7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining analysis for stat-headed baseball fans,
This review is from: Baseball Prospectus 2002 (Paperback)This is the second year that I've read Baseball Prospectus and it continues to be a great resource for analysis on both players and the strategies that each team is employing (or not employing, in the case of some teams). Every major-league player and all of the minor-league players that they consider notable are covered with a paragraph of commentary and "translated" stats for the previous three seasons (i.e. not the actual numbers, but stats normalized for league and park effects to make it easy to compare guys at different levels and altitudes). Each team gets a two-page commentary reviewing the direction the management has been taking the team. The book also contains articles on specific analytical subjects such as the continued efforts to measure pitcher abuse, defensive prowess and the projectability of minor leaguers, as well as the annual article on their top 40 prospects in baseball.
There are a few differences I found between BP 2002 and 2001. The new book is only 500 pages compared to 550 for its predecessor. This looks like it's partly because they cut out the page for each team listing the support-neutral and adjusted stats for the pitching staffs, which is a shame, and also because they aren't covering quite as many players, which is fine -- they still talk about over 50 players per team. A new addition to this year's book is the "Stuff" stat for pitchers, based on their rates for strikeouts, walks, and homers (if I remember correctly, don't have the book in front of me), which should help measure a pitcher's effectiveness independent of the defense behind him. Because of the recent, (in)famous research implying that on balls in play (i.e. anything aside from Ks, BBs, HRs and HBPs) defense and luck contribute to the results more than the pitcher, it's natural to concoct a new stat which encapsulates the things a pitcher is guaranteed to have control over.
I also felt this year's book wasn't *quite* as critical as last year's book. The BP writers can be, frankly, somewhat arrogant at times. I agree that many of the guys who run baseball teams are deserving of scorn, and the criticism from BP is usually backed up with reasonable arguments, but they still can come off as know-it-alls. It would be great for them to have a section in the book where they review the unequivocal statements from the previous edition; they say things like "Player X will flop in the bigs" or "Pitcher Y is definitely going to blow out his arm" and I would wager that their accuracy is good, but not 100%, on these claims. Anyway, I was pleased to get the impression that the criticism is tempered a little in the 2002 book. For instance, they managed to praise ex-Pirates GM Cam Bonifay, one of their favorite whipping boys, for the things he did do well even as they recognize that on the whole he built a pretty poor Pittsburgh team. In general the authors did a nice job of recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of different GMs, which lends more credibility to BP and is interesting in its own right. Face it, every fan thinks that they're capable of building a championship team (witness the insane popularity of fantasy leagues), so it's great to read about how actual GMs might be good at building a pitching staff or a minor league system, but stinky at trades and free agent singings. Being a general manager is a more complicated job than it appears.
I will definitely use BP 2002 to help with projections for my fantasy league, but even if I wasn't a roto-nerd I'd still read the book (and check out their web site every day) for the new insights they bring to the game. The 2002 book is smaller than the 2001 version but contains virtually as much content and is meaty throughout -- I recommend it for any serious baseball fan. (I should note that their web site (baseballprospectus.com) warns of a pretty egregious error in BP 2002 -- in the stat lines for all of the pitchers, the ERA and PERA columns were transposed. Adjust accordingly.)