The Bill James Handbook
Who is Scoresheetwiz?
Archived Commentary
Most Useful Sites
Archived Analysis
Quick Links (revised)

by Baseball Info Solutions

Remember those STATS Handbooks which stopped publication three years ago? They’re back, except they are by STATS, anymore. Now, they’re published by former STATS co-owner John Dewan’s new company Info Solutions. The player’s lifetime stats (and recent minor league stats) are shown in the exact same format as before. The final standings are still there and still include division, turf, close game, monthly, and team vs. team breakdowns. There is still team hitting, pitching, and fielding stats. It still has the same individual fielding stats (by position), which is unfortunate, because it still doesn’t include zone ratings.


The pitcher’s hitting and fielding stats are still there. Did you know pickoffs of all kinds are not counted as an official baseball stat? It is not part of either a catcher’s or runner’s caught stealing! But they’re here! Mark Buehrle handily led the majors with 10 pick-offs. Otherwise, runners were only 5 of 13 against him. Buehrle was near the top of the league in range factor and zone rating, too. You might be wondering why he didn’t receive a gold glove, but I don’t think many baseball managers know these stats. To be fair with their choice, however: Kenny Rogers was, also, near the top in those range stats and runners simply didn’t even try running against him. Those who were foolish enough to try were mostly gunned down (5 of 7) or picked off (6).  Others high on the pick off list were Chris Capuano (6), Shawn Estes, Jeff Fassero, Joe Kennedy, Al Leiter, Darrell May, Barry Zito (5), Brian Anderson, Doug Davis, RA Dickey, and Johan Santana (4). Trevor Miller is likely the best reliever at stopping the steal. He picked off three, while only 1 of 4 made a successful theft off him.  The best hitting pitchers are Brandon Backe, Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton, Livan Hernandez, Jason Jennings, Sun-Woo Kim, Jason Marquis, Stephen Randolf, Woody Williams, and Randy Wolf. Dave McCarty had three appearances as a reliever striking out four in less than four innings while walking only one. He’s a lousy fielding 35 year old with and a career O+S of 675. His ERA was 2.45. Is there a radical late stage position change coming?


The batter’s platoon splits are still there in the same format. It still has the same park data, except it no longer lists the altitude or provides a diagram showing the dimensions of each park.


The last STATS Handbook published lifetime and previous year’s Runs Created. The James Handbook has Win Shares for active players going back each year to 1995.


The Leader Boards have been preserved and expanded with top 10s and more stats. This stuff is hard to put down. Some of the stats were so eye-popping I had to compare them to the all-time records – if they exist:


We all know Ichiro Suzuki broke the hit record. He even led the league in batting average against both righties and lefties! Carl Crawford hit an amazing 19 triples, while Chone Figgins gave him a good chase with 17 triples. Since integration, there have only been two instances of anyone hitting more triples than Crawford did this year. Willie Mays hit 20 triples in 1957. Cristian Guzman hit 20 in 2000. That’s it. Slugger Derek Jeter was second in sacs hits this year.  Travis Hafner led the league in both Slugging and On-base average against right-handers. He, also, had the worse BA+SlgA on pitches outside the strike zone – a new stat listing in this section. Brian Roberts’ was the best! And, oh, this might be significant: Guess who had the AL’s best O+S the second half of the season?  Read on.

In the NL, Barry Bonds’ record breaking on-base average was actually over .600 (.609)! Ted Williams’ modern day record before Bonds came along was .551. Bonds has the four highest OBAs in the NL since 1900. The next highest was Rogers Hornsby’s at .497! Slugging percentage: Bonds was in the .800s (.812), while the next best was in the 600s (Pujols .657). Ruth is the only other human to hit higher, but Bonds owns the record set in 2001 (.863). Bonds set the record for O+S this year, too. He has the three highest of all-time, followed by Ruth. Barry Bonds, also, has the three highest walk totals of all-time, set again this year, and followed by Ruth. You think the worse that could happen pitching to Bonds out of the strike zone is a walk? Look at that fact his BA+SlgA was 1.120 in that situation!


Now, I see why Hudson, Drese, Lowe, and Westbrook vastly outperform their K/BB. They have four of the five lowest HR/Ing. Left-handed hitters batted only .094 against BJ Ryan. Righties batted only .087 off Trevor Hoffman. Bill James has been on a tracking-what-pitchers-throw crusade, lately. BIS is helping. Who is the hardest thrower in baseball, now? Kyle Farnsworth had 30 pitches over 100 mph. The next closest Billy Wagner and Jesus Colome only had 8 each. No one else had more than 4. Every pitcher with 162 innings except Tim Wakefield threw, at least, 40% fastballs. The leaders are around 75%. The leaders in curveballs, sliders, and change-ups are around the 25-30% mark, although, Randy Johnson throws 41% sliders. From the Bill James book on pitchers, which came out earlier this year, I learned that Randy Johnson has pretty well thrown nothing but fastballs and hard sliders since about when he became consistently great 12 years ago. Oh, and the best AL O+S in the 2nd half belonged to Carlos Delgado.


The new book dispensed with the in-depth player statistical profiles. Wshew! What a waste of print they were! The managerial stats selected have changed and includes a stat line for each year. That is a little more interesting.


Then, of course, there is the most popular feature: the projections for the upcoming season. There have been a few changes. Actually, this Handbook started when the other one sold out to Sporting News in 2002, but this is the first year the projections have been revived. STATS kept the old projection system, so John Dewan and Pat Quinn developed a new one – apparently better than James’. One new column indicates whether the player’s chances of a major injury are low, medium, or high.


These injury projections are by a NASA mathematician named Sig Mejdal. He writes a dry article (compared to the passionate James) half-heartedly explaining his methods. “. . . I conducted a forward stepwise logistic time series regression (with restriction levels defined by both statistical significance and partial correlation constant magnitudes) in order to determine the predictors of future injuries. In other words, I used statistical techniques that the layperson would never touch . . .” Oh, come on. I think the readers of this book deserve a little more detail in every day English than that. In the conclusion, Bill James and I were both shocked to see Ken Griffey only having a 36% chance of having a serious (30 day) injury.  Sammy Sosa was 4th at 32%. Frank Thomas was 9th at 30%. James speculates the reason Mejdal’s injury rates seem so low is that he likely omitted players who missed an entire season from his data.


There is more career projection data. Barry Bonds is projected to hit 918 home runs before he retires. At the rate, he’s going that would be true. If they crack down on the type of steroids he allegedly uses – or he gets testicle cancer, that would be another story.


The new Handbook gave up on the pitcher projections! I’m calling that a cop-out. Perhaps, they’ll come up with a new system that works better next year. I can tell you the old one didn’t work as well as one I made for myself on a computer where I used to work. Even the hitter’s projections I fear may be too formulaic to account for the effect of certain injuries or too rooted in 80s’ or 90s’ sabrmathematics to the include the latest discoveries in baseball stat projections.


James opens the book with an entertaining article on how well teams turn their hits and walks, etc. into runs, and their runs into wins. He doesn’t come up with any conclusion, but lays down some interesting historical data for us to mull over. This is James’ modus operandi these days. I think he’s grown tired of fights, which ensue, when he makes establishment-challenging observations. The crux of this year’s James’ co-authored book Guide to Pitchers, was: let’s lay out all the previously hidden data we can about what pitchers throw. Then you can have fun making your own conclusions about what types of pitchers will have long careers, get injured, or whatever you want to find out.


There may be some analysts who are more mathematically sound than James these days. However, James is still the most entertaining.

John Carter