1981 Baseball Abstract by Bill James: a short review

The most ambitious edition so far, though James acknowledges that the end was rushed mostly because of time constraints. There’s lots of discussion in this one about the division of labor between the pitcher and the rest of the defense (see, especially, the Dodgers writeup), and some attempts to make the available defensive data meaningful. The Mets essay includes something that resembles an early version of Win Shares. There’s significant progress on the evaluation of team creation. And a great essay on Billy Martin.

One thing that’s obvious is James’ dependence on inadequate tools. Box scores just don’t have enough information to answer the questions he’s asking. That need will lead, ultimately, to Project Scoresheet, to STATS, to Baseball Information Solutions, to Retrosheet. But in 1981 none of these existed.

This short review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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