30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 9 — Bill James, handy and solid


The book: “The Bill James Handbook: 2011”

The author: Bill James

The vital stats: Acta Sports, 525 pages, $24.95.

Find it: At the publisher’s website (linked here), which includes a spiral version, as well as Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here).

The pitch: “Why did statistical annuals floruish in the 1990s?” asks Steve Moyer of Baseball Info Solutions in the introduction. “Because sabermetrics and fantasy baseball (attention media, they’re not the same thing) had a growht spurt and the internet was just getting started. It was the Golden Age of baseball books.”

Books that were weighted down in statistical analysis, like James’ annual mindbenders.

Moyer was making the point that this is the first year James’ Handbook will be available in electronic format, so you don’t necessarily have to find a place on the bookshelf for a beast like this.

Too bad. We’ve come to save it a spot each year, and this is no exception. There are so many gems of information we mine from it each year, process it, then sometimes even forget that it actually came from here.

The points to ponder that we’ve been dazzled by so far:

== James points out that “(Angels manager) Mike Scioscia was out-sciosciaed in 2010 by first-year manager Brad Mills of Houston … he took a 65-win team and won 76 games. … On the other end of that was the Rockies, who took a 93-win team and scratched and clawed their way to 83 wins. Which is not necessarily the manager’s fault.” So Jim Tracy is off the hook there.

== Juan Pierre, whom the Dodgers essentially gave away to the Chicago White Sox, contributed to 51 “manufactured runs” in 2010, “easily the most of any major league player.” Which means — a single, stolen base, a single to drive him home. That kind of thing, where just two singles wouldn’t have done it. The Dodgers were still second in the NL (behind Atlanta) in manufactured runs last season (185), but their opponents manufactured 168 runs against them. Rafael Furcal, Jamey Carroll and Blake DeWitt were the top three producers. To the point: Tampa Bay manufactured 202 runs and gave up an AL low 128. San Diego manufactured 173 and gave up 116.

== Since 2008, when instant replay was put in to determine home runs or fair/foul judgments, 35 percent of the 133 reviewed calls were overturned — more than one out of every three times. James details every one of them on pages 455-457.

== The book’s new feature, the “Hall of Fame Monitor,” is to be as impartial as possible i summing up where players from this generation stand with respect to getting into the Hall of Fame based on their statistical output. A player at “100” or above is full-qualified at his point. Those in the 50-75 range may be, depending on what they do to finish their careers.
James admits there are those who have scored less than 60 on his scale and made it, and a very few who have more than 100 and are eligible but haven’t been selected. So, eliminating his previous system — which had 32 criterias to give players a certain amount of points for achieving certain achievements in his career — and using a new one based on his statistic of Win Shares, you get interesting results.

Such as: Mark McGwire “actually doesn’t show as a fully qualified Hall of Famer” by either of James’ systems, leaving the issue of steroids out of it. He’s in the 90s, where many do get it, but “he’s not an overwhelmingly qualified immortal.”

So, according to James’ deductions, those who will eventually get into the Hall based on their on-field achievements (with 100 being the marker for excellence) include:

Alex Rodriguez (188)
Mariano Rivera (150)
Albert Pujols (146)
Derek Jeter (138)
Manny Ramirez (125)
Frank Thomas (121)
Mike Piazza (120)
Ken Griffey Jr. (114)
Ichiro Suzuki (110)
Jeff Bagwell (107)
Chipper Jones (107)
Trevor Hoffman (106)
Vladimir Guerrero (105)
Gary Sheffield (101)
Sammy Sosa (100)

Again, look at the Ramirez quotient, in light of the recent news of his retirement.

Pujols is far and away the youngest with the highest number, based on the fact no one born prior to 1976 is anywhere close to the Cardinals first baseman (who was born in 1980).

You can’t get away from this stuff. So don’t even try.

A short stop:


Also out these days is “Solid Fool’s Gold: Detours on the Way to Conventional Wisdom” (208 pages, $14.95). Our friend, Ron Kaplan, of Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf website (linked here), gives it a Grade A: “Entertaining essays harken back to the baseball abstracts of old.” We just haven’t been able to track it down ourself for an evaluation.

How it goes down in the scorebook:
It’s already been out since last November, which makes you think James’ 2012 version is almost halfway written now. Good. Sooner the better.

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