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4.3 out of 5 stars
Hardball Times Annual 2014 (Volume 10)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 2, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The Hardball Times' annual is my favorite recap of the previous baseball season. Each version brings a team by team analysis, looks at larger trends and events that emerged during the season, and includes some baseball history as well. A new stat, "Championships Added" is introduced and discussed in the post season analysis. Reading HT's annual review helps us understand why the 162 game / 30 team season unfolded the way it did, separating the daily noise from the more important, big picture trends.

For instance the season recap nicely illustrates how the highly touted Blue Jays's dismal season was large attributable to injuries. We see how the Rays were another team once Will Myers was called up, and how Boston's bullpen depth allowed them to overcome injuries to two pitchers that were projected to be key pieces of their bullpen. We can appreciate how dominant Detroit's starting pitching when we consider that only six (!) games were started by pitchers outside their opening day five man rotation. Rob Neyer recaps the trades that had the most impact.

Each of the division recaps is written by a different author, and one wonders if anyone was responsible for the recap as a whole, ensuring that what was written in one section was consistent with another. For example, Chris Jaffe's analysis of the AL Central notes how the White Sox's bench was second worse only to Washington. Yet John Beamer's analysis of the NL East fails to mention the huge decline in Washington's bench despite its being the single biggest explanation for why a team that 19 of the Hardball Times's 21 writers picked to win the NL East failed to even make the playoffs.

The Annual looks not just at teams, but breaks down four players to explain their increased (or decreased performance). For instance, Chris Davis engaged in extensive tee work, and as a result converted more batted balls from grounders to fly balls while taking more walks. Jose Fernandez's use of a slurve and changeup in addition to his fastball allowed him to dominate throughout his rookie season while Shelby Miller's less successful second half can be attributed to his attempt to introduce additional pitches to his repertoire mid-season. Finally, the frustration Halos fans endured with Josh Hamilton is mostly attributable to a drop in power that led to fewer batter balls resulting in home runs. The degree to which the ballpark change plays a factor wasn't clear to me, however.

Among the most interesting articles I found were Jeff Sullivan's The Art of Framing the Pitch, a very thoughtful introduction to the statistical research and the issues raised by a catcher's skill in "framing" pitches. John Perrotto's chronicle of how the Pirates became relevant again is also illuminating as it Bill James's attempt (in his view) to better understand why we're better at evaluating hitting than pitching. Craig Wright's careful use of Sabermetrics and old fashioned detective work in evaluating Roger Clemens's claim on Cooperstown points to an intelligent alternative to those who would either ignore steroids or ban users all together when marking HOF ballots. Shane Tourtellotte shows us why Miguel Cabrera was arguably the right choice for MVP even for the statistically inclined. On the other hand, I found the use of "Championships Added" in the book's look at the post season to be problematic on multiple levels. Also, Dave Cameron's plea for paid internships to enhance diversity in front offices fails to ultimately convince.

Even if you find some articles more interesting and/or convincing than others, though, there is a tremendous amount of material to suit every fan's interest. The graphics work well on the Kindle version and the text seems to be more readable than the 2013 edition, which was the first available in an electronic format.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The first of the baseball analytics books to hit the shelves, its expedient delivery doesn't come at the price of sacrificing quality. Terrific articles from some of the best baseball writers around, from familiar names like Bill James and Rob Neyer to newer ones (at least to me) like Jeff Sullivan, who wrote a great piece explaining catcher framing and Jeff Zimmerman, who penned a piece about the shifting strike zone using Pitch/fx data. These guys mix wonky stat work and a deep knowledge of baseball to produce an entertaining and enlightening read that makes the dreary time with no baseball a little more bearable. Great work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
High quality, thought-provoking essays. The kind of essays that make you close the book and ponder what was written. Makes the fan see baseball statistics, history, players, seasons etc. in a different. The legacy of baseball reevaluated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 19, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'm not expecting THT to knock Baseball Prospects off its perch when it comes to statistical analysis, but when it comes to a publication that mixes that analysis with well-written commentary, nobody does it better than The Hardball Times.

I know that most of us receive this with memories of the World Series fresh in our minds, but I still enjoy the divisional and playoff recaps that start off the book. This year's edition features 26 articles divided into three categories - Commentary, History and Analysis. While I enjoy their analysis of stats, my favorite articles each year tend to deal with the history of the game or discussion of the season that just concluded. In this edition, I especially enjoyed Joe Posnanski's look back at his rooting for the Indians during the '86 season, and John Perrotto's discussion of how the Pirates finally turned around their franchise. Those are just a couple of the standouts, but across the board the writings are excellent.

There are three publications that I purchase every season - this one, Baseball Prospectus, and the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. I can't imagine going an offseason without any of them, and the THT annual is a great way to keep baseball alive in the winter. Outstanding as always.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I couldn't live without this book. Well, I probably could, but why chance it. :-)

Seriously though, it's an awesome book and so is their website. I have every THT annual that's been printed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is the first year I bought this book and it's not quite what I expected. There were some tremendous topics such as catcher receiving, fielding shifts, etc.. But I also felt there were too many pages with historical clutter. I want a book called "Baseball Annual 2014" to be about the present. I don't open it up expecting topics on the 1986 Cleveland Indians, 1960 World Series, or other historical players, teams, games, etc.. I just felt like the book would have been better served devoting more to the 2013 Team by Team review (which was far too short IMO) and less analyzing stuff that happened 50 years ago.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The season reviews by division aren't all that insightful. But most other articles are superb, and were entertaining as well.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
Glad to see the HBT 2014 Annual is on Amazon as I look forward to all the expert insight from such analytical writers as Dave Cameron, Bill "King" James, Rob Neyer as well as relatively unknown Jack Weiland whose articles I've thoroughly enjoyed this year.

Looking forward to getting an early start for 2014 on my leaguemates and the HBT Annual is a key piece to my research.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Ordered this per my husband's request (I'm not that big on baseball, so my review here is based on his opinion, not mine). But he loves it, and has not put it down. He wishes he had known about this book before, and already has told me he wants me to order next years when it becomes available.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'm about half way through this book. It's a fun and enjoyable read. The number and size of the pages are a bit small and I would have liked more stats, but the price is right. I recommend it for anyone who is an avid baseball fan.
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