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Win Shares Paperback – February, 2002

3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Author Bill James has written numerous books on baseball, including the recently-released New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Measuring how many games a player has won is the holy grail of sabermetrics. "How many games did he win?" is the fundamental question about a player in the same way that "How many runs did he create?" is the fundamental question about a hitter.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: STATS Publishing Inc; First Edition edition (February 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931584036
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931584036
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John LaMantia on April 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Bill James presents his new player rating system in gory detail.
The Win Shares rating system was the basis for his player rankings in the New Historical Abstract.
James always seems a step ahead of everyone else when it comes to baseball analysis. The players' performance in a season is summarized by an integer number representing three times the number of wins a player contributed to his team. For instance Barry Bonds scored a 54 for 2001 -- tied for the third best season according to James.
Getting through the detailed explanation of the system (over one hundred pages) takes time. I wish it had been condensed some more. The fun begins when James uses his results to ask questions such as "Which players deserved postseason awards?"
or to compare players over different eras like Carl Yastrzemski and Chuck Klein.
Another emphasis in this book is on fielding stats. James spends a lot of time picking apart Total Baseball's fielding ratings and then attempting to prove his system is better.
There is also a 500-page reference section showing Win Share results for players on every major league team since 1876, career progressions for top players, career and single-season leaders, etc. Overall, a nice companion to the new Historical Abstract and Total Baseball.
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Format: Paperback
Bill James latest book, Win Shares, is probably mostly of interest to really die-hard stathead baseball fans. Win Shares, as a tool for evaluating players, is of great interest to fans. It is a quantum leap forward in the analysis of ballplayers, allowing the evaluation of players based on a single number without the biases and problems built into linear analyis. And it is the first to correctly account for defense -- both in recognizing great defensive players and taking credit away from pitchers who thrived because of their defense.
This book, in particular, however, is one that all but the most diehard statheads will find a tad disappointing. The first 100 pages of the book is concerned with constructing the system and running it through three examples. I found this interesting because I was fascinated by the construction of this system. James does an excellent job of justifying his methodology and is sensitive to the fact that this is the first version of Win Shares -- it can stand improvement. But it might get tedious if numbers don't fascinate you.
The second section details why he made some of the decisions he made in constructing the system. The third section is what most people will find interesting -- a long section of Jamesian essays looking at ROY awards, MVP awards, comparing various players, finding good players on bad teams, extreme teams (all hitting or all defense), etc. Great stuff.
The fourth section is like Baseball Enyclopedia -- a listing of win shares for every team in baseball history, with detailed breakdowns for certain players. If you're fond of finding out who was the most valuable player on the 1982 Brewers or whether Don Sutton really WAS that good, you'll have fun. But if the baseball encyclopedia or baseballreference.
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Format: Paperback
People often look to new statistics to simply reaffirm what they already believe. Of course Babe Ruth's 1927 season was the greatest of all time. Of course, Bob Gibson's 1968 season was the pinnacle of pitching excellence in the 'live ball' era. Without a doubt, any number of Ozzie Smith's seasons would rank him in the very top of shortstops in terms of defense. And book after book comes out and tells us the same stuff we already have heard.
I, for one, have listened to enough people repeating these supposed "truisms" of baseball history to be exciting to another bandwagon statistician. The beauty of Bill James' Win Shares is that it presents a different way of looking at things, thus contributing in a new and exciting way to the discourse of baseball statistical exploration. And by the way, according to James's research, Babe Ruth's '27 season didn't crack James' Top 25. Two pitchers in the year 1972 alone rank better than Gibby's '68 campaign. And, no matter how hard you look, no Ozzie Smith season made the 10 ten for defense among shortstops.
James' system operates on the idea that individual statistics (such as batting average or home runs) should not be looked at in a vacuum. Obviously, a home run in Coors Field is less significant than a home run in Dodger Stadium. With more runs being scored, a home run in Colorado does less to contribute to a win than a home run in a traditional pitcher's park like Chavez Ravine. And batting .350 in 1932 when the National League average was over .300 means far less than it does in 2001 when the league average is in the .250 range.
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Format: Paperback
The concept of win shares is wonderful and represents a fascinating step forward in sabermetric analysis. Any book that provides a single number to measure the value of each player for each season in baseball history is thought-provoking and worthwhile. Bill James's work on analyzing fielding statistics is incredibly useful and important.
I have a major criticism with the win shares system, however, and I hope I'll be able to express it adequately in writing. My problem is this. Win shares are based on the idea that a player contributes offensively to the runs that the team scores and defensively to limiting the runs the team allows. What James does, however, is start with the total number of wins for a team -- e.g., 97 for the 1977 Baltimore Orioles -- and then he takes as a fundamental premise that the Orioles as a team created 291 win shares. He then allocates those win shares to the offense, the defense, and the pitching, and then calculates each player's "share" of the team offense, the team defense, and the team pitching -- adding the total together for each player. For instance, Ken Singleton gets 36 win shares for the 1977 Orioles.
Here's the problem. Based on the total number of runs the Birds scored that year and the total runs they allowed, and using the "Pythagorean" formula popularized by James himself, Baltimore should have only gone 88-73 in 1977. So there should have been only 264 win shares to go around, not 291. That's a difference of 9%; accordingly, I would submit, Singleton should only get 33 win shares, not 36.
By contrast, take the 1972 Orioles, who actually went 80-74, but whose Pythagorean won-lost mark is 90-64. James's system allocates 240 total win shares to the team that year, instead of 270 -- a 12% percent difference.
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