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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
I admit I have a strong bias in favor of the Gold Mine and the people involved in it. Many of them are friends of mine, but my 5-star reviews of past editions were based on merit, not friendship. I believe the Gold Mine serves a couple of important purposes in the sabermetric marketplace. It's entertaining, accessible, and it keeps Bill's work on the bookshelves -- too much of the sabermetric work being done right now is inaccessible to the vast majority of fans and almost unreadable to anyone with literary standards. That's where the Gold Mine comes in. This year's edition is on par with previous editions, so, in my estimation, the 5-star review is warranted. My challenge is to find something new and honest to say about it.

This year's Gold Mine is, by its own admission, a collaboration among Bill James, John Dewan, editor Greg Pierce, and Baseball Info Solutions (among others). Dave Studeman of The Hardball Times is involved as well. The upshot is that the book is less of a compendium of Bill's essays -- subscribers to his site already get a high volume of essays -- and more of a revival and update of the STATS Scoreboard, using contemporary metrics, supplemented with some of Bill's best essays from 2009. The package is a generous 341-page sample of what's available to subscribers of Bill's website for $3 per month.

Sum: Just like previous editions, the 2010 Gold Mine is a collection of fascinating observations of small but telling details (nuggets), and concise insights drawn from those details, presented in a reader-friendly manner, in addition to Bill's more substantive essays. Unlike much of the academic sabermetric work being done, the Gold Mine's sabermetric work is highly readable, with the reader's entertainment kept in the foreground. Simply put, it's a book you'll actually read, not just shelve as a reference resource.

Who is the book for? In all candor, it's for most serious baseball fans but it's not for everyone. At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, there's a distinction between statheads who put writing first and those who put science first. The Gold Mine strikes a good balance between the two. Bill's no slouch as a sabermetrician, and it would be hard to argue that he's not still the most creative and interesting sabermetrician in the game, but it's fair to say he's a writer more than a scientist. What's more important to you, the writing or the science? The questions or the answers? If you favor good writing and interesting questions, then the Gold Mine is a good buy.

Recently there has been some discussion in the sabermetric community about burnout, ennui, and so on -- a perception that too much energy is being spent on minutiae, or that effective presentation of data has been given too little attention by the more scientifically inclined analysts. The burnout has largely been expressed by the writer-first group, who might also be concerned (consciously or not) that the sabermetric field has passed them by. The cutting edge of sabermetrics might in fact be inaccessible to the liberal arts crowd and the Gold Mine won't appeal as much to professional or academic sabermetricians, but the vast majority of baseball fans, including liberal arts-minded sabermetricians, will find the Gold Mine to be perfectly accessible, insightful, and -- because of Bill's essays -- worth reading again years later, and, because the Gold Mine puts communication first, the book might give them some consolation that field has not passed them by. Bill is still at the top of his game. He just doesn't hide his light under a bushel.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is kind of an odd work. It is a book filled with snippets about each of the major league teams. And some of these are delightful! There are also essays interspersed among the team discussions, and intriguing little "sidebars" scattered throughout the volume.

But there are lots more goodies on the web site BillJamesOnline (for $3 per month). I would rather a few more data from that site be in this volume, but--nonetheless--this is still a fun work!

A few illustrations. Do you know the worst middle reliever in terms of highest ERA while recording a "hold"? Doug Brocail of San Diego, with 7.87 (ouch!). Then there is a comparison with the hitter most like a team when it wins--and loses. Take Arizona. When it won in 2007, its hitting statistics were much like Dave Winfield's; when it lost, stats were like Dave Stegman's.

In terms of teams, coverage is a bit thin, as already noted. For my White Sox, I see the 2007 pitching and hitting statistics for the everyday players and top pitchers--but scarcely anything on reserves and lesser used pitchers. There's a nice sidebar on where Jim Thome's home runs go (lots to the opposite field, as a matter of fact).

A nifty little piece is "cigar points," players who came close to milestones and just missed (e.g., one victory short of 20 wins or .299 instead of .300). Top player in "cigar points"? Greg Maddux. Clutch hitter of the year? Brad Hawpe who drove in 45 clutch runs.

