The Baseball Analyst Issue 7: a review

Bill James published 40 issues of The Baseball Analyst in the 1980s. All are available on SABR’s website.

The seventh Baseball Analyst, dated August, 1983, has to be called a disappointment. Not only was there no outstanding piece of research in this edition, what did appear can mostly be characterized as uninteresting. Most of the contributions rehash issues already discussed in earlier editions. It happens that the seventh issue was the first edited by Jim Baker, but it’s certainly not his fault that the submissions were weak. This issue, as do many, begins with a plea for more material. Young Jim was perhaps too polite to ask for better material.

Dick O’Brien repeated the study on Batting Order Position production he’d reported in Issue 2. Adding more data turned out to pretty much reproduce the original result. This is worth reporting, but it’s hardly exciting.

Dallas Adams’ contribution, “On the Probability of Hitting .400,” we’ve seen before–I briefly mentioned it in my review of the 1981 Baseball Research Journal (which I posted a few days ago). The two essays are substantially the same, but this version appears to date from 1977–it had presumably been hiding somewhere in Bill James’ office for six years. Despite the redundancy, this article’s quite good.

Gary Brown’s “A Trend Analysis of Batting Averages” is simply weak. It’s mostly a commentary, with a few graphs, about changing tendencies in BA over time. His main point is that professional ball makes occasional adjustments to keep offense and defense in balance. The essay would have had some value at two pages; at ten pages it’s got to be considered filler. The Adams piece made similar points, in far fewer pages, with far better analysis.

John Schwartz offered a one-page note on the relative values of relief wins, losses, and saves, framed as a way to improve the TSN and Rolaids “Firemen” awards. The math here looks good, but it’s not clear that the exercise was worthwhile.

Finally, Pete Palmer’s brief examination of “The Distribution of Wins” briefly summarizes the literature on the subject, extends it a bit based on his own research, and throws in a statistics lesson based on a Dallas Adams contribution from Analyst Issue 1. All told, though, this is more interesting as a window into Palmer’s mind than as a contribution to baseball research. Pete was building a system for analysis; this was one of his blocks.