.