Saturday Book Review: The Hardball Times Annual 2007

Nothing signals the end of a long baseball season, nor gets us through those long baseball-less winter months, like a good old-fashioned baseball annual. I've been cozying up next to the warm, computer-simulated fireplace for the past couple of weeks with my new friend, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007, which marks the third edition (the second that wasn't self-published) from the guys over at The Hardball Times.

=> Vitals

# of Pages: 350
Publisher: Acta Sports
Suggested Retail Price: $19.95
ISBN: 978-0-87946-312-0

=> What's Inside?

Three-hundred and fifty pages of baseball goodness, that's what! The Annual is divided into five sections:

  1. The 2006 Season
  2. A variety of writers break down the six divisions as well as the playoffs. I mostly skimmed this section, mainly because I just got finished slogging through a six month season and I'm not yet at the point where I need it to be recapped for me. Though, the capsules are very well written and serve as a written history of the year that was, and I can fancy myself returning to them in the future for a synopsis of what went down in 2006.

    Don't miss: "National League East Review" by John Walsh.

  3. 2006 Commentary
  4. Lots of great stuff here, as guest writers like Will Leitch, Rob Neyer, Rich Lederer and Mac Thomason as well as THT regulars like Jeff Sackmann, Steve Treder, and Brian Borawski provide plenty of insightful and enjoyable commentary on the 2006 season. This section features eleven total articles spanning fifty pages and touches upon a variety of topics, including blunders, rookies, prospects, the WBC, drug testing, competitive balance, and a breakdown of John Schuerholz's reign of terror at the helm of the Atlanta Braves.

    Don't miss: "As Clear as Mud: Drug Testing's Impact on the Stats of 2006" by Steve Treder.

  5. History
  6. Four articles covering almost thirty pages, this section features David Gassko's "The Most Valuable Pitchers of Our Time" as well as "Tommy John Surgery", a relative comparison of pitchers' performance before and after the now-infamous surgical procedure. John Walsh also breaks down the best cannons of the past fifty years in "The Best Outfield Arms of Our Time".

    Don't miss: "Looking Back: The Federal League" by John Brattain.

  7. Analysis
  8. More good stuff by Gassko on batted balls and potential 2007 breakouts, as well as three articles by Dave Studenmund, one each on WPA, batted balls and net win shares value. John Dewan also contributes an article to this section on team defense using the plus/minus system he use in last year's The Fielding Bible.

    Don't miss: John Burnson's "Tug of War", a detailed analysis of a June 6 encounter between the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang and the Red Sox' David Ortiz.

  9. Statistics
  10. It wouldn't be a baseball annual without the stats, and this one is no different. After an introduction by Studenmund, we get a bevy of stats for teams in each league, league leaderboards, individual player stats for every team, a breakdown of win-based statistics (WPA and net win shares), and something neat called "Playing Time Constellations", an invention of Burnson's that illustrates a team's positional breakdown by player. We'll get into more of Burnson's chart-based wizardry when I review his Graphical Player 2007 in the coming weeks.

    The statistics section also includes a glossary of terms used in the book, an absolute must for a book like this.

    Don't miss: Uhh, the stats?

=> Why Should You Buy It?

Well, you like baseball, and you probably like baseball statistics, and you also probably like baseball writing. What's not to like? There are so many annuals being released now that it's hard to pick just one if that's all you have budgeted for since they all bring different things to the table. What truly sets THT's entry apart from the rest is the strength of its articles. Most of the other annuals focus mostly on the numbers, but THT's team of regular and guest writers is among the best the baseball world has to offer, and this book is no exception.

=> Where to Buy It?

Ideally, ACTA Sports, the inimitable and tireless publisher of this and many other outstanding baseball books. You can also get it at Amazon.com for a few bucks less, but buying it there means very little profit for the authors.

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