Monday, October 25, 2010

Review - The Bill James Handbook 2010 by Bill James

Short review: Major League Baseball statistics galore updated through the end of the 2009 season. Also included, projections for the 2010 season, the favorite toy, and analysis of everything from baserunning to instant replay.

Pages full of stats
Plus lots of analysis
And some projections

Full review: Once a year ATCA Sports issues a comprehensive statistical catalogue of the previous season's baseball, running from the standard array of data on teams and individual players to analyses of base running, pinch hitting, the effects of parks on performance, analysis of instant replay, and projections of what players might do in the upcoming season, or even over the course of their remaining careers. The Bill James Handbook 2010, published in the fall of 2009, covers the 2009 season, and includes projections for the 2010 season. This is not so much a book that one reads through cover to cover as it is a reference manual, although it is quite interesting to read most of the articles that are included detailing the creation and application of the various idiosyncratic statistical tools that ACTA uses to try to evaluate areas of performance that traditional statistics don't cover well, if at all.

The meat of the book is the statistics. In fact, the career register, listing the career statistics of all the players who appeared in Major League Baseball in the 2009 season (plus a few others) takes up 270 of the book's 514 pages. The platoon split of all the players take up another twenty pages, and so on. Someone picking up the book should be aware that what they are getting is baseball statistics, baseball statistics, and more baseball statistics, with a little bit of added baseball statistical analysis thrown in. For many baseball fans, this should prove to be an invaluable resource, if for nothing else to settle arguments over whether Kevin Youkilis or Alex Rodriguez hit for more power as a cleanup hitter in 2009 (for the record, it was Youkilis, who had a slugging average of .573 when hitting in the cleanup slot, while Rodriguez "only" had a slugging average of .533 as a number four hitter). The book is probably of most value to participants in fantasy baseball leagues, both for its comprehensive volume of data on the 2009 season, but also for the projections for the 2010 season.

The only thing missing from this volume that those who have gotten previous versions might expect is the Young Talent Inventory, which tries to assess the relative strengths of the minor league systems of the various Major League teams. As explained in the section detailing the absence of the Inventory, this has been moved to another publication put out by ACTA Sports titled Bill James Gold Mine 2010 on the basis that the assessments in the inventory were more in the nature of judgment calls requiring subjective opinion as opposed to analysis of objective data, and therefore didn't fit the character of the rest of the Handbook. Those who pick up the book should also be aware that unless a player has very little Major League service time, his minor league statistics will not be included, nor are players included who appeared only in the minor leagues in 2009. Those interested in minor league stats must look to The Minor League Baseball Analyst 2010. These are minor points, as a volume that included Major League and minor league statistics would get wildly unwieldy quite quickly.

This annual publication is a useful resource for any baseball fan, from the casual to the hardcore. It is probably a necessity for any fantasy baseball participant, as I am aware of no comparable resource that has as much concrete data presented in such an easily accessible manner. For anyone who loves baseball stats, and for anyone who finds evaluating and comparing the talents of baseball players, and for anyone who just loves baseball, this book is a great addition to one's library.

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