One of my favorite bon bons here--consistency. James works on a formula to rank baseball players for consistency, and then assigns them a grade from A+ to F. Can you guess Number 1 all time? Henry Aaron (makes sense, doesn't it?). Least consistent? Bill Sweeney. Other noteworthies--Nellie Fox (one of my favorite players)-A-; Carl Yastrzemski (for my Red Sox Nation fans)-A; Mickey Mantle-A-; Jesse Barfield-B+; and so on. It's just fun to see who rates where in terms of consistency.

Anyhow, a lot of fun for the Hot Stove League debates going on. While it could use more meat than it manifests, this book is still most enjoyable to leaf through. Well recommended for baseball fans who like a healthy dose of statistics.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 14, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I've been reading Bill James since stumbling on his Baseball Abstracts back in the early 1980s. The Gold Mine is not intended to be the kind of systematic review of players and teams that the Abstract was. For that, you should buy the Baseball Prospectus. The Gold Mine does have a section on each team, but there is no attempt to sum up the 2009 season or look ahead to the 2010 season. Instead, the team entries consist of a one-page statistical overview, which gives the basic stats for "Key Players" and "Key Pitchers." The only non-standard stat given is Win Shares. The rest of the team entries are taken up by "nuggets," which consist of brief entries describing telling -- or oddball -- facts about the team, such as the 2009 Red Sox having given up the worst stolen base percentage allowed in the history of the American League. As I understand it, James researched and wrote only some (a few?) of these, although he apparently looked at them all and, perhaps, did some editing. The nuggets are of varying quality and, frankly, if the book was composed entirely of them, I don't think it would be worth buying.

For my money, the best part of the book is the 16 essays by Bill James. They vary in length, but together take up about half the pages of the book. The essays cover all kinds of subjects, from an in-depth analysis of the two 2009 Cy Young races -- surprisingly, he agrees with the choice of Lincecum in the NL, but thinks Hernandez may have been a better choice in the AL -- to reflections on watching a replay of game one of the 1974 World Series. The essays are tremendously entertaining and have the unmistakeable Jamesian voice. If they dropped the "nuggets" and had twice as many essays by James, this book would be an easy five stars for me.

As I understand it, some -- or maybe all -- of this material originally appeared on James's subscription web site. There are a couple of places where it's clear that some of the essays were written during, rather than after, the 2009 season. For instance, the essay on "Percentage of Full Career" cites Albert Pujols and Carlos Beltran as having "near-perfect careers." Given that Beltran ended up missing half the 2009 season, he's no longer a good example. But that's a quibble and, overall, the level of editorial work on this year's edition is clearly better than last year, when the book was marred by a number of typos.

So, if you like James, but don't subscribe to his web site and haven't seen these essays before, I think you will enjoy them.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
If circumstances only allow you to purchase and/or read one baseball book this spring, you cannot make a better choice than "The Bill James Gold Mine 2008."

In this book, James provides fun and informative statistical analysis on every big league team - in addition to 17 new essays that are a treat to read.

Among my favorites were:

"Three to Five Run Records" - which shows you the best and worst teams when they scored or allowed three to five runs in a game.

"The Dave Kingman Award" - where James uses "HR/[RC+10]" to show us which batters over the last 30 years were the "best" at "hitting home runs without doing anything else positive as a hitter."

"The Turk Farrell Award" - which identifies good pitchers who had terrible records because their team stunk.

"The Nolan Ryan Award" - given to unreformed power pitchers via James' formula of "[W*L*SO*BB]/IP."

"End Game" - which identifies "the moment at which it ain't over, but it's over" for a team with respect to their place in the standings. (This essay suggests that the three greatest collapses in baseball history belong to the 1951 Dodgers, 1964 Phillies, 2007 Mets, and 1978 Red Sox - in that order.)

"Closer Fatigue" - where James shows how fatigue level of a closer impacts success for his team.

"Strength Up the Middle" - that confirms good teams are strong "up the middle" - and it's more true that bad teams are weak in this area.

"Bullpens and Crunches" - that establishes teams with good bullpens "tend to exceed expectations" in one-run and close games. But, it also shares that there's no definitive evidence that teams with strong bullpens do well in the post-season.

