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The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers: An Historical Compendium of Pitching, Pitchers, and Pitches Paperback – June 15, 2004
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About the Author
Rob Neyer has written about baseball for ESPN.com since 1996 and appears regularly on ESPNews. He has written four baseball books, including The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (with Bill James) and Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups. His website, www.robneyer.com, contains additional material related to this and his other books.
Top Customer Reviews
The first section of the book consists of some interesting biographies of some very good pre-war pitchers that baseball fans should probably know more about, as well as some lists of who threw the best types of each pitch and definitions of different pitches. Best pitch I've ever seen? Has to be Mariano Rivera's cutter.
The second section is a census of pitchers with 1000 IP or 400 games, showing what pitches they threw. This section can get a bit dry at times. It is interesting to see, in certain cases, how pitchers threw differently pitches at different times in their careers.
The final section is a collection miscellaneous Jamesian-style essays that we know and love. There are some trivialities, such as the essay on "unique records" (i.e. only one pitcher has ever gone 24-5) but I enjoyed this section. James also tries to shoot down pitcher abuse statistics, but I didn't find this very compelling since the data set seemed too small and had the potential of serious biases (as mentioned in the follow-up article).
My one major criticism about this book is that a lot of the information in the pitcher's census part (which comprises at least 2/3 of the book) is more useful from a historical records point of view rather than an interesting read. It's an incredible research job, no question, but reading that some pitcher in the 1920s threw "1. Fastball 2. Nickel Curve" does not do it for me.
I would definitely recommend this book overall though. I'm sure I'll be dipping in and out of it for most of the summer. It's something you can come back to again and again, not something that you are necessarily going to read cover to cover. The essays are very good as always and the book has a "replacement-level" price and "all-star" (though not "hall-of-fame", to be sure) content :)
It has information you can't find anywhere else and probably never thought you could. Where else could you find accounts of exactly HOW all these pitchers pitched, all in one volume? It's the result of a decade of research by the two authors and their assistants.
In additional to the basic information, there are the usual essays, plus the usual Bill James digressions and asides. It's all very well organized. There's no trouble knowing where to find what you want.
And, as usual, it makes you THINK, and it makes you realize things that are relevant not just to baseball but to everything. One of the opening chapters focuses on how much the subject depends on linguistics and vocabulary, and how we might think a source tells us something but it doesn't really, because we don't understand the meanings of the words and phrases that are being used. Usually this is because the language has evolved over time, but sometimes it's because the language is used arbitrarily or sloppily. This is true about "knuckleballs" and "sliders" and "curves." But we readily realize that it can apply to anything.
The introductory chapter includes some duelling between the authors about things, some of which would seem to be "facts" but which are hard to pin down. It's interesting to see how much remains debatable about such a seemingly straightforward subject, even after years of research, and how much it will forever be arguable.
Especially interesting is the material about how the mechanics and strategy of pitching have evolved over the years, and WHY.Read more ›
So basically, don't buy the kindle version. You wouldn't buy a real book with pages missing, would you?
But don't worry, the next edition will include much more information. Earth will be listed as "Mostly Harmless".
In "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers", you will learn about Jack Morris that he threw a fastball and a slider, added a change in 1982 and dropped the change for a forkball "after 1982". And that in 1982 someone said his fastball was clocked at 94 mph. And that's it. The words "split-finger" don't appear, despite a reference on p.50 to Roger Craig teaching the pitch to "most everybody on the Tigers' staff." One guy he taught it to won 254 games and pitched until 1994, but you'd have to make the connection yourself. Mostly harmless, indeed.
A lot of the modern stuff is merely rehashes of information in annually produced "Scouting Notebooks", with idiosyncratic quotes like the only quote about Denny McLain, which comes from Ted Williams who never faced him and managed him when he was a wreck of his former self.
These guys are great writers. I've been reading James for 22 years and Neyer as long as he's been writing. Nearly every one of their other books lies dog-eared and broken-backed in my bathroom from countless re-readings. But the data in this book would have been better left to a website where it could be updated and corrected as time went by, and there could have been more articles on near-great pitchers and more description of how pitches were thrown and developed, as well as the authors' thoughts about the pitchers, rather than just "Fastball Slider Curve".
But really, if Neyer feels good about writing a book "describing" Kaz Sasaki's pitches without mentioning that he called his splitter "the fang", well, that's his choice.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As always James and Neyer offer offer unusual and interesting insight. This book is for the fan who enjoys an in-depth look at baseball.Published 15 months ago by Dennis L. Morgan
Once again, these two men give you a look at a side of the game not normally explored. Their books are incredibly easy to read and draw you in immediately. Read morePublished on June 19, 2014 by Cornell Hurd
Good book! References many pitchers and the pitches they threw. Very thorough. Would recommend to any baseball fan or stat geek.Published on February 18, 2013 by roseramsey
This is a much needed book, but is not 100% complete and should be viewed as a work in progress. I liked the section on pitches in the beginning but would like to see more info... Read morePublished on December 17, 2009 by Pete
This book was a huge disappointment. It masks a baffling lack of detail by taking up so many pages. Don't bother.Published on September 4, 2009 by Joey Bocker
In reading this book, you can see the differences between the two writers - in fact, gimme a sentence or two and I can probably tell you which one wrote what - but I think I... Read morePublished on June 27, 2007 by Jeff Bullock
I make no bones about being a loyal Bill James-ite, so when I found out he and his old running buddy Rob Neyer (now of ESPN) were working on a book about pitchers and pitches, I... Read morePublished on January 9, 2005 by Ray Anselmo
A huge disappointment. I expected more of a comparison of pitchers maybe by era or some more depth to the text maybe focusing on interesting hi- and low-lites of their careers... Read morePublished on September 10, 2004 by Brian Maitland
I love Bill James. His best books (the 1980s and Historical Abstracts) can be read again and again, although James himself would probably yell at you if you did so, telling you to... Read morePublished on September 3, 2004 by K. Graham