DECEMBER 5, 2003
The Bill James Handbook 2004
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com
For 13 years, STATS Inc. published the STATS Major League Handbook. However, in the fall of 2002, STATS Inc. all but suspended its publishing operation. It had appeared that 2002 was the end of the Major League Handbook (that so many had grown to be fond of through the years).
Providentially, out of the residual ashes from the demise of the Major League Handbook, and through the munificence of the folks at Baseball Info Solutions and Acta Publications, like a phoenix, The Bill James Handbook arose in 2003.
Released in June of this year, The Bill James Handbook 2003 appeared to be just about everything that the STATS Major League Handbook was - with the exception of its publication date (as the STATS book always was available the 1st of November following the baseball season).
That small distinction was removed this year, on November 1st, when Acta released The Bill James Handbook 2004. Having just received a review copy of the book, it can be shared that the 2004 edition is just as informative and entertaining as any previous edition of the Handbook (regardless of its publisher). For example:
Page 128: Did you know that Marlins’ Derrek Lee has twice as many road HR (89) as home HR (41) in his career?
Page 291: Last year, Florida’s Pro Player Stadium had a RHB HR Index of 76. (Combine that with the above Lee fact and it is good news for Cubs fans in 2004!)
Page 334: In back to back starts, Tampa Bay’s Joe Kennedy had a Game Score of 90 (5/2/03) and minus 5 (5/7/03) which were the AL high and low marks in 2003.
Page 327: In 2003, both the Giants’ Barry Bonds and the Cardinals’ Edgar Renteria had an On Base Percentage over .500 versus LHP.
Page 259: Last year, the Yankees’ Bernie Williams’ Range Factor in CF (2.64) was higher than the Bosox’ Johnny Damon’s Range Factor in CF (2.62).
Page 339: In 2003, the Braves’ Greg Maddux’ average fastball (85.4 MPH) was slower than the Mets’ Tom Glavine’s average fastball (85.9 MPH).
Page 83: The Yankees’ Jason Giambi has now played in 152+ games per season for 6 years in a row.
Page 5: Last year, in the NL East, the eventual world champion Florida Marlins were the only team in the division not to spend at least one day in first place.
Page 324: In 2003, the Yankees’ Jorge Posada batted .000 on pitches outside of the strike zone.
Page 286: This past season, the White Sox’ Jerry Manuel used 361 relief pitchers – fewest in the AL. (The Rangers’ Buck Showalter led the AL with 494.)
These are just some of the immediate observations noted from quickly thumbing through the Handbook. The Bill James Handbook 2004 is brimming with team statistics, player career information (including the Japanese stats on both Hideki and Kazuo Matsui!), fielding statistics, performance splits, manager statistics, park indexes, leader boards, and career assessments. And, the Handbook includes current Win Share totals (by season) on every player active in the majors last year.
Now, to be fair, it must be noted that one thing missing from The Bill James Handbook 2004 is player projections (which was a staple of the STATS Major League Handbook) for next season. That is about the only downbeat comment that can be made about The Bill James Handbook 2004 - but, on the plus side, it provides an opportunity for continued improvement in the next edition.
The Bill James Handbook 2004 is highly recommended here. In fact, today is a perfect example of how the book can be sensibly utilized. As this review is penned, it is snowing heavily outside. It is not genuinely a day for outdoor activities (at least until it stops snowing). There is little to do for entertainment indoors - most shows on TV are repeats (as a result of holiday shopping patterns). There is no baseball being played.
The perfect solution to a day like today is to find a comfortable and warm spot in the house and to curl up with a copy of The Bill James Handbook 2004. You can get lost, and enjoy yourself immensely, for hours amongst all the data therein.
There are many more snow days forecast for the next few months. Hurry up and get a copy of The Bill James Handbook 2004 before the winter is over! (And, if you live in a hot and sunny climate, get a copy for the beach. Even though the Handbook is over 370 pages, it is very light and extremely portable!)
Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com. Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season. Steve can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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