Baseball Research Journal 1978 edited by Bob Davids: a review

Bob Davids, with help from Emil Rothe, collected the usual range of serious research and lightweight work for the seventh BRJ, which the editor notes was published late in the season (September, evidently). The best work in this edition is really quite good.

The issue kicked off with a pair of Braves-related pieces–Bill Price’s history of Braves Field, which is typical of the genre, and Randolph Lindthurst’s relatively short note about the relatively old (and temporarily very successful) rookies on the 1937 Bees’ pitching staff, Jim Turner and Lou Fette. The “lists with supporting commentary” department included Tom Hufford’s well-done piece about pitching appearances by position players, Ted DiTullio’s short commentary on players whose long major league careers occurred on a single team (for some reason he disqualified players whose teams shifted cities), Ron Liebman’s piece about pitcher winning streaks (the table’s more interesting than the discussion, methinks), Ray Gonzalez on Lou Gehrig (relatively weak, for Ray), and Paul Doherty’s essay on forfeited games. Bill James contributed a disappointing (to me) piece about what he’d later call the “Approximate Value Method”–which, uncharacteristically, he doesn’t fully define in the article.

Other pieces include essays about Chino Smith (John Holway), fielding feats (Rothe), nicknames (Stan Grosshandler), Fred Toney’s 17 inning minor league no hitter (Jack Rudolph), and Arthur Ahrens’ great exploration of the Western League’s turn-of-the-century transition to the American League, with a focus on Charlie Comiskey’s Chicago White Sox franchise. The Ahrens piece is worth the price of admission.

The issue featured 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.

SABR’s membership’s interests are varied, and its audiences are many. They were well served by this issue.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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