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VINE VOICEon February 16, 2009
The "Baseball Prospectus" is the best book of its type on the market. It carries on the tradition of the old Bill James "Baseball Abstract" much better than do similar books, including even the new "Bill James Gold Mine." The "Prospectus" contains an overview of every team, reviewing the 2008 season and looking ahead to the likely impact of offseason moves on the 2009 season. It also contains profiles of every player on each team's 40-man roster as well as the team's more promising players in the lower minors. "Lineouts" at the end of each team's entry give brief comments on more marginal players, such as minor leaguers who were once prospects, but whose careers have stalled because of injuries or poor performance. The conventional statistics are given for each player, as well as "translated" statistics that correct for the effects of playing in particular ballparks - such as the boost hitters get from playing in Coors Field in Denver - and several statistics that attempt to provide an estimate of the player's overall value. They also forecast what each player will do during the 2009 season using their PECOTA system. Finally, one fun thing is each player has a list of the four most comparable players in major league history. For instance, the four most comparable players to Ryan Howard are Mike Epstein, Cecil Fielder, David Ortiz, and Jim Gentile. What no Boog Powell or Frank Howard? Overall, it's hard to imagine a more complete overview of major league teams and players.

I have a few quibbles, however. Because different writers handle different teams, the assessments lack the single voice of the old Bill James "Abstracts." For instance, the comment on Edgar Renteria in the Detroit entry offers the opinion that: "The Giants surprised a lot of people by giving him $18.5 million for the next two years, but we've all but given up trying to figure out what the Giants are doing of late." Well, the author of the Giants entry has apparently figured out what the Giants are doing: "While it's easy to laugh at the move because of Renteria's mediocre 2008 season with the Tigers, it's also important to note that even if he's merely adequate again, that's an enormous improvement, perhaps as many as three or four wins, over what they suffered through at short last season."

Then there are the problems with rushing the book into print in early February. They have corrected some of the huge editorial problems of a few years ago, when the book was riddled with typos and some of the team comments were so poorly written as to be almost incoherent. But there are still problems. The most glaring one this year is the failure to include an index. Page ix of the Introduction reassures us that: "If you can't quite remember where a player ended up last September, there's an index in the back." Alas, presumably because of the rush to publish, there is no index this year. I also think some of the entries must be written before the translated statistics, defensive statistics, and comparables have been calculated. This was a problem a couple of years ago when the player comments would refer to a different list of comparables than the ones printed in the book. This year the comments seem to avoid references to the comparables, presumably because the comments were written before the comparables were calculated, but there are still some inconsistencies between the evaluations in the comments and the printed stats. Once again, take the entry on Edgar Renteria. The comment says that in 2008 Renteria had "what was the worst season of his career once you factor in his rapidly declining defense." But Renteria's entry shows a Defense rating of -9 in 2006 and 0 in both 2007 and 2008. So, rather than rapidly declining, Renteria's defense apparently improved significantly between 2006 and 2007, and then held steady in 2008.

But these are really just quibbles. Whether you need a good set of player ratings for fantasy baseball or are just a baseball fan wanting an entertaining read, the "Baseball Prospectus" is easily the best book out there.
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VINE VOICEon February 17, 2009
The Prospectus includes all MLB teams and players on 40 man rosters. This gives the reader a comprehensive look at stars, bench players, high prospects and even some organization players. The opening segment of the book explains the statistics that will be used in team chapters. In addition to the commonly used VORP (estimates the comparable value a player has over the average player), the Prospectus tries to quantify baserunning ability (EqBRR) and the impact a manger has on his team among innumerable other things. The authors also provide the "Pythagenport Record" for each team which estimates their wins and losses if luck were neutralized.

Prospectus writers do not always limit themselves to stats in their player analysis. Their description of the Angels' Bobby Abreu, for example, starts by admitting "our translations don't do justice to Abreu's brand of defense...You know those long drives that seem like home runs, only to die on the warning track? Abreu watches them bounce." The main thrust of the Prospectus, however, is that you can predict performance through numbers alone. White Sox first baseman Nick Swisher suffered through a drop in average in 2008 from 262 in his prior year in Oakland to a miniscule 219. The authors conclude "that it was the product of little more than bad luck." Since his walk rate, line drive rate and isolated power were in line with prior performance, he apparently did little wrong other than hit the ball at people for 6 months. I guess the breaks don't even out.

