The 2017 Bill James Handbook is on shelves now. It’s 609 pages of facts, figures and other quantitative observations from the most recent baseball season. I’m always amazed at how quickly anyone can publish such massive amounts of data, let alone sort them and analyze them into something digestable.
Between tracking down Kenley Jansen contract details, I attempted to make the BJH even more digestable for Dodger fans. Here are 10 things that either I didn’t know, or didn’t know with nearly the same precision, before reading the book:
1. Adrian Gonzalez actually beat the shift quite a bit. Yes, he lost 34 hits to the shift in 2016, which tied Curtis Granderson for the most in baseball. Those tend to stick out. But he also gained 20 hits as a result of shifts — more than Yasmani Grandal and Chase Utley combined.
2. The Dodgers were solidly above average on defense at all but one position — second base — according to Defensive Runs Saved. In fact, only the Atlanta Braves lost more runs at the second base position than the Dodgers (minus-12) in 2016.
3. Chase Utley is first regular this century to go an entire season without grounding into a double play.
4. Another reason to appreciate Corey Seager‘s rookie season: he ran into one baserunning out all year.
5. Reverse splits are fun: right-hander Chris Hatcher ranked eighth among NL relief pitchers (minimum 50 at-bats) in limiting left-handers’ batting average (.150), while left-hander Grant Dayton ranked seventh in limiting right-handers’ batting average (.157).
6. Every hitter in baseball was categorized as either “very aggressive,” “aggressive,” “neutral,” “patient” or “very patient” based on their approach to balls and strikes. Joc Pederson was “very patient” in 2016. We tend to think of his swing as an aggressive one because of how it looks. Let’s face it — it is an aggressive swing. However, when you take away the film and look only at his selectivity (percent of pitches taken for a strike, percent of pitches taken for a ball, swings and misses, etc.), Pederson actually appears to be quite patient.
7. Because they’re in the same region of the alphabet, it was easy to compare Mike Trout‘s 2016 season to that of Justin Turner. Turner put more balls in play as a percentage of his total swings, and had a higher line-drive percentage, than Trout.
8. Recent free agent pickup Vidal Nuno had the deepest pitch mix (the greatest variety of pitch type from one delivery to the next) of any pitcher in 2016.
9. The Dodgers established a record for the most total relief appearances over the course of a season — 606, or 3.74 per game. This stat was revealed in the “Managers” section, in the context of strategy. Yet until Dave Roberts gets a few more seasons under his belt, we can’t accurately say it’s a reflection on the manager. It could just be the (injury-plagued) hand he was dealt in 2016.
10. More Roberts: He used 120 different lineups excluding the pitcher’s spot. That’s the fewest by a Dodgers manager since at least Joe Torre. Don Mattingly never used fewer than 124 different lineups in season … until he joined the Miami Marlins and used 111. Paul Molitor used the most lineups of any manager this year (148). Terry Francona used the fewest (101). For the sake of comparing eras, Mike Scioscia penciled in 75 lineups in his first year as the Angels’ manager (2000).