Saturday Book Review: The Bill James Handbook 2007

Ignoring for a moment the fact that I wouldn't be here blogging if it weren't for Bill James, his annual is one of the best purchases you can make in any offseason. The Bill James Handbook 2007 is the first annual released every year, hitting e-bookstands about a month after the regular season ends. However, it's quick time to press is in no way an implication of hurried copy. The book is a terrific, necessary inclusion on any baseball fan's winter reading list.

=> Vitals

# of Pages: 467
Publisher: ACTA Sports
Suggested Retail Price: $21.95
ISBN: 0-87946-311-2

=> What's Inside?

Over four-hundred pages of Jamesian goodness! In truth, while the annual was very much the brainchild of Bill James, it takes the tireless contributions of many to crank this baby out just a few short weeks after the baseball season ends. Here's a breakdown of the various sections in the first annual released this year:

  • 2006 Team Statistics

    Team-based statistics from the 2006 season, includes won-loss records against all other teams, divisions, starting pitcher handedness, conditons, run differential, monthly, semiannually, and more. It also includes team batting, pitching and fielding stats.

  • Team Efficiency Summary (by Bill James)

    Based on the idea that a team's results are essentially predictable given the performance of its individual players, team efficiency compares each team's runs scored and allowed to its expected runs scored and allowed to determine how efficient they were at winning ballgames.

  • The Fielding Bible Awards (by John Dewan)

    Basically an experts' version of Tom Tango's Fans' Scouting Report, Dewan asked ten baseball experts, including James and Tango, to rank players at each defensive position. Two things that separate the Fielding Bible Awards from the Gold Glove Awards are the former's lack of deliniation between the two leagues -- there is only one award for both leagues at each position -- and the fact that Bobby Abreu and Derek Jeter will never win Fielding Bible Awards.

  • Plus/Minus Leaders

    In an update to last year's Fielding Bible, John Dewan introduces some enhancements to his defensive system and ranks the top ten players at each position. Jose Valentin finished first among second basemen despite being a regular for only four months.

  • Career Register

    Career stats -- including minor league numbers for younger players -- for every active big leaguer. This section consumes more than half of the book.

  • 2006 Fielding Statistics

    Regular 2006 fielding statistics, plus catcher ERA and stolen base numbers.

  • Basrunning (by Bill James)

    Nifty baserunning rankings that include first-to-third (single), second-to-home (single), first-to-home (double), and other bases taken (e.g. on a wild pitch, passed ball, etc.). Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes rank among the best in the league; David Wright and Jose Valentin are both better than average; Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca are slightly below average.

  • Pitchers Hitting, Fielding & Holding Runners / Hitters Pitching

    Just what it says. Nine position players actually appeared as pitchers last year, which is about five or six more than I would have guessed.

  • Manufactured Runs (by Bill James)

    A neat analysis on manufactured runs. James meticulously lays out his rules for manufactured runs and then sorts all manufactured runs into one of two categories: runs created by deliberate acts (bunting, stealing, etc.) and everything else (infield hits, defensive miscues, taking extra bases, advancing on outs/throws). He concludes the analysis with 2006 team rankings for both types of manufactured runs.

  • Manager's Record

    Data on managerial tendencies, including lineup variance, substitutions, bullpen usage, and tactical decision-making (sacrifices, intentional walks, pitch-outs).

  • 2006 Park Indices

    2006 and 2004-2006 park factors for all big league ballparks, including batting average, runs, hits, doubles, triples, homeruns, walks, strikeouts and errors, as well as average and homeruns for lefties and righties.

  • 2006 Lefty/Righty Statistics

    Lefty/righty splits for all batters and pitchers from 2006.

  • 2006 Leader Boards

    Standard leader board stuff, plus some goodies not found anywhere else like percentage of pitches taken, BPS (batting plus slugging) on pitches outside the strike zone, first swing percentage, swing and miss percentage, easy/regular/tough saves, and more. Includes 2006 and career leader boards.

  • Win Shares

    2006 plus yearly and career win shares for all players active in 2006.

  • Hitter Projections

    Everybody and his brother has a projection system and this is Bill's.

  • Projected Career Totals for Active Players

    An expanded version of James's "Favorite Toy", this section projects career totals for active major leaguers. Albert Pujols is projected to hit 867 homeruns by the time he is through.

  • Pitcher Projections

    Just what it says.

  • Career Assessments

    Also an offshoot of "The Favorite Toy", this specifically ranks players' probability of reaching certain specific milestones, like 700 homeruns, 4,000 hits or 1,000 stolen bases (Jose Reyes is given a 12% chance of that last one).

  • 300-Win Candidates (Bill James)

    Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson are the only active pitchers with a better-than-20% chance of reaching 300 wins (74% and 70%, respectively).

  • Baseball Glossary

    Definitions of terms in use throughout the book. Definitely handy for the statistical neophytes.

=> Why Should You Buy It?

Statistically, the Bill James Handbook is probably the most complete and unique annual there is. There's enough good stuff in here to keep you going for a while.

=> Where to Buy It?

Get it at ACTA Sports. While you're there, pick up a few of their other great books as well. Nobody churns out the quality and quantity of great baseball writing of ACTA, so buy your books direct from the company and help support the folks that make these books possible. You can also buy the book at Amazon.com.

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