January 20, 2006

Review:  “Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2006 - 20th Anniversary Edition”
by Steve Lombardi, for NetShrine.com

I seem to recall once hearing that Baseball Hall of Fame member Steve Carlton reportedly said "We know that two plus two equals four.  But, how do we really know that two equals two?"  The fact that Mr. Carlton had a thing for various conspiracy theories is pretty well known these days.  However, I have always believed that he was dead on with the suggestion that you cannot accept everything as a given when it comes to examining numbers that are often generally acknowledged to be unquestionable in their derivation.  This is especially true when it comes to baseball.

Part of the uniqueness of baseball is the situation where a number of variables on the left side of an equation can be absolute and yet the result on the right side of the equal sign is incongruent.  For example:  A batter recognizes and times a pitch perfectly.  Related, he executes the placement of a perfect swing on said pitch and produces a perfectly solid line drive batted ball.  Nonetheless, by chance, the line drive is hit directly at a player in the field who catches it chest-high with ease - and the batter is retired.  At the end of the day in this snapshot study, the batter has a batting average, on base average, and slugging percentage of zero.  Yet, in reality, he did everything perfect.  Unfair?  Sure.  But, that's baseball, no?  

It is because of this condition that exists in baseball that it is extremely prudent to scrutinize the values of the numbers of the left side of the equation to ensure that they are in line with the result you find on the right side of the equal sign.  And, thanks to Ron Shandler, you can perform such a review with the "gimmie" ease of fielding a chest-high liner hit right at you.

Shandler specializes in analyzing and evaluating baseball players' performance in terms of their "component skills" (rather than via the traditional end-numbers that are sometimes skewed - either positively or negatively - by an element of luck).  Essentially, Shandler focuses on examining each "two" in the "two plus two" scenario and then determines if their sum is greater or less than (in reality) the "four" that shows up on the final public ledger.  And, from there, he is able to apply a series of theorems (that have been constructed and tested over the last two decades) to make performance projections based on the trends in particular strings of "truth behind the numbers" findings for a player.

The fruits of all this effort can be found in the 20th Anniversary Edition of Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster (2006).  However, to borrow from the announcer on those late-night Ronco infomercials, "But wait, there's more!"  In addition to the aforementioned analysis, evaluation and projections, Shandler's book contains the following:

And, the above is not an all-inclusive list.  There are several other studies and statistic presentations to be found in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster (2006).  

Shandler's book is packed with 257 pages of thoughts, statistics, charts, and the like that the astute baseball fan will deeply appreciate - and which the neophyte baseball-stat worshiper can use to improve their comprehension.  When you factor this all in, it is clear that Shandler's book, while marketed towards the rotisserie baseball crowd, is a body of work that any thinking baseball fan will find thought-proving and enjoyable.

If you are a fan of the game of baseball, and baseball statistics, I highly recommend getting a copy of Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster (2006).  

However, this counsel comes with one caveat.  If you are the type of person who prefers to keep their reference materials in pristine condition, then I do not suggest purchasing a copy of Shandler's book - you should buy two copies.  Because of the wealth of insightful information in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster (2006), you will find yourself reading it, and going back to it - again and again - until it is quickly dog-eared from rapid overuse.  Therefore, if you are into having an unspoiled and eye-pleasing personal library, buy one copy for the bookshelf and then another to use in satisfying your hunger for intelligent baseball information (until the paperback is ultimately razed from excessive perusal).  

After the first week of having Shandler's book, the copy that I have began to appear as if it had been read (cover to cover) by at least a dozen different people.  But, in fact, no one has seen it other than myself.  The mileage on my copy is the result of repeated individual use.  Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster (2006) is to serious baseball fans as the Sirens were to Odysseus.  It will sing to you and draw your attention every time you are near it - except, in the case of this book, it's actually beneficial for you to follow the call.  Knowledge is power and Shandler's work will provide you with plenty of wisdom.

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