- Series: NEW BILL JAMES HISTORICAL BASEBALL ABSTRACT
- Paperback: 1024 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; Revised edition (June 13, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743227220
- ISBN-13: 978-0743227223
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 146 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract Paperback – June 13, 2003
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When Bill James published his original Historical Baseball Abstract in 1985, he produced an immediate classic, hailed by the Chicago Tribune as the "holy book of baseball." Now, baseball's beloved "Sultan of Stats" (The Boston Globe) is back with a fully revised and updated edition for the new millennium.
Like the original, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is really several books in one. The Game provides a century's worth of American baseball history, told one decade at a time, with energetic facts and figures about How, Where, and by Whom the game was played. In The Players, you'll find listings of the top 100 players at each position in the major leagues, along with James's signature stats-based ratings method called "Win Shares," a way of quantifying individual performance and calculating the offensive and defensive contributions of catchers, pitchers, infielders, and outfielders. And there's more: the Reference section covers Win Shares for each season and each player, and even offers a Win Share team comparison. A must-have for baseball fans and historians alike, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is as essential, entertaining, and enlightening as the sport itself.
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It is great to have this book on my Kindle. This is a great book to dip into when you want to take a break from your current reading. It is an important reference/resouce when analyzing or talking about baseball. But it is so physically big that it usually isn't there when you want to look at it. You just can't lug this monster around in case you need it.
On the other hand, some of that advantage is lost because the formatting into the Kindle version was far from perfect. The boxes where various matters are cordoned off from the main flow of the text are here just inserted and break up the text. I enjoyed every one of the boxes but I didn't stop reading the major articles to read them. I read them separately.
And this is only the second edition. There are stories and ideas absent from this edition that were vital. The distinction between peak and career value, and the brilliant essay showing how Mays and Mantle illustrated that distinction, were worth the price of admission. I can go back and read that in the first edition but it would be great to have it on my Kindle and people who don't have the first edition are going to miss it.
The Win Shares method he introduces, a way to evaluate ballplayers past and present, is ingenious and worth quite a lot. But I would hate to trade some of the stories and essays from the first edition for it.
Bill James' revision to his classic historical abstract weighs in at a hefty 1000 pages and a big price tag. But it's worth it. You really get two books.
Book I: A decade-by-decade look at the game. As James says in his preface, he's not trying to give times and dates. Each section gives the reader a feel for what baseball was like in that decade - who the popular players were, how they played, where they played. Who was the biggest player, the smallest player, which team had the best infield, best outfield, best pitchers. He gives an OJ Simpson award for each decade, a Clint Hartung award for the biggest flop, the Paul Krichell award for the dumbest trades and signings. He also details the biggest problems the game had in each decade. You can read a chapter and almost hear the fans debating Wagner vs. Cobb, commenting on what a jerk Rogers Hornsby was and venting frustration as New York teams dominated the 1950's. He also has one section on the Negro Leagues. The last section has his (brilliant) solutions to the problems the game has in the 90's.
Book II introduces James' new method of player evaluation -- Win Shares. A quantum leap forward in analysis, Win Shares quantifies everything a player contributes - pitching, hitting and defense -- in terms of how many WINS it brought his team. This corrects for park effects, different eras (you'll be surprised to learn how good those 60's hitters were) and is a massive improvement in evaluation of defense. He rates the top 100 players in history based on career value, peak value, clutch performance, etc. This top 100 includes 12 Negro League players and has some surprises (Oscar Charleston at #4). He rates the top 100 players at each position. Some of this can get dull when you get down to the low #'s. But you'll learn a lot, such as that the 1901 Beaneaters had the best pitching staff of the decade, that Arky Vaughn was the #2 all-time shortstop and that Craig Biggio and Barry Bonds are two of the best all-time at their position (this was written before Bonds' historic 2001 season and Biggio's 2001 comeback).
One last thing. Throughout the book, James' cites reference to other great baseball books. You could build an amazing baseball library just from his bibliography.
All of this comes with James' wit, insight and love of the game. He combines hard-boiled statistical analysis with an apprection of the intangible aspects of the game.
His ideas about player ranking sometimes go against other popular lists, and he's always engaging in explaining his thought process. This is the book equivalent of the conversations you have with your friends at a ballgame about who the best players are and why, but James has thought about it and researched it more than most. Way, way more than most.