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The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract Paperback – Bargain Price, May 6, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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).Read more ›
The original version was James' greatest achievement and belongs on a short list of the most essential baseball books ever written. And the new version?
Most of the new book has been completely rewritten, yet it retains the same flavor as the original. If pressed, I prefer the earlier edition. This is partly because I read it often in the last decade and thus am somewhat biased in its favor, but also because James' new rating system - Win Shares - is introduced in only in general, without demonstrating the nuts and bolts. James promises that his next book (out next year?) will tell us a lot more about this interesting and probably excellent system, but in the meantime we have to take Win Shares on faith.
However, this reservation pales next to the excellence of the book. The historical overview and the player rankings are a tour de force, as before. In particular, the ranking section is much more ambitious and comprehensive, with many more comments than before.
This is one of those books that is more fun to read by skipping from place to place rather than from cover to cover.
Note: this is actually the 3rd edition of this book. The "original" was actually two very similar editions - a 1985 hardcover and a 1988 paperback.
Here are some things I particularly liked:
* Decade-by-decade outlines of the game.
* Greatly expanded capsule lists of odds and ends in each decade.
* Sidebars descibing interesting events and stories from each decade.
* New 1980s, 1990s, and Negro Leagues chapters. The Negro Leagues chapter is the best addition to Section 1, the historical overview.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is highly opinionated and full of statistics but worth reading. Bill James's style is wonderful. His descriptions of these players is fantastic. Read morePublished 11 days ago by MECChristian
If you are a baseball fanatic, if you love statistics, if you love nostalgia, then you'll absolutely love this book. Read morePublished 4 months ago by kone
Best book to read while taking a #2. It really is an amazing book, this is my second one. Other was beat up and got trashed.Published 5 months ago by Eric H.
I haven't read the whole thing, but use it more as a reference/random information text. Has a lot of interesting information.Published 7 months ago by Doc E
All around great book for anyone who loves baseball and the history of baseball. Bill James has such an enjoyable writing style that is humorous and informative. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Fart Garfunkle
Dated in its arguemnts. We have better tools now. But some of the essays are good.Published 11 months ago by V. Tirumalai