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Solid Fool's Gold: Detours on the Way to Conventional Wisdom Paperback – March 15, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bill James has been writing about baseball and compiling reference books about baseball since 1975. He is currently the Senior Baseball Operations Advisor for the Boston Red Sox.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: ACTA Publications (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879464593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879464592
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most of these articles border on rants suitable for a blog but not a book.
W. Doran
On most of these I was left thinking there is so much more to this issue that he never considers.
Firat Inceoglu
Anyway, it's a decent addition to a baseball library, but it's not a "must have" book.
Avid Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Odd book from Bill James, baseball guru and sabermetrician. This book? He says that (Page 8): "Some of these articles could be considered serious baseball research, . . .Some of them are not."

The very first essay is on an approach to predicting RBIs (runs batted in) from other batting data. Voila! A simple formula that appears to predict well. Torii Hunter's actual RBI total=90; his predicted total=90! Alex Rodriguez drove in more than expected; Ichiro less than expected. Fun reading, trying to make sense of baseball statistics.

Another section addresses what the best starting rotations of all time are from 1 through 33. Number 1? 1903 Giants: Joe McGinnity, Christy Mathewson, Luther Taylor, and Hooks Wiltse. Number 33? 2002 Atlanta Braves: Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, Tom Glavine, and Damian Moss.

And now for something completely different. James' ruminations on a cousin--Supreme Court Justice James McReynolds--racist and anti-Semite (he would not shake hands with Louis Brandeis, for example). Interesting reflections, including how old Negro League legend Buck O'Neil might interact with Justice McReynolds.

A lot of fun, but not much focus. I guess that when you've made the big time, you are allowed some openness for an idiosyncratic book!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Hundley VINE VOICE on May 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is tempting to write "If you like Bill James, you'll like this" and leave it at that, but that would be misleading and, well, kind of cheap.

Most readers will likely come at this from their interest in, and / or love of baseball. Much of this will satisfy them, assuming they like Bill James. However, there is a good deal here that isn't concerned with baseball in the least.

Now, most of us who love baseball and are interested in it also have other things on our minds from time to time and several chunks of this book address other things on James' mind. Your use for those essays will depend upon how wedded you are to an ostensible baseball book being ONLY about baseball topics. It may also depend upon what you think of James as a casual essayist.

All of these essays have appeared previously on James' website, which I do not subscribe to. Thus I had not read them before, save a big section of "Shakespeare and Verlander," which was run on Slate a few weeks ago. This one is actually a nice bridge piece, using these two rather disparate individuals to look at how societies work to foster some talents while short-changing others. It is a witty and thoughtful essay that won't do a thing for making your fantasy team better, but will give you a thing or two to think about, should you choose to do so.

And so on. I like James' conversational writing style, both on and off the field, as it were, and I was happy to digress into topics like the insidiousness of traffic light cameras, airport security and the power of ignorance as a force for knowledge. I also like James' analysis of the minor leagues, the future of the Hall of Fame viewed in light of expansion, and the best pitchers' duels of the 1980's.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on April 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been reading Bill James' material since "The Baseball Abstract" of the early '80s, and I still peruse my old copies every winter when I'm missing the baseball season. I bought this book simply because it was by Bill James, and I don't want to miss anything he does, even if this includes a lot of reprints of stuff he's done online.

It's a disappointment for the high bar set by Bill James, though it's still entertaining. It's pretty much all reprints of material he had published elsewhere (with some updates), and so you lose some of the charm of reading his revelations and musings for the first time.

The pieces about starting pitchers, losing teams, and the impact of baseball's expansionary era on the Hall of Fame are vintage James research -- microscopically detailed looks at data over decades. But you also feel a bit of "what's the point?" in the pitchers' analysis, and there are some logical flaws in the HoF piece. And there are typos throughout the book, which is a surprise for something that you wouldn't think had to be produced on a tight timetable.

Anyway, it's a decent addition to a baseball library, but it's not a "must have" book.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By N. Bilmes VINE VOICE on April 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Growing up with Bill James' original abstracts in the 1980s, I couldn't wait for his newest books to come out each spring. Then he stopped writing the abstracts annually, and I searched for some other tome to fill the void. When Baseball Prospectus finally started being available to mainstream America I found my replacement for the Abstracts, but the memory of Bill James' solid run of books kept me yearning for the sporadic efforts that would come out every so often.

Sadly, after reading this effort, I realize that Bill James is no longer worth my dime. This book has two fantastic articles by James. Two. These two articles harken back to the days of yesteryear when everything he wrote seemed to be worth my consideration. This book also has articles on traffic lights, a poem comparing Wiki Leaks to Rickie Weeks (3 pages are devoted to this one-stanza, four line poem), and a piece attempting to determine if TSA is worth the effort.

I don't recommend this book to anyone, but wish fervently that Mr. James stop putting out books like this. Stick to baseball please!
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