I am uncomfortable with the player projections for 2009 (PECOTA). The methodology used tends to average down historical results so that, for example, Dice-K is projected to drop from 18 wins to a 10-8 record while Ryan Howard is pegged to drive in 110 runs after not finishing below 136 in the prior 3 years. Maybe the authors are right, though, when they suggest that if you shudder and say something in the book can't be right, "Trust me: it probably is."

My favorite feature in the book is the suggestion of similar players or "comparables" for each of the players on the 40 man rosters. Some seem optomistic (Red Sox fans will be happy to see that Jason Bay could be the next Dewey Evans) while others take a player down a peg or two (Rays fans will have trouble comparing Matt Garza to Matt Keough or Ron Kline after his ALCS starts.) Some of the suggestions include a wide range of accomplishment. Yanks phenom Phil Hughes will either blossom like Roy Halliday or be rushed to the majors with dire results like Pete Broberg. Dice-K is either Chan Ho Park or Bob Gibson. If you are an older fan, it is fun just to see some obscure older players reborn as an analog for a new player. (Do you think the Red Sox were trying to get Jarrold Saltalamacchia because he is like Jim Pagliaroni? I'm sure the Indians did not trade CC Sabathia because they hoped former Gator Matt LaPorta would be the modern version of FSU's Greg Blosser.)

This book is great to thumb through, research players, or get an idea how your team will do. Keep it next to the television during the 09 season or bring it with you to your favorite sports bar to start some arguements. Whatever you decide to do with it, buy it. It is hard to get more information of any kind for $21.95.
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on December 29, 2014
A Web site probably deserves a quick review of the latest in the annual series called Baseball Prospectus.

It's easy to praise this year's book as well as all of the others in the series. The authors clearly have a pretty good track record when it comes to examining all aspects of the game. They achieved some level of fame in 2008 for predicting the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays, which put them in a subset of one. The authors also had one of their members, Nate Silver, become famous in politics for his Web site, fivethirtyeight.com. Silver was a great source of information through the election season, and got the final results almost exactly right.

Getting back to baseball, the book has the usual format as well as size (about as big as the phone book of a Triple-A baseball team's city). There is an introduction to each team, followed by a small section on virtually every player that matters on a particular team. The players are listed with their 2008 organization, which does make it a little tough to find a particular player if he moved over the winter. (Note to authors; bring back the index.) There are a few essays in the back of the book.

The writing always has been pretty fearless, and that's still the case in 2009. These guys aren't afraid to say when they think teams are making poor judgments or when players are headed for the scrap heap. It's striking just how few players out of the seemingly endless pool of talent ever make it to become major league regulars, and the authors are more than willing to point out that out -- even for prospects, who probably don't even know that their best case is of a left-handed relief specialist in the majors. It's also striking how many players get hurt along the way in baseball. The most quoted name in the book might be "Tommy John," as in the surgery.

The statistical theories could be considered a little daunting to some. Each player gets numbers in such categories as EqAVG, VORP and BABIP. There are explanations for all of these figures, but it's easy to get the idea after a while. A positive VORP (value over replacement player) is good, a number above 30 is very good, a number over 60 is really really good. And so on.

Not only does "Baseball Prospectus" serve as good spring training reading, but it's a handy reference tool for the regular season. Your enjoyment of summer games will be enhanced if you pull out the book for page-turning, and that applies to major league or minor league contests.

This is the one baseball book that I'm sure to buy every year. You should too.
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on March 20, 2009
Another year, another brilliant effort from the BP writers and editors. Though in this year's player comments there is little of the humor for which BP was known for this is still the best book of its kind to my knowledge. Maybe not as cutting edge as Bill James original Baseball Abstract's were back in the 1980's, BP is still required reading for serious and thoughtful baseball fans everywhere.

Well worth your time and money! Highly recommended.
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Baseball Prospectus has become one of those annual publications that comes out before the baseball season starts that helps give fans some perspective on the forthcoming season.

