November 12, 2006
Review: “The Bill James
Baseball Handbook 2007”
by Steve Lombardi, for 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. At that time, it had appeared that 2002 would be the end of the Major League Handbook (that so many had grown fond of over time). However, in June of 2003, thanks to the good folks at Baseball Info Solutions and Acta Publications, The Bill James Handbook (as this grand annual was renamed) reappeared on the scene - and it has continued to be available in the years to follow.
On November 1, 2006, The Bill James Handbook 2007 was released.
This version of the Handbook has all the usual staples that one expects to find in the book - such as team statistics from last season, a register of career stats for everyone who played in the majors this past year, 2006 fielding stats, manager tendencies, park data, player splits, leader boards, win shares data, and 2007 player projections, etc. However, there are some new offerings in this version of the Handbook that make this year's edition extra exciting. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
The 2006 Fielding Bible Awards - where a panel of experts voted on the best defensive players at each position last year.
A new Baserunning Rating System detailed by Bill James - including the 2006 totals for each player in the majors.
An introductory study by Bill James on team "Manufactured Runs."
Projected career totals for batters who were active in 2006.
Ballpark Index Leader Boards for 2006 and 2004 through 2006.
One of the things that I enjoy most about perusing The Bill James Handbook is the simple pleasure of thumbing through the pages and finding fun and illuminating facts and statistics. Here's a sample of some items that I noticed quickly once this year's edition arrived in the mail:
Barry Zito threw 1,200 pitches in 2006 that were thrown under less than 80 MPH.
Joel Zumaya threw 233 pitches in 2006 that were thrown greater than or equal to 100 MPH.
The average distance of Craig Biggio's homeruns in last year was 358 feet.
Maicer Izturis was almost as productive as Jason Giambi last year in terms of the percentage of pitches taken while batting.
Any pitcher who threw Vlad Guerrero and Lance Berkman a curveball, Jim Thome and Nomar Garciaparra a change-up, or Jason Giambi and Josh Bard a slider last year was a fool.
Last year, Brad Penny threw his fastball 72.6% of the time and his average fastball speed was 93.9 MPH (which was tops in the N.L.).
Alex Rodriguez had the 9th worst strikeout per plate appearance ratio (min. 502 PA) and the 9th worst "swing and miss" percentage (min 1,500 pitches seen) in the A.L. last year.
Pat Burrell was just as patient last season at the plate - in terms of pitches per plate appearance and percentage of pitches taken - as Nick Johnson.
Baserunners can run at will against pitchers Freddy Garcia and Chris Young.
Chien-Ming Wang's average fastball speed was 93.1 MPH and Mike Mussina's was 88.6 MPH in 2006.
Grady Little called for more pitch-outs than any other manager in baseball last season.
Jose Reyes and Mark Teahen were equal last year in terms of baserunning skill - with both being good - whereas Jim Edmonds and Bernie Williams were equal as well - with both of them being bad on the bases.
Pat Neshek had the best slider in baseball last year.
The Phillies had 3 players (Aaron Rowland, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino) in the N.L. "top nine" for hit-by-pitches in 2006.
According to Bill James' analysis, Melky Cabrera was the 4th best fielding left fielder in baseball. last year - behind Carl Crawford, Jason Bay and Reed Johnson.
The Detroit Tigers were last in the majors last year in "Manufactured Runs."
Johnny Damon is on a career path that projects to 2,922 lifetime hits.
When comparing Jim Thome and David Ortiz, one must note that U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago is a great park for left-handed power hitters - much more so than Fenway Park in Boston.
Peter Gammons refers to The Bill James Handbook as being "The prize of our winter hibernation." I agree with this appraisal. The Handbook is the perfect companion for baseball fans of all levels to use in offsetting whatever hardball yearning the lulls of the off-season may throw their way. You can sit with it for an hour, or just a few minutes, and no matter how much time you spend when looking at the Handbook, you will find abundant nuggets of baseball amusement. NetShrine.com highly recommends The Bill James Handbook 2007.
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