32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
the man and the work that put sabermetrics on the map,
This review is from: The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (Hardcover)
Bill James is famous for his ability to collect, publish and analyze statistics about baseball. This is the second edition of his history book covering through the entire 20th century. But as James says in his preface this is more than just an update. In reviewing the first book he found that he didn't like a number of things that he did and so he has changed. Some may think for the better others for the worse but in my case I never read his 1980s edition so I have no basis for comparisons.
James is not a professional statistician but has good statistical intuition and is respected by professional statistician who specialize in sports statistics.
James covers the rules of the game and is very detialed about the players and the rule changes and strategy changes. What I enjoyed most about the book was his lists of the all time top 100 players at each position. This is something sports statisticians think about often and using statistical adjustment techniques and Bayesian methods professional statistician like Schell and Berry have written articles and in Schell's case a book on how to do this. Schell's book includes a list of the all time greatest hitters with Tony Gwynn at the top. The book tells you how the list is constructed and teaches statistical methods along the way.
James has no formal statistical method for constructing his lists. At each position he ranks the top 100 players and does a good job of mixing the old timers with the present day players. Though subjective, this is a difficult task for anyone and James is one of the few who knows enough detail of the history and players in baseball to be up to the task. I may not agree with all of his rankings but that is part of what makes talking about baseball fun. James provides descriptions of the players on his list that may be thought of as justification for their inclusion or rank.
The list of number 1 players by position is as follows:
1. catcher - Yogi Berra
2. pitcher - Walter Johnson
3. 1st base - Lou Gehrig
4. 2nd base - Joe Morgan
5. shortstop - Honus Wagner
6. 3rd base - Mike Schmidt
7. left field - Ted Williams
8. center field - Willie Mays
9. right field - Babe Ruth
The American Statistical Association formed a section SIS (Statistics in Sports). I am a member and so are many other statisticians including Carl Morris, Hal Stern, Mike Schell, Jim Albert, Jay Bennett and Scott Berry. We all have the common ground of interest in sports (particularly baseball). The introduction of true statistical methods in sports has turned sports partly intp a science. Mike Schell wrote a statistics book about statistical adjustment of individual player statistics based on the effect of the home ball park. Albert and Bennett have also contributed books. Efron and Morris long before this movement was in full force wrote a major statistical paper for the Journal of the American Statistical Association that used predicting baseball player averages using Stein shrinking estimator (an Empirical Bayes estimator).
It is books like this that amass large amounts of baseball data and use baseball knowledge and common sense ot look at the game in a differnt way.