"Herbie" - where James introduces a stat that identifies "a more reasonable candidate for the league's best pitcher than the actual ERA leader."

Brass tacks, if you were a fan of The Bill James Baseball Abstracts, you will enjoy this book. And, if you've never read James' Abstracts, and always wondered what the fuss was about, you owe it to yourself to pick up this book.

"The Bill James Gold Mine 2008" is the type of baseball book that's so much fun, and enlightening, that you'll want to re-read it, again, the minute you finish reading it for the first time. And, there's a good chance that you'll want to read it a third time after that - as there's so much good stuff in it.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I was really looking forward to reading this book. I think Bill James made a big mistake when he stopped writing the abstracts. So is Bill back and better than ever? Unfortunately, no. As is indicated at the beginning of this book you are essentially reading a piece of his new web site. The commentary on each team is weak and consists mostly of data (with extremely limited analysis). The "essays" pale in comparison to what James used to put out each spring, and consist primarily of data surrounded by a few text boxes.

Save your money and pay $3 for a month's worth of his web site (where you can read all of the material in this book).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's good to have Bill James back, but this is not his best work. I'm not sure how much of his heart was really in this book. There's none of the passion and fascinating stuff that all of us Bill James fans remember him for from the Baseball Abstracts. Like several of the reviewers say, his main emphasis here seems to be repeated advertisements for his online website. I might sign up for that because I am a huge Bill James fan. And I am glad I bought this book, because any Bill James is better than no Bill James. But I'm still disappointed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A seminal event in my life was my discovery of James' Baseball Abstracts. His application of statistics and commonsense to my beloved game of baseball was eye-opening and has informed my worldview ever since. If I had begun my working career as a night watchman, as did James, I'd like to think that I would have also spent some of the quiet hours on baseball analysis, but know that I couldn't have done it with the insight, wit, or pithy commentary of James. I still remember the hollow feeling when I first read that James was ending the Abstracts.

With that backdrop, I was thrilled to learn of the "Gold Mine" book. I hoped it would fill the Abstract vacuum. It doesn't. Although the insights of James shine through occasionally, much of the book is soulless tables that don't have the song of knowledge within them. I came away with the feeling that a clever 50-page Abstract was expanded into over 300 pages for no good reason except sales price.

I agree with others that "Gold Mine" reads like an extended advertisement for James' online website. And I expect that I'll subscribe to the website, and never purchase another "Gold Mine" book.

I can say it no better than this. The Baseball Abstracts remain a treasured possession that I'll keep to the end of my days. I'm unsure if I'll even keep "Gold Mine' until October.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Bill James is well known for revolutionizing baseball statistics. Many fans, however, are satisfied with traditional baseball statistics and may avoid his books. If so, they are missing a hanging curveball. James is also the most talented writer among the current crop of baseball authors. While I find his analysis very insightful, I would not pay for a book of numbers and poorly written text. This man will one day be inducted into the Writers' Wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is the Babe Ruth of baseball writers, in my estimation.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Other reviewers have accurately pointed out that this book is basically an advertisement for Bill James' new website. This is an outline for what Baseball Abstracts used to be, and while there are some very interesting statistics and amusing observations (on Troy Glaus' HOF chances: Birthdays are not kind to .250 hitters), there aren't enough to justify the cost of the book when, for the exact same price, you can get everything in this book and waaaaaay more by subscribing to the on-line site for seven months.

If you enjoy reading Bill James' articles you'll enjoy this book, but you'll enjoy it in the same way someone who loved Raiders of the Lost Ark enjoys the coming attraction for the new Indy movie. You want more. A lot more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I've been reading Bill James since 1983, and for years I anticipated his newest book. However, I approached the Gold Mine with trepidation, as I would an aging rock star who lost his chops. I didn't like the Bill James Handbook series at all because it was minutiae that didn't leave room for imagination nor wit.

However, this book returns to the best of Bill James: humor, unusual insights and ideas, social commentary, and sheer unpredictability. This book blazes so many new paths that it's impossible to decide where to go first, and you just sit there thinking, "Well, I hope all those smart sabermetricians follow up on the ideas that Bill has raised."
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