on November 19, 2010
I just got the 2011 Annual from The Hardball Times (THT to their friends) and I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm a longtime reader of the baseball blog, [...], and the Annual has become a yearly ritual, to better understand the season that was. So my expectations were high going in, but this year had special Annual-only articles and illustrations from ALL my favorites from the web.
My favorite parts: Why the Red Sox comeback over the Rockies was the most exciting game of the year, "Tuck Sez" baseball cartoons, "The Year in Tater Trots" a tongue-in-cheek but totally accurate review of how long players took to round the bases when hitting a home run, and, of course, the stats for every team and every player. They even used FIELDf/x to design a computer illustration of true defensive range for fielders, which hopefully finds its way into the next MLB game for Xbox.
If you're a casual fan like me, you really want someone to break down the analysis and spoon-feed it to you. If you're a pursuing a graduate degree in mathematics at, to pick a school at random, the University of Chicago, you might want something a bit more challenging. THT's always had a nice balance between truly advanced analysis for the stat geek (I say that with love, baseball stat geeks), and spoon-fed breakdowns for thick-headed fans like me. For example, all those detailed stat breakdowns on every team and every player? Well, they also come with "stat facts," THT's version of talking points. I can't memorize everyone's ERA or OBP, but thanks to THT, I can sound like I do: "well, Varitek had 13 singles and 13 extra base hits last season. Seems like thirteen's his lucky number."
And if you're even less of a stat geek than me, ERA is for pitchers and OBP is for batters. And this year's annual even comes with a glossary.
Full disclosure: Dave "Studeman" Studenmund, a contributor to the 2011 Annual (to all of them, actually), is my uncle and an all-around awesome guy. But that impacted my review of his work less than the fact that he described Dusty Pedroia as a "hero." It's on page 43, and it's proven by statistics. Numbers don't lie.
on November 30, 2010
In terms of baseball analysis, THT's Annual is one of the best in the business. Like Bill James Handbook, this book is chokeful of historical and prospective baseball analysis. From player charts and graphs to pitch f/x goodness, this is a must own book for real life and fantasy fans of baseball alike. Highly recommend.
on November 23, 2010
I'll give my full disclosure up front - on page 9 of the Annual you will find an AL East year-in-review article penned by me. But honestly, after receiving the Annual three days ago, I took a half second to confirm that I was in fact published and then I moved on into the meat of the book. What drew my interest was the special section on the future of fielding analytics. It's amazing, must-read stuff and better than anything currently available on the web. I was most impressed with the graphical representation of player's fielding range. You WILL be seeing that during baseball telecasts in the near future.
If you're like me, you'll be borderline intimidated when you first open to the Table of Contents. Where to start? Being an insider at THT, I knew I couldn't wait to take a look at the fielding section. Yet the book is also populated by the musings of well known Sabr writers from all corners of the web including Rob Neyer, Tom Tango, and Dave Cameron to name a few. Every page is stuffed with insight and analysis. And as always, The Hardball Times succeeds where others fail, making advanced analysis easily accessible to all fans.
In the past I've purchased Annuals from Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America. The Hardball Times blows those publications clear out of the water. You won't be disappointed.
on December 2, 2010
Sitting on the train is usually a bore, but I give this Annual credit for making my latest trip more enjoyable. As you would expect, John Walsh, Tango, and Jeremy Greenhouse produced extrememly insightful analysis articles, and there is plenty more enjoyable reads from Neyer, Vince Gennaro and at least a four to five others that I'll spare naming for sake of not simply listing everyone. Plus the grouping of defensive-metric articles in this year's Annual is truly groundbreaking. All in all there were about 10 articles inside that any sabermetric fan would not want to miss out of reading.
If you are into the division summary pieces and history articles that is also there, but I've never found those to justify the cost of the book. The stats are perfect for purusing if you are, for instance, bored on a train ("I didn't realize Brett Cecil threw that many innings...") but after flipping through them once, I'm not sure I'd ever pick them up again.
Overall I definitely recommend this Annual to any sabermetrically inclined baseball fan based on the number of quality, insightful articles. If all you are going to be doing though while reading is assigning a "value" to the articles and seeing if it is worth the 16 or so dollars, I don't necessarily recommend purchasing it. Personally, I am more than happy having bought it given the high-level work, and I'm always happy to support the guys over at THT. Having bought all the Annuals since 2006, I do enjoy the asthetic aspect of seeing them lined up on my shelf. It's nice.