Less than 100 days to go before they yell "Play ball!" and the 2010 season begins, and already handicappers are asking for baseball books. We’re not surprised. This is not unusual because baseball bettors are a special breed unto themselves. Just for these studious, diehard handicappers, the first of many books and magazines for the upcoming season has arrived. The Bill James Handbook (511 pages, paperbound, $23.95) for 2010 has plenty for numbers crunchers to chew on until opening day.
James has come a long way since his days as a University of Kansas warehouseman. We encouraged him to do his books as far back as the early 1980’s; it was an immediate and lasting hit. James is now Senior Baseball Operators Advisor for the Boston Red Sox, and his book is now edited by a crack team from Acta Sports.
There are about two dozen major sections to digest; I’ll focus on those I think are most helpful to fantasy players or purist handicappers.
Since relief pitching often determines wins and losses, that section is worth looking at as it contains the efficiency of closers, setup men, lefty relief specialists, long men and emergency relievers. Here’s where you’ll find who’s the best, the worst and how do they do against inherited runners. It’s also where you’ll uncover how most batters do against right-handed and left-handed pitchers for average, RBIs, on base percentage and batting average, then how pitchers do against left-handed and right-handed batters for 2009.
The Park Indices show you each stadium’s ability to produce runs beyond the average. Example, if a park has a home run index of 120 (100 is a neutral figure), then it was 20% easier to hit homers in that park than in the rest of the parks in that team’s league. You’ll see some remarkable examples in both Coors Field (Rockies) and Arizona’s Chase Field (Diamondbacks).
There are birthdates, ages and lifetime records, major and minor league for each player who played in 2009, instant replay analysis, 2010 hitter and pitcher projections, players who are getting close to setting records, how defense (infielders and outfielders) has saved runs for teams, who the best and worst base runners are (with examples and statistics), more than a dozen categories in which managers make decisions and what the outcome was including pitch hitters, using relievers, whether the starter is yanked early. A special bonus section at the end helps you understand what terms like quality start means or how to figure earned run average (ERA).
Overall, you’re looking at a marvelous "Hot Stove League" directory and reference guide. You’ll do plenty of underlining and highlighting—but you’ll be way ahead of the last-minute-Charley types who don’t prepare.
Any item reviewed here is available from Gambler’s Book Shop. The store’s website is www.gamblersbook.com. You can order using your credit or debit card or by phoning the store Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time at 1-800-522-1777. Orders usually shipped the next working day. The store, opened in 1964, is located at 1550 E. Tropicana Suite #4, between Maryland Parkway and Spencer Avenue.