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Solid Fool's Gold: Detours on the Way to Conventional Wisdom Paperback – March 15, 2011
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Most readers will likely come at this from their interest in, and / or love of baseball. Much of this will satisfy them, assuming they like Bill James. However, there is a good deal here that isn't concerned with baseball in the least.
Now, most of us who love baseball and are interested in it also have other things on our minds from time to time and several chunks of this book address other things on James' mind. Your use for those essays will depend upon how wedded you are to an ostensible baseball book being ONLY about baseball topics. It may also depend upon what you think of James as a casual essayist.
All of these essays have appeared previously on James' website, which I do not subscribe to. Thus I had not read them before, save a big section of "Shakespeare and Verlander," which was run on Slate a few weeks ago. This one is actually a nice bridge piece, using these two rather disparate individuals to look at how societies work to foster some talents while short-changing others. It is a witty and thoughtful essay that won't do a thing for making your fantasy team better, but will give you a thing or two to think about, should you choose to do so.
And so on. I like James' conversational writing style, both on and off the field, as it were, and I was happy to digress into topics like the insidiousness of traffic light cameras, airport security and the power of ignorance as a force for knowledge. I also like James' analysis of the minor leagues, the future of the Hall of Fame viewed in light of expansion, and the best pitchers' duels of the 1980's.Read more ›
It's a disappointment for the high bar set by Bill James, though it's still entertaining. It's pretty much all reprints of material he had published elsewhere (with some updates), and so you lose some of the charm of reading his revelations and musings for the first time.
The pieces about starting pitchers, losing teams, and the impact of baseball's expansionary era on the Hall of Fame are vintage James research -- microscopically detailed looks at data over decades. But you also feel a bit of "what's the point?" in the pitchers' analysis, and there are some logical flaws in the HoF piece. And there are typos throughout the book, which is a surprise for something that you wouldn't think had to be produced on a tight timetable.
Anyway, it's a decent addition to a baseball library, but it's not a "must have" book.
The very first essay is on an approach to predicting RBIs (runs batted in) from other batting data. Voila! A simple formula that appears to predict well. Torii Hunter's actual RBI total=90; his predicted total=90! Alex Rodriguez drove in more than expected; Ichiro less than expected. Fun reading, trying to make sense of baseball statistics.
Another section addresses what the best starting rotations of all time are from 1 through 33. Number 1? 1903 Giants: Joe McGinnity, Christy Mathewson, Luther Taylor, and Hooks Wiltse. Number 33? 2002 Atlanta Braves: Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, Tom Glavine, and Damian Moss.
And now for something completely different. James' ruminations on a cousin--Supreme Court Justice James McReynolds--racist and anti-Semite (he would not shake hands with Louis Brandeis, for example). Interesting reflections, including how old Negro League legend Buck O'Neil might interact with Justice McReynolds.
A lot of fun, but not much focus. I guess that when you've made the big time, you are allowed some openness for an idiosyncratic book!
Sadly, after reading this effort, I realize that Bill James is no longer worth my dime. This book has two fantastic articles by James. Two. These two articles harken back to the days of yesteryear when everything he wrote seemed to be worth my consideration. This book also has articles on traffic lights, a poem comparing Wiki Leaks to Rickie Weeks (3 pages are devoted to this one-stanza, four line poem), and a piece attempting to determine if TSA is worth the effort.
I don't recommend this book to anyone, but wish fervently that Mr. James stop putting out books like this. Stick to baseball please!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having been an avid read of James' Baseball Abstracts in the 1980s, I have forgotten what a terrific writer he really is. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Ed Kless
a pretty interesting book if you like wrapping your head around numbers. Probably not a good book for everyone, but he gives insights into an analytical mind interested in mining... Read morePublished 16 months ago by DR
Surprising in that it shows Bill James noodling around with ideas some cogent; some arcane
Would not think a true baseball fan of James will be impressed if having already... Read more
Bill James made his reputation challenging the conventional wisdom behind Major League Baseball through his statistical analyses of the sport and its players, sabremetrics. Read morePublished on March 4, 2013 by Drew Shaw
I had never read Bill James before but was enthusiastic to hear from the man who basically changed the way the game of baseball is being analyzed. Read morePublished on June 26, 2011 by Firat Inceoglu
As a geeky teenager in early 80s, I stumbled upon Bill James Baseball Abstract in the book store. I was enthralled. It changed my life, well ... Read morePublished on April 24, 2011 by W. Doran
I love reading Bill James's thoughts on baseball. Some of these essays represent James at his best ("Random vs Responsive Pitching Performance by Starting Pitchers,"... Read morePublished on April 21, 2011 by J. Runde