Archive for the tag 'bill james'

The Baseball Analyst Issue 7: a review

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 either uninteresting or as rehashes of 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 so weak. This issue, as do many, begins with a plea for more material. Young Jim was perhaps too polite to ask for better material.

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Bill James Presents The Great American Baseball Stat Book (1988) edited by Don Zminda and Project Scoresheet

This was the first time I saw Brock Hanke’s name in print. The same is true of several of the book’s other contributors: John Benson, Sherri Nichols, Stuart Shea, and Sean Lahman come quickly to mind. (Tom Tippett was there, too, as the project’s programmer.) Just bringing these folks (and Pankin, in the previous edition) into my life is plenty of justification for the effort.

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The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1988: a review

The team essays are, as in the 1987 edition, focused on the teams; most, frankly, are pretty dull. The Twins essay did a fine job of dissecting their success, though, and a followup essay skewered the notion that the Twinkies were unusually dependent on two pitchers. The Oakland chapter is largely devoted to trying to understand LaRussa’s quirks, which turned out to be an ongoing sabermetric theme. The excellent Cards essay triggered a second excellent essay which used Herzog as an excuse to examine the field manager’s job. And the Astros essay is one of the finest analyses of a team’s season anyone’s written.

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Win Shares by Bill James with Jim Henzler: a review

I originally read Win Shares just after the book was published, then studied it a year or so later when I adapted its framework for a minor league research project. I found that the practical application was really helpful to understanding how the pieces fit together (although, sadly, it didn’t much help my project). This decade-later read benefits from familiarity, now, and from watching other folks apply Bill’s methods. Nonetheless, this is a difficult book.

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Bill James Presents The Great American Baseball Stat Book edited by John Dewan: a review

The player essays, written by volunteers who had obviously been watching the guy, were often glorious. Scott Segrin pointed out that the Brewers habit of always moving Paul Molitor likely contributed to his injury and playing time problems. Dennis Bretz offered a delightful portrait of an aging Reggie Jackson. Michael O’Donnell took a peek at Barry Bonds’ rookie season, and speculated about his future. Merrianna McCully used Dick Williams as a lens to examine Ken Phelps. Craig Wright reminded us how good Oddibe McDowell looked when he arrived in Arlington. Geoff Beckman differed with Dan Okrent about Cecil Cooper. Each essay’s a half page, with is long enough for an extended comment but too short for a full-blown essay. Not all of these are excellent, of course, but enough are to justify working through them. Even now, 26 years later.

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The 1987 Bill James Baseball Abstract: a review

This edition of the Abstract begins with two long essays–a rather dull 18-page project about ways to validate various analytical methodologies, and a fascinating 41 page essay which purports to be about Rookies but which is actually about comparing careers using similarity scores. Bill explores lots of possibilities in this essay, which has more breadth than depth, but enough substance to satisfy almost everyone.

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Solid Fool’s Gold, by Bill James: a review

A fun, quick read, with just enough substance to get you thinking. I enjoyed.

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The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1986: a review

There’s some neat stuff in the team essays. The Blue Jays article begins with a discussion of how the information available shapes an analyst’s research, and ultimately his interests. Bill developed his interest in how teams work because he didn’t have the play-by-play data necessary to fully investigate player skills and habits; Craig Wright was similarly handicapped, despite his employer’s (the Rangers) interest in day-to-day baseball issues. Project Scoresheet, Bill knows, will change the face of sabermetrics. (That has indeed happened, though it took Pitch F/X and Retrosheet to make everything available; the real glory years for this sort of analysis seem to be just beginning.)

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The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers: a short review

This is a largely descriptive, extremely chronological examination of the evolution of managerial roles, and of tactical and strategic developments, over the history of professional baseball. Each decade gets a chapter; each chapter consists of an overview, detailed portraits of a handful of historically-important managers, anecdotes about interesting events, and an occasional topical essay.

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Bill James’ Baseball Abstract 1985: a review

As James notes near the end of the book, this edition of the Abstract is the most technical book he’d produced to date. 1985 is the year Bill brought Major League Equivalencies of minor league players into Sabermetric discourse; comments are scattered throughout the text but the key discussion’s in the Dodgers section. Several of the team writeups were composed by Project Scoresheet participants, which lent some variety; in all cases, Bill added come critical comments. Strangely, Jim Baker seems not to have written any of the book, though he was still in James’ employ and is credited for some of the quoted research.

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