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Always the Best
on November 7, 2012
Hundreds of baseball books have homes on my shelves. The book that most often comes off the shelf is The Bill James Handbook, the must-have annual that is the earliest, most comprehensive and most innovative review of the just-completed season.
The 2013 edition offers 550 compact pages - all the information I can find elsewhere and a whole lot of insight that I can't find anywhere else. Traditional stats and modern metrics. Every player, manager and ballpark, with layers of info, each revealing a deeper understanding of talent and tendencies. Projections for fantasy leagues. Lefty-righty breakdowns for my Strat-O-Matic play. And new this year: Productive/unproductive outs by team and player; a dozen new categories to analyze pitchers, and career totals for player baserunning efficiency.
As a baseball reference for the 2012 season, the Handbook is in a league of its own.
Instinctively, I'd say that this all-in-one book spares me the hours of moving between websites and other volumes. But the truth is, I spend more time with The Bill James Handbook, because it's cover-to-cover enjoyment.
Here's the handy register of every player who appeared in 2012, complete with minor-league data for recent Major Leaguers. I wish my old Sporting News and MacMillan registers had so many stat categories ... Here's the best of John Dewan's unique Fielding Bible - the modern-metric version of Gold Gloves, plus the leaders by position for runs saved and plus/minus performance, all backed up by the most comprehensive 2012 Fielding Register available anywhere ... Here are Leader Boards like you've never seen elsewhere: 90 categories each for AL batters, AL pitchers, NL batters and NL pitchers. Basic stats, situational stats, and such fun stuff as longest (and shortest) home runs, and swing-and-miss percentage ...
Here's a Handbook original: Individual-player breakdowns of baserunning efficiency (extra bases taken and baserunning gaffes) ... And such other Bill James specialties as Win Shares, Career Targets, Hall of Fame Monitor, and Team Efficiency (which teams over-performed/underperformed their stats).
If you share my passion for pitching, here's the mother lode: Every pitcher's performance hitting, fielding and holding base runners; the new Pitcher Analysis shows totals for groundballs, fly balls and line drives and how many times each pitcher got ahead or behind in the count; each man's pitch repertoire and how often they threw each pitch. (Top starters like Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay have four pitches each, while R.A. Dickey gets by, quite well, with 85 percent knuckleballs. Lights-out closers Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel rely on two pitchers. That may be a hint about whether Chapman will become a starter, or how effective a starter he will be if he gets the chance.)
There's more. But that's the fun of having the treasure box that is the Bill James Handbook. Everywhere you search, there's another gem.