The Best of Baseball Prospectus: a review

This is a big, sprawling, two-volume book which offers a “best-of” selection from the Baseball Prospectus website. The work is generally of very high quality, and is well-organized, but the website origins of the essays occasionally cause some orientation issues. Moreover, the selection was deliberately biased toward more recent writings, apparently because the editors believe the context has rendered much of the older analysis obsolete–a belief I share, by the way.

The best stuff is classic. BP published Voros McCracken’s “How Much Control Do Hurlers Have?” early in 2001, which is likely the most influential sabermetric essay published in this century; it’s here, as are several author’s reactions. Rany Jazayerli’s delightful, twelve-part exploration of the free agent draft is reproduced as written; it’s fun and informative (though this is one of the places where a the book’s web origins really show; a rewrite would surely make things more coherent). Keith Woolner and James Click explore the areas sabermetrics had not, as of their essays, examined; everyone should read these essays for an overview of the discipline’s landscape. There’s a representative selection of Christina Kahrl’s delightful Transaction Analysis columns; I always looked forward to those. Besides the current staff, Joe Sheehan, Doug Pappas, Nate Silver, Gary Huckabee, Jonah Keri, and Dayn Perry are all represented; Derek Zumsteg, sad to report, is not.

The first volume’s largely about the game itself, often (but hardly exclusively) from a sabermetric perspective; the second volume could be said to be about the business side of the sport. Both are worth reading; both are often fun. A good book.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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