The book: “Baseball Prospectus 2010”
The author: Edited by Steve Goldman and Christina Kahrl
The vital stats: Wiley Publishing, 672 pages, $24.95.
The pitch: Since it’s been out in February, those who need it have been able to digest as much as possible — before their fantasy drafts.
Because, after all, if you’re not in a fantasy league, why bother consuming all this?
“Just because” is an acceptable answer. Fifteen editions later, it’s proven its point.
It says so right on the back. If you read last year’s book, it could have warned you about how Joe Saunders, Carlos Quentin, Dice-K, Ryan Ludwick and Josh Hamilton weren’t going to do so well in ’09, but that Andrew McCutchen, Pablo Sandoval, Colby Rasmus and Max Scherzer were on the upswing.
And you don’t even have to know what the third-order Pythagenpat-projected record means or what EqBRR, VORP or PECOTA stands for. (That last one is Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, but no one cares if you confuse it with a NFL quarterback rating).
Someone named Nate Silver came up with these PECOTA projections, which Sports Illustrated has called “perhaps the game’s most accurate projection model.” Most times.
We can’t compare this to previous issues, only because we weren’t brave enough just to pick one up to read it. We’ve given up on fantasy leagues years ago when we found out no matter how much we researched it, our fantasy never came true. So, as something just to read, yes, there’s a lot of information you can’t use. But there is a lot to know about your teams. And if ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer calls it “the best book of its kind,” just trust him (even though he’s listed in the acknowledgements, along with Keith Olbermann, Rick Reilly and Argentina Kahrl, which is the dog owned by co-editor and Baseball Prospectus co-founder Christina Kahrl, who used to be Chris Kahrl before undergoing transgender reassignment).
Plus, there’s this endorsement from “Moneyball” author Mike Lewis: “If a general manager hasn’t read Baseball Prospectus, he should be fired for incompetence.”
As for the stuff we learned:
== On the Angels’ Torii Hunter: (With a $17.5 million salary), he’s still go three years on that deal at similarly steep pre-recession rates as he settles into his mid-30s. For all his considerable charm, he’s likely to develop into one of the game’s most overpaid players. Ouch.”
== On the Angels’ Kendry Morales: “One of PECOTA’s biggest whiffs in 2009 .. validating, at least in the short term, the Angels’ decision to skip offering a nine-figure contract to departing free agent (Mark Teixeira). … To be fair, no competing projection system foresaw (his) breakout. … Even if PECOTA suggests a major regression, this is one case where you’re better off letting go of those numbers.”
== On the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp: “Kemp’s spike in homers (26 last year versus 18 in ’80) did have an element of luck to it; according to Hit Tracker, he led the Dodgers with four “Lucky Homers,” those that would not have cleared the fence on a calm, 70-degree day.”
== On the Dodgers’ Russell Martin: “The Dodgers seem hell-bent on breaking Martin, who led the majors in innings caught for the second year out of three. … He’s on the Jason Kendall career path, not exactly a good thing.”
== On the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez: “Unless he can recapture some of his initial magic, expect reports of his act wearing thin to abound.” In the PECOTA leader projections for 2010, Ramirez isn’t in the top 20 for homers (the last one is 28) or RBIs (the last is 96).
== From a general synopsis of the Dodgers’ 2010 season: “The good news is that the likelihood of the McCourts’ needing to sell grows by the day … While it’s bound to be a winter and perhaps even a full season of discontent, the likelihood that the Dodgers will look toward a less woefully underfinanced ownership down the road should make this storm a bit easier to bear.”
Take that, and whatever you glean from the MLB Network’s “30 Clubs in 30 Days,” and make out your own lineup. Then pray.
And notes that in the 2009 edition, Baseball Prospectus predicted the collapse of 2008 stars Joe Saunders, Carlos Quentin, Daisuke Matsuzake, Ryan Ludwick, and Josh Hamilton, the beakout seasons from Max Scherzer, Colby Rasmus, Pablo Sandoval, and Andrew McCutchen and the comebacks for Javier Vasquez, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman and Robinson Cano.
How it goes down in the scorebook: As important as the lineup card that the third-base coach takes to home plate before each game. If someone’s batting out of order, Baseball Prospectus will have it first.
Also: The publishers of the book have 10 ways your friends will know if you haven’t read the Baseball Prospectus 2010:
10. You think signing Jason Bay for $66 million was a great move, and wish Omar Minaya had gone harder after Bengie Molina and Jarrod Washburn.
9. You drafted Derek Jeter and Derrek Lee early in your fantasy league this year.
8. You can’t imagine why we’d need their new pitching stat — SIERA — when we already have ERA.
7. You think this might be Houston’s year.
6. You’ve never heard of Jesus Montero, Jason Heyward or Mike Stanton.
5. You’ve heard of Montero, Heyward and Stanton, but without BP’s new “MLB%” playing time projection, you overdrafted them.
4. You think your team will be better than the Yankees this year.
3. You’re not bleary-eyed from staying up all night reading hundreds of pages of smart stats and witty commentary.
2. The name Matt Wieters doesn’t make you giggle a little.
1. You’re Brian Sabean (left)
And one more thing: To compliment this, you may as well get:
== “Baseball America 2010 Prospect Handbook: The Comprehensive Guide to Rising Stars from the Definitive Source on Prospects” by the editors of Baseball America (linked here).
== “2010 Baseball Forecaster” by Ron Shandler (linked here)
== “2010 Minor League Baseball Analysis” by Rob Rogron and Jeremy Deloney (linked here)