****AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 1st****
Bill James and the Baseball Info Solutions team of analysts continue to pack in new content, including a fresh look at the continued rise and effectiveness of The Shift and a new breakdown of home runs and long flyouts. And, as always, the book forecasts fresh hitter and pitcher projections for those looking to get an early jump on the next season.
Baseball is still “The National Pastime,” and one of the reasons is that there are many different ways to enjoy the game. Some people are captivated by the pure physical beauty of ballparks—whether in the major or the minor leagues, on a college or high school campus, or just at a local park or playground. For example, when people see the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field—especially if it is in October when the leaves have already turned and baseball is still being played—they are transported to a magical place indeed. For others, the enjoyment of baseball is in watching one of the greatest games ever invented. There is nothing better than the drama of a close play at the plate, the grace of a fielder diving and catching a ball, or the excitement of a runner taking off to steal second base in a close game. For many of us, however, it’s the numbers of the game that provide our greatest enjoyment. Whether it is just keeping our own scorecard or understanding the nuances of On-base Plus Slugging (OPS) or Wins Above Replacement (WAR), baseball lends itself to statistical analysis perhaps better than any other human endeavor—or at least any other human endeavor that is so much fun!
-- John Dewan, co-author, The Fielding Bible
Bill James and the team at Baseball Info Solutions are dedicated to producing the best stats, and the best analysis of those stats, which is why baseball fans and professionals alike study The Bill James Handbook as soon as it comes out each year—the first-to-market, most comprehensive, and most fun baseball annual for 28 consecutive years. Here is the 2017 edition, complete with:
New! Hits Gained and Lost to the Shift
Exclusive! The Annual Fielding Bible Awards
Updated! Leader Boards, Defensive Shifts, Pitch Velocity, Managers, Park Indices
New! Long Fly Out & Home Run Breakdowns
Complete! Career Data for Every 2016 Major Leaguer (and a few bonus players)
Unique! Win Shares, Career Targets, Hall of Fame Monitor, Instant Replay Analysis
First! Hitter & Pitcher Projections for 2017
The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 8, No. 123
November 22, 2016
I wrote the other day about how if you're under a certain age, you have no memory of particular award fights, and how the memory of those fights provides perspective for just how well the BBWAA does its job in the 2010s. That line of thought was informed a bit by how I've been spending my time since the season ended, my nose buried in a stat book (when not trying to get the Newsletter mailing list sorted out after a spate of neglectfulness, anyway).
Books used to be a critical part of the baseball offseason. The arrival of the various Bill James-branded Handbooks, back in the Stats, Inc. days, meant access to splits data -- critical for the intense Strat-O-Matic player I was then. The books provided career data for everyone, essential to writing Prospectus annual player entries. Fifteen to 20 years ago, the only place to get full minor-league stats was in the Minor League Handbook. Pay extra for the spiral-bound versions? Duh. Need historical perspective? Total Baseball and the Baseball Encyclopedia were at the ready, and just a few years out of date!
My guess is hundreds of you have never stalked your mailman or UPS guy every day for a week in November waiting on the arrival of baseball information. If you're under 30, you have pretty much lived in the baseball-reference era, that time when anything you could possibly want to know about a baseball player's performance is available for the price of some clicks. Sean Forman, whose Hall of Fame induction I look forward to, changed the game for fans, for media, for everyone. Beyond b-r.com
, there's Prospectus and Fangraphs and, now, Baseball Savant and MLB.com
, all out there feeding whatever data craving you might have at 2 a.m. on a sleepless Tuesday night.
For those of us who remember a different era, though, November still brings one treat. The Bill James Handbook 2017
is the spiritual successor to the Stats Inc. books, collecting career data, splits, leader boards and assorted fun numbers on dead trees and sending them out for nerds like me to consume. It's not that the book is easier than a laptop or a smartphone; it's just different, and leafing through it or using it to look up, say, Andrew Cashner's career stats tickles that part of my reptilian brain that genuinely loves being surrounded by books, that remembers stacks of them piled high this time of year as I tried to find something new and interesting to say about Phil Plantier or Orlando Cabrera or Pat Hentgen.
The Handbook is mostly a reference book, its pages thick with agate type that provides evidence of Mike Trout's greatness and John Danks's existence. I may not play as much Strat as I used to -- read: almost none -- but I still find myself perusing the splits pages to find those backwards-lefty relievers who formed the core of my bullpens for years. (I see you, Felipe Rivero.) During the season, I turn to it often as my best source for ballpark factors, both at the overall and granular level. The most recent Handbook is always within arm's reach, always in the same spot on the table, even though much of the information within it is also available through four pieces of technology sitting even closer to me.
Baseball Info Solutions, certainly mindful of just that competition, packs the Handbook with more and more additional information each year. There's always some work by Bill James, who has a half-dozen small pieces in the book, along with a deeper dive into sequencing. The Handbook collects data, such as pitcher batting, such as managerial tendencies, such as baserunning performance, that is all available online but more easily viewed in the book. There are all sorts of leader boards on which to nerd out; I follow baseball as closely as anyone, I think, but I've found that in the Extra Innings/At Bat era, I spend more time watching baseball and less time looking at the statistics. It's actually helpful to look at the leader boards to get a view of the season I missed while watching Rich Hill's curveball and Javier Baez's tags. Jose Ramirez was second in the AL in doubles? George Springer -- now a center fielder? -- was fifth in the AL in walks? Just one NL pitcher threw more than 123 pitches in a start?
If the Handbook is less essential to my daily life than the old red and green books were back in the day, it's perhaps become more significant as an offseason marker. There's the Handbook in November, the Baseball Forecaster in December, the new Prospectus annual in late January and the Rotowire magazine in February, all stoking the baseball fire inside until pitchers and catchers report. I've already spent countless hours not writing for you fine people while getting lost in Trea Turner's…sorry, that's Steven Souza Jr.'s…stat lines, or wondering if there's value in these Productive Outs rankings, or scanning 2017 projections for surprises. If I reach the first weekend of November burned out on baseball -- and I do, just about every year -- the Handbook is one of the things that gets me going again.
I'll put the Handbook down now and get back to typing, but it will remain close by, for when I want to glance at Brian McCann's stat lines or I can't remember how old Josh Reddick is or when I just want a taste of baseball on a college basketball Saturday. It's an essential part of my baseball nerddom.