Tag Archives: sabermetrics

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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Curve Ball by Jim Albert and Jay Bennett: a short review

The book’s enjoyable if you’ve some background in academic statistics, but it’s likely difficult reading if you’ve not encountered that notation and vocabulary. I worked my way through the discussions, but was rummaging through four-decade-old memories from time to time. It’s certainly an essential book if you’re seriously interested in serious baseball analysis.

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The Best of Baseball Prospectus: a review

The best stuff is classic. BP published Voros McCracken’s “How Much Control Do Hurlers Have?”, 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. Joe Sheehan, Doug Pappas, Nate Silver, Gary Huckabee, Jonah Keri, and Dayn Perry are all represented; Derek Zumsteg, sad to report, is not.

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Of Old Baseball Gloves and Sabermetrics

Anyway, the thing which strikes me about Baseball Between the Numbers is that it’s largely grown obsolete in just a half-decade. For almost 20 years, baseball management largely resisted serious statistical analysis. Management largely consisted of former players, and few were inclined to take outside analysis seriously. This was partly willful blindness–“He never played the game”–and partly statistical ignorance. But a generation later, baseball’s management’s (unexpectedly) become more businesslike, and a newer generation of baseball players–and coaches and field managers–includes a sprinkling of folks who grew up reading James, Pete Palmer, or authors influenced by James and Palmer. Some of those players have moved to front office jobs. And while fans still have blind spots, they’re generally more aware that many numbers are influenced by ballpark and batting order, and that there are legitimate reasons to debate baseball’s accepted wisdom.

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The Baseball Analyst Issue 4: a review

Mark Lazarus takes a look at the defensive support received by major league pitchers, as measured by error rates. He’s aware of, and discusses, the weaknesses in this analytical method. Nonetheless, this study turned out to be far more interesting than I expected. The anomalies reported in the data are especially interesting. This topic deserves more study. Not sure that I’ve seen such a work.

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The Baseball Analyst Issue 3: a review

Bill James’ introductory note takes delight in the fact that two of these are followups on articles in earlier editions. Sabermetrics was a new field, back then, and the practitioners needed to cross-pollinate; Bill’s Analyst was a way to make that happen.

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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 Baseball Analyst Issue 2: a review

Once again, these offerings demonstrate an enormous amount of data collection and number crunching, long before Retrosheet and Baseball Reference. (Bill James comments on that in the introduction.) All in all, a useful outing, but flawed.

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The Baseball Analyst Issue 1: a review

Bill James published 40 quarterly issues of a newsletter called The Baseball Analyst beginning in June of 1982. His idea was to “provide a place where people who have research they want to do can find a place to print it.” The first edition contained five articles, and was apparently edited by James:

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The 1987 Elias Baseball Analyst by Seymour Siwoff, Steve Hirdt, & Peter Hirdt: a review

The best piece of research in the book is the Cleveland essay, where they discover that teams who win from far behind (rallies of five or more runs) are fairly likely to win the next game they play, but virtually certain to lose the fifth game after the comeback win. They offer, and dismiss, the pitching rotation as an explanation. This just screams for a followup study; I don’t know that it’s ever been done.

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