on February 27, 2013
I agree with some others who have lamented the decline of the once great BP annual. It's a maddening book in the sense that it doesn't appeal as much to the hardcore anymore, yet isn't really that friendly to neophytes either.
If you are fairly new to sabermetrics you'll be scratching your head over the cursory explanations BP gives of the PECOTA system and other stats they use; you certainly won't get a good sense of what they really mean. Nor are all parts of the book itself adequately explained. What is the Lineouts section in each team report about? What do the subscript numbers in some of the IP lines stand for? Why is a manager credited for x number of stolen bases when his team actually stole 5x that number? Lots of examples where a new (or even more veteran reader) needs to dig through the intro again for clarity or be left to try and figure it out for themselves.
If you are part of the old guard you're aware that the actual analysis (and snark) keeps getting dialed back. True again for this year's book. I can find numbers anywhere online; I want to read more from BP about what that means to the player or the organization and I want it with the old-time BP humor. Oh well. There were some good one-liners in there at least.
I'll probably always buy BP's book to start the year, but I'll adjust expectations accordingly.
on February 27, 2013
I used to eagerly look forward to Baseball Prospectus every spring, to get me in the mood for the upcoming baseball season. The combination of interesting research articles, detailed essays for each team exploring some sabrmetric aspect related to the team, and witty and insightful player comments.
Then they got rid of the research articles, and spun them off into their own books. I was disappointed, but kept buying the annual, because the team essays often had some interting insights in them, and the player comments were interesting.
And then they dialed back the sarcasm and snark on the player comments, probably to try not to offend a bigger reader base. But hey, they still had Nate Silver's PECOTA, and the interesting team essays.
Then Silver left BP, and they revamped PECOTA, and more and more freely available projection systems that were just as good as PECOTA sprung up. But hey, team essays!
And then, this year, they gutted the team essays. The team essays were often inconsistent - some clunkers, some mediocre, but every annual had at least a couple really interesting team essays. They're all gone this year, with the detailed team essays replaced with a few bland paragraphs briefly describing what happened in 2012, and what's likely to happen in 2013. The insight is gone, along with everything else that made the annual interesting.
I own every Baseball Prospectus annual, going all the way back to 1996. But the 2013 annual will probably be the last one I buy. It's sad to see a great franchise dumbed down and gutted of everything that made it interesting to appeal to a wider audience.
on March 10, 2013
In his essay in the back of this year's annual, Russell Carlton posits that by having to write about analysis every day, it's made the product weaker. You can't write new, cutting edge analysis on a regular basis. You've got to come up with a hypothesis, gather data and then test it. Or for those articles that are less quantitatively based, it's nigh impossible to write a fresh piece everyday (Gary Huckabay, Joe Sheehan and Steven Goldman did an awesome job with their daily writing, but even the three of them had their usual topics that they hit over and over again).
BP burst upon the scene in 1996. I discovered them in 1999 when Rob Neyer touted them in his ESPN column. Absolute intellectual and analytical heavyweights wrote for the annual and the website over the years: Gary Huckabay, Joe Sheehan, Christina Kharl, Nate Silver, Steven Goldman, Jay Jaffe, Kevin Goldstein, Voros McCraken, Will Carrol, Keith Law, Jonah Keri, Rany Jazzeryelli (I never spell his name correctly) and a host of others. Sadly, they have all moved on to other things (the brain drain was especially strong over the last 2 1/2 years).
The first 10 annuals had new essays with all kinds of different findings and theories. The essays disappeared (they are back, but alas, there are only 2 of them). The player comments have grown shorter, less biting and less analytic. The team essays were usually stellar, but now they have been diminished as well (they are much shorter and basically a summary of what happened in 2012).
BP was small and had a hard-core, very bright readership that watched a lot of baseball. As they've grown, their best people moved on to try on new things and make more money. They had every right to, and it is ridiculous to think that those giants would be easily replaced. Readership has expanded, and BP focuses more and more on fantasy every year (which is fine, but some fantasy players watch very little baseball). They used to be baseball outsiders, but because of their great insight and analysis, they became baseball insiders. And then they grew less snarky and less analytical. The business model of BP has been a success, but the product has suffered. It's a real shame.
The annual is still good, and probably better than almost everything else on the market, and I'll probably continue to buy their products. Until something else comes along.
Each year, these days, I start the baseball season with several volumes that come out each year. And this is one of those. One of the cool things about this book is its projections about performances of players in the coming baseball season. And it is fun after the season is done to check out how well the volume's projections turned out!
PECOTA represents the projection. One of the fascinating elements of this book is the prediction as to what kind of year a player will have: breakout, improve, collapse, and attrition.