Data freaks will love the statistics developed by the folks at Baseball Prospectus. Readers must digest the different key statistics (such as VORP and PECOTA). So, be sure to read pages vii to xvi carefully. These pages explain the variety of statistics that have been developed for pitchers and everyday players.

There follows to bulk of the book, which analyzes each team and its players in turn, from Arizona Diamondbacks to Washington Nationals. The volume closes with about 35 pages of essays on subjects such as best prospects, stadium updates, and PECOTA leaderboards (predicting who will be tops in a variety of statistics). For the latter, take a look and then compare what the projected figures are actually like at the end of the season. For instance, C. C. Sabathia is projected to lead the majors in 2009 with 16 victories. Chipper Jones is projected as the batting leader in the big leagues, with an average of .341.

Let's take one team as an illustration. Since I'm a White Sox fan, I'll be a chauvinist and take a look at some of the information there. Brian Anderson is your basic Good field, No hit" player. His PECOTA projects to a batting average of .232 (this would be the best hitting in his 3 major league seasons) with 8 home runs and 26 RBIs. Jermaine Dye's projections show some more decline, with a batting average of .271 (less than his average of the 3 preceding years, 25 home runs (another decline), and so on. What about A. J. Pierzynski, one of the most irritating players in baseball? A continuation of his recent slow decline is predicted. Another quick note on a feature. Each player is compared with a set of others (retired and active) whose statistics link them. For A. J.? Terry Kennedy, Javy Lopez, Sandy Alomar. The table for Pierzynski also provides guesses as to the odds of a collapse in his performance (41%), a breakout year (14%), improvement (30%), and attrition (38%).

Pitchers? Let's take just one as an example--John Danks. First, his comparison group--Ken Holtzman, Kevin Appier, and Bob Shirley). He is projected as having a 10-9 season, with an ERA of 4.27.

Anyhow, a lot of fun! I find myself in disagreement with some of the projections and that is a good part of the fun. For baseball fans who like their statistics in abundance, this book will serve you well.
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on February 25, 2014
Baseball prospectus is one of the books that fans absolutely MUST have heading into each season. Aside from being an excellent resource for fantasy players and fans alike, the writers consistently inject humor into their summaries of each player that is likely to have an impact on the upcoming season.
The release day for BP is right up there with the day pitchers and catchers report as a holiday for me.
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on February 18, 2016
I like the analysis. One weak spot with Baseball Prospectus' for all years is that there is no evaluation of prior years' predictions. Each year should show the prior year's predictions for several stats (e.g., Total average, WARP, etc.) next to the actual for the year. Like many prognosticators (e.g., Paul Krugman for economics), there is no follow-up on how accurate their predictions turn out.
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on May 10, 2009
I've been a faithful buyer for several years, and I must say I've been disappointed with this release. Lack of index was bad, it's made it a pain to track players who've bounced around...and several I've looked for aren't there at all. I'm not sure I'll buy again. Too bad, really used too like this.
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VINE VOICEon March 13, 2009
Except for the usual typos that occur as they rush this book for publication before the season, this is an excellent source for those looking for baseball insight and baseball theory. The team articles are well-done and incisive, even the ones for perennial doormats the Pirates and Giants.

Player projections are interesting to read, and the notes accompanying each player help give you a sense about what to expect for the upcoming season. If a player will be on a new team, like Matt Holliday, the comments and statistical projections are geared toward how that player will perform for the new team in the new ballpark.

The most valuable part of the book for me on draft day is the list of the 100 best prospects. I used the list last year to snag Kershaw, Scherzer, and Gamel in the late rounds of my 16-team league. I'll be sure to have the book next to me on draft day this year!
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on February 25, 2009
The BP series has been my mainstay baseball book for 5 years now. Always chock full of information on almost every player that will matter in the '09 season. The predictions are pretty much dead-on for hitters and the pitcher ones very good as well, but pitchers are a funny bunch and are notoriously hard to predict. The essays at the end of the book are always great as is the top 100 prospects list. For those looking for the index, it is on their website. A minor gripe that I share with others, is that the editing leaves much to be desired. A small price to pay for my yearly baseball bible
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