Top positive review
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The usual good stuff, and this year it has an index!
on February 18, 2010
I'm giving it five stars, but my feelings are mixed. Given how much I look forward to it and how quickly I read it, and given I think it is the best guide out there to players and teams, five stars are merited. But, as always, I wish they took another couple of weeks and gave the book a thorough editing. Although I didn't find any errors as gross as last year's omission of the index, there is an unevenness in the writing that indicates that they are publishing what is essentially a first draft. For instance, consider this comment on Travis Ishikawa: "someone whose threat to right-handed pitching rated up there with a girlfriend's mom: inconvenient but unavoidable, so don't slip while she's in the room." I've read it four times and I have no idea what it means. Is he trying to say that Ishikawa (who bats left) does or doesn't hit right-handed pitchers well? If the book had an editor that sentence would never have made it to publication. Maybe the rush to publication has something to do with the timing of fantasy baseball drafts. Whatever the reason, year after year the Prospectus is less professional than it should be.
One other beef: Steven Goldman contributes a preface celebrating the Prospectus's fifteenth year of publication. A significant milestone, I guess, so some horn tooting is in order. But for a group that is so hard on the people who run major league teams, some acknowledgement of the Prospectus's own fubars would have been nice: The year they published on really low-grade paper and the print was smeared, the year the adjusted ERAs were totally bollixed up, the year the data on comparables had no relation to the text discussion, last year's omission of an index, and so on. And then there's Goldman's evaluation of Bill James. Now I understand that many in the analyst community are tired of genuflecting before the altar of St. Bill. But Bill James created the business these guys are in. Before the Bill James Baseball Abstract there was no market for this kind of commentary. It wasn't that the market was small or underdeveloped, there simply was no market for this kind of commentary published by a major firm and sold at places like Barnes & Noble. James created that market. Here is everything Goldman has to say about James in his discussion of the pre-Prospectus world: "Bill James came out with a book once a year, but skipped 1989 and then experimented with various flawed formats before disappearing altogether after 1995." This is roughly the equivalent of summing up Babe Ruth's impact on baseball by saying: "Ruth hit a lot of home runs for awhile, but then he got old and fat, his production declined, and he retired." If you read the whole of Goldman's preface, he is claiming for the Prospectus the role that was actually played by James's Baseball Abstract.
Ok, no more carping. If you like baseball enough to be thinking of buying this book, then you should buy it. You won't find a more complete or entertaining evaluation of players and teams. The book could be better, but even as it is, it's the best out there.