The Washington Nationals are an interesting team to consider. A lot of young players. Can they do well this year as they did last? This book is bullish on the team for 2013. Bryan Harper? The projection is a season rather like last year. I wonder if this might not be a year where he significantly improves. So, too, Ryan Zimmerman. The third baseman's projection is similar to his performance in 2012. Finally, Stephen Strasburg. As with the other two, a season rather similar to 2012.
My personal favorite team is the Chicago White Sox. What about them? Adam Dunn, two years ago, had one of the most horrifically bad seasons around. Last year, he "improved" to hit .204, although his power figures and RBIs increased dramatically. Projections? A .222 batting average, 30 home runs, and 88 RBIs. Not bad, but a crummy batting average. Paul Konerko has been amazingly consistent over the years. The prediction is a slight decline but--overall--another solid year. A pitcher, Chris Sale, seemed very promising last year. The proje4ctions are modest, though: 9-5 record, with a solid ERA of 3.05.
The last part of the book identifies the top 101 prospects, from # 1 (Jurickson Profar) to # 101 (Delino DeShields Jr.).
As always, a lot of fun, even when I'm not so sure about the projections.
on February 24, 2013
As an avid baseball fan and rotissierie player (22 years now), this is my all time favorite book. It's the only thing I actually pre-order every year, religiously. I also prefer it in paperback, despite the fact all my other books are in Kindle form -- it's simply that kind of book.
If you don't know, this is a statistician's bible: it contains several articles on the state of statistical analysis then presents each team and over 2,2100 individual players. Each team section contains a few pages analyzing the team's performance and potential for 2013, and the players are divided alphabetcally by hitter and pitchers -- the last of the team section summarizes the manager's performance and includes minor league names and commentary as well. Each of the player section analyzes performance and offers predictions based on statistical analysis. Here's the best part: the text accompanying each player's stats is witty, insightful and just plain fun -- it's not dry but instead a good source of witty humor and observation from a qualitative perspective.
First, from the rotissiere baseball player perspective, it's a must have. But be clear: it's not a replacement for all your spreadsheets or online data. It augments it. Your spreadsheets will tell you so-and-so is in for a big season and this statiscal tome will tell you not to get too excited. I've often found this book's predictions to be noticeably lower than other sources, but it's all because of the nature of statistical analysis. The best value for roto owners is that you can use it to doublecheck your draft strategy and check to see if you really like the players you think you do! I bring it to the draft and throw out the funniest sarcastic lines from the book.
Second, any baseball fan will enjoy the articles and player notes -- while it's definately heavy on the math and prediction, the articles, team descriptions and player analysis are completely worthwhile, even if you don't give a whit about stats.
on September 3, 2013
It is cold outside. It is February. But there are signs that spring is around the corner. They days are getting longer. The pitchers and catchers are just getting to Florida. And the newest Baseball Prospectus arrives. This annual precursor of spring is a cornucopia of baseball information. IT is a book for the serious baseball to curl up with and get ready for the season. It is the bible for the serious fantasy baseball fan. There are essays on a variety of topics, team information and for me, a fantasy geek, the meat-and-potatoes part of the book--player information. Prospectus gives me a look at the players past performance and a projection for the next year in a way not other baseball publication does. Wins Above Replacement and other statistical tools have given me a better perspective by far than any traditional statistical benchmark. I get good data for the MVP down to the last LOOGY plus minor leaguers. Not for the average fan who still believes that RBIs and Gold Glovers are true metrics but for the serious fan. Someone whose book has writing in the margins, sections highlighted and pages dog-eared.
on October 8, 2013
every fantasy nut i know used to tell me BP was a must have so i picked it up this year. maybe its missing the zaniness of old days or however it used to be, because i just cant see for the life of me the big deal here. its projected stats are basically off on every player in the book, because the projections are conservative. really i get more from a $9 sporting news magazine than this im sorry to say...
on March 29, 2013
I have purchased Baseball Prospectus religiously for several years and enjoyed the combination of witty player capsules and well written essays. As the years have passed, however, the essays began to disappear and, with them, so has my desire to purchase this publication. PECOTA projections are fun but there are so many places to obtain quality fantasy statistics that I no longer see a reason to purchase this book with blind faith. I am not certain who provided direction to move away from the essays, but they have gutted a once great annual publication.
on May 13, 2013
This is a birthday tradition - every year I give my husband the Baseball Prospectus (his birthday is in March- just before baseball season starts). I can't understand why he loves it so much- no plot!- but he depends on this to keep up with statistics or something-don't ask me- all I know is he wants this- I get it for him- and he's happy- and so am I (of course we're even happier when the Red Sox are winning-but that is another story).
on August 30, 2013
What differentiates BP's annual from many of the others is the writing. They back up their exceptional statistical analyses with sharp, often hilarious asides on the players and the teams. This is one of the best values in sports.