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How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball Hardcover – March 1, 2007

3.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 139 pages
  • Publisher: ACTA Publications; First Edition edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879463171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879463175
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,168,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. McSpadden on March 3, 2007
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I've been a big fan of Bill James and have longed for a critical review of his work. Doing that probably wasn't the intent of this book, but what we get is somewhat disappointing. It reads like there are 11 different writers contributing forewords to the next Bill James book. . .but then, there is no book. Granted, each of these writers are accomplished in their own rights and they are probably saving really good stuff for their own books.

Some of the best stuff is from Hal Richman (founder and CEO of Stratomatic)who mixes his contribution with praise for James, as well as noting the difficulties he has had with examining defense. Daryl Morey, the assistant GM for the Houston Rockets, writes about how he has tried to apply some of James' ideas to basketball. I also enjoyed Ron Shandler's chapter on Fantasy Baseball, but I would disagreed with some of his observations. Bill James may not have embraced fantasy baseball as much as some people think he should, but he hasn't disdained it either.

I was also disappointed with Neyer's contribution. Neyer, no doubt, has plenty of anecdotes he could share about James. He only shares a couple, but I am sure there are some great ones where he and James clashed over some analysis or conclusion. Those are the stories I want to hear about.

So, all in all, it's okay. I would only recommend it to the die hard Bill James fans.
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As most paeans, this is short on conclusions and long on feelings. If you've read Bill James' work, there's nothing new. It's nice to be reminded of some of James' best lines, but that's not enough excuse to read the book. On the upside, it's very short. The writers are mostly very skilled and are more or less the people one would hope were there. But for no apparent reason, random fans get a sidebar here and there, and they, sadly, are not all capable writers. All in all, go reread one of James' books instead.
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By WDX2BB on December 11, 2012
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Here's an odd little book, with the emphasis on little.

If you don't know who Bill James is, you haven't been paying attention. The baseball writer and current consultant to the Boston Red Sox started something of a revolution in statistical analysis in his favorite sport. His Baseball Abstracts, which were issued from 1977 to 1986, were gobbled up by a group of fans who weren't afraid to see the game in a different way.

Those fans have gone on into other parts of their lives, of course, but they still consider James as an influential part of their lives.

Gregory F. Augustine Pierce has collected some of their thoughts about James in "How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball." The title is pretty descriptive of the material.

Pierce has compiled contributions from 12 writers in the form of essays about James' work. They vary from writers to analysts to a basketball executive (Daryl Morey, then assistant general manager of the NBA's Houston Rockets). Short notes from fans are also sprinkled in the text.

Most of the essays are very, very similar. James had the type of personality to question what he saw on the baseball field and not accept convention wisdom at face value. If anythiing, the people who read him learned that characteristic. The biggest problem with the book, then, is that the essays tend to sound alike after a while. The word "disciples" came to mind while reading this, and that may only overstate the case a bit.

The one exception might be from James' wife, Susan McCarthy. She's written essays before for James' books and always come off well. Obviously, the reader of this book gets a different perspective on how someone learned to watch baseball from James' wife than from any other source.
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Whether I would recommend this book to a friend depends on a single fact, whether that friend knows the work of Bill James and feels that it changed how the friend views the world. If the answer is yes, then this book is the path to inform my friend that he is not alone, but shares a sense of wonder with numerous talented and accomplished folks. If the answer is no, then this book is a puzzling hagiography to a crusty curmudgeon who spent his life on trivialities.

Others may argue, with cause, that the book could have provided more insights into James, his work, and his character. But if we accept the thesis that the primary goal of the book was to assure the readers that they are not alone in their deep appreciation for what James has brought to their lives, then the book succeeds admirably.

Highlight: The Susan McCarthy chapter is an intriguing insight into an unconventional but successful marriage. Lowlight: The formatting, with its numerous distracting sidebars, was a poor choice. For the latter, I'll subtract a star. But if, like me, you discovered James in the 1980s and he has informed your world view ever since, you should read this book.
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Wasn't what I had hoped for...short essays about Bill and his work. However, this disappointment must be tempered by the notion that I did not pay close attention to the book's description. Perhaps I should have purchased the other book....?
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