I want to start out by saying that if you haven’t yet made your voice heard as to who should be our 4th and 5th starters next year, the poll takes all of about 2 minutes. Pleaase click Here to cast your vote. You may be the proud winner of the book we’re about to talk about.

For the past two years, I’ve been privileged to receive a review copy of the Bill James Handbook. I get a lot of books in the mail to take a look at and review. When one strikes my fancy as particularly worth mentioning to you, I take some time to present it to you. This year’s handbook is one of them. Because I’m not a big fan of writing a “review” of a book (that’s so middle schoolish), I’ll present some things I liked about this year’s book as well as some golden nuggets of information I mined from it.

Things I Liked About the Book
It provides a complete statistical summary of every Major League player’s career. It’s like Baseball Reference without the internet. Because of this, it’s a book that can be kept in your laptop bag and used on that occasion you don’t have internet, but you want to see a player’s numbers. It’s also useful to bring to the ballpark next year to see what a player has done throughout his career, when all the park is showing you is his current season’s numbers.

At the end of the book, there is a great baseball glossary that explains a little about some of those weird stats you hear mentioned, but don’t quite understand how they’re calculated. For example, the book mentions that Range Factor is calculated by taking putouts plus assists and multiplying that by 9 and then dividing by the number of innings played at that position.

The Fielding Bible Awards were presented and were a different look at the gold glove. Only one award is given for each position instead of the one per league, and the voting is by a panel of ten well respected baseball guys, including Hal Richman who is the founder of Strat-O-Matic Baseball and is considered one of the expert fielding evaluators around.

Golden Nuggets Mined This Year

  • No Cub won a Fielding Bible award. Derrek Lee finished 6th at first base behind Albert Pujols, Casey Kotchman, Kevin Youkilis, Todd Helton, and Lyle Overbay.
  • John Dewan, the founder of Baseball Info Solutions, devised a +/- system that evaluates defensive ability and presents it in a form similar to the +/- system in hockey. The higher in the positive a player is, the better defender he is considered to be. Obviously, there is no sure way to evaluate players, so this is just another tool to use. For the Cubs, only two names were noteworthy. Aramis Ramirez ranked 4th and came in with a +15, behind Pedro Feliz who had a +27. Jacque Jones in centerfield finished 7th with a +13. Carlos Beltran was first with a +25.
  • The Cubs led all of baseball in outs on the bases with 31. The Braves were the best at just 13. When we talk about outs on the bases, we’re not talking about things like double plays. It’s just a sum of things like guys tagged out trying to stretch out hits for that extra base, or being doubled off on fly balls, etc. Basically, it’s bonehead plays. That sounds about right for our team to be leading all of baseball in those mental errors.
  • The starting staff was known for their inability to hold runners on base. Worst of them was Jason Marquis who allowed 91% of the runners to steal successfully. Only 2 out of the 22 were caught stealing. What I found interesting was that only seven runners attempted a steal on Carlos Zambrano. Three of those were caught. For some reason, runners were not interested in running on Carlos.
  • The Cubs were the most difficult team in the NL to manufacture a run against and were ranked 5th in the NL in manufacturing runs. The Rockies were the most successful team at manufacturing runs.
  • Lou Piniella’s constant shuffling of lineups drove many insane all year. He was constantly harped on and encouraged to pick a lineup and stick with it. Lou used 125 different lineups in 2007, but was not the worst for this. Tony LaRussa led all managers in baseball with 150 different lineups. Wow!!! Bobby Cox was the most consistent with just 86 different lineups used. Lou was also one of the most effective in the NL at using the intentional walk.
  • Wrigley Field had the second highest park index for errors in the infield in the NL. As you know, so many people complained that the infield was a terrible surface and desperately needed to be redone. I’m interested in seeing how the index ranking changes now that the field has been leveled and resodded.
  • If you had to guess which Cub starter had the highest game score in 2007, who would you guess? Jon Lieber had the highest in the NL with a score of 92 on June 9th against KC. For the Cubs, their highest score was turned in not by Ted Lilly or Carlos Zambrano, but by Jason Marquis on May 9th against Pittsburgh. Who would have thought? On a side note, Yovani Gallardo put up the worst game score at -12 when he gave up 11 earned runs on 12 hits in just 2.2 innings of work.
  • Everyone is all about Dontrelle Willis and how the Cubs royally screwed up by giving him up. The more he pitches, the more I’m not so sure. He’s shown he’s very inconsistent and actually averaged the 5th lowest game score per start in the NL
  • Bill James put together a brief snippet on some of the tremendous young talent in the game today. Unfortunately, none of the Cubs made the cut. As a result, the Cubs ranked 29th in young talent ahead of just the Astros.Those are some interesting nuggets I found. Obviously there is a wealth of other information in the book that I can’t lawfully copy. Go out and pick up the book. It’s $21.95 and well worth the money. Visit Acta Sports to purchase.
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    Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail