Archive for June, 2010

Book Review: Once Upon a Game

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The complete title of this book is “Once Upon a Game: Baseball’s Greatest Memories / as told to Alan Schwarz”. It was written by Alan Schwarz and was
published in 2007.

I would like to quote the author’s biography from the inside back jacket cover:

“Alan Schwarz is the senior writer for ‘Baseball America’ magazine, the host of ‘Baseball Today’ on ESPN.com, and a regular contributor to the ‘New York Times’. His first book, ‘The Numbers Game’, was ESPN’s 2004 Baseball Book of the Year. He is a frequent on-air analyst for ESPN, National Public Radio’s ‘Talk of the Nation, and MSNBC.”

The bottom of the inside front jacket cover proclaims:

Lavishly illustrated and handsomely designed, ‘Once Upon a Game’ is the perfect gift for any baseball fan.”

“Once Upon a Game” consists of short stories, like 1 to 3 pages short, told by 35 or so “celebrities with a connection to baseball”, including Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, Kevin Costner, Bob Feller, Ozzie Guillen, Buck O’Neil, Gaylord Perry, Charles Schulz, Casey Stengel & Joe Torre, among others.

Each of these short recollections is accompanied by 1 or 2 photographs illustrating the time and place of the story. The book is very nicely done.

There is a Foreword by George F. Will in which he describes one of his most cherished baseball memories. Interestingly, that memory “involved neither a hit nor a pitch nor a catch nor a throw. It involved an act of sportsmanship…”

Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from the book:

  • “I knew then, and I know today, that winning World War II was the most important thing to happen to this country in the last 100 years. I’m just glad I was a part of it. I was a gun captain on the battleship “Alabama” for only 34 months. People have called me a hero for that, but I’ll tell you this – heroes don’t come home. Survivors come home.” Bob Feller
  • “Michael (Jordan) called me on the way to the arena one day after that. He said, ‘I just wanted to tell you I love doing what I do again.’ He’d gotten tired of basketball, and baseball was just so joyful for him. ‘You guys love what you do,’ he said, ‘and that rubbed off on me.’ I truly think that getting a hit in an important part of a game for the Birmingham Barons meant as much to him that year as any jump shot in the NBA.” Terry Francona
  • “But I was feeing so great. So lucky. I was getting paid to do something I loved.” Ernie Banks
  • “As he wound up on the next pitch, I could read his grip on the ball and I could tell he was going to throw a screwball. I swung and hit a line drive toward the corner of the left-field bleachers. I stood at the plate and watched the ball for fear the umpire would call it foul. It landed a few feet inside the foul pole for a grand slam.” Hank Greenberg
  • “I was only a high school kid, for crying out loud – and Ted Williams said I was going to play in the major leagues….most of all, you have to take hitting seriously – you can’t be a nice guy up there. It’s not a profession for the light approach…. Most of all, though, Ted – excuse me, Mr. Williams – taught me to believe in myself.” Mike Piazza

I enjoyed reading “Once Upon a Game”, and I can tell you that my dad, The
World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan, couldn’t put this book down. He was totally
fascinated by it. I recommend it highly.

I want to thank Houghton Mifflin Company for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.

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Game 70: At Least We Got to Boo Milton

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

First Star – Jason Vargas (.376 WPA)
Second Star – Franklin Gutierrez (.156 WPA)
Third Star – Alfonso Soriano (.139 WPA)

I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that this team is not going to be playing postseason baseball this year. It’s been clear to me for about two weeks, but I just haven’t wanted to bring myself to admit it. In my head, I kept rationalizing a way for us to just squeek in. I did all the typical things when it comes to rationalizing, saying things like “If we just win each series” or “If we can win three out of five starts in the rotation each time”. Unfortunately, when it comes down to it, this team just played game # 70. They have 92 games left and a safe bet for the playoffs each year is 90 wins. The rest of the way, over the course of those 92 games, we’d need 59 wins. That’s .641 baseball. I don’t see it happening. Over the next 10 days, the Cubs will have to show Jim Hendry that they can do it or he has to start selling before the deadline reaches and you’re left taking less for your product.

Last night, Seymour Butts was at the game and had the following to say:

Well, I saw it all from the 3rd row and it all sucked. I don’t know how Dempster looked on TV, but in person he was shaky. How can I say that when he only gave up 2 runs? well, he just did. A good team would have scored often. Highlights were Boardgame getting booed in his “home” stadium, Soto throwing the ball into left field on a 3rd strike, ALF trying to score from second on Colvins double that landed in the glove of the left fielder, and Soto being called out on consecutive pitches that appeared to be around mid calf.
Uninspiring.

That about sums it up nicely. I heard the only highlight on MLB At Bat on my Android as I lay in bed, when Gutierrez hit a home run as Pat was talking to Ron Santo on the phone about being honored for 50 years of Cubdom. Poor guy is going to die without ever seeing a World Series for the Cubs or getting inducted into the hall of fame.

That’s about it from last night. Anything you noticed?

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In the News: Aramis On the Comeback Trail

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Hey, Cubs fans. As I type this, we’re just a few hours away from the historic Seattle Showdown. Lou’s return! Silva’s “in yo’ face, suckas!” For the love of God, MILTON BRADLEY! So let’s not dither around with a long intro. Let’s get right to the top Cubs stories of the week:

Aramis Ramirez could return to the lineup tomorrow.  Apparently, he had a decent showing with the Peoria Chiefs this past weekend, going 1 for 3 with an RBI and a walk. Will he finally start the long trek back to his career norms when he returns? And who will be sent down when he arrives? These are the questions we’re left to ponder.

UPDATE: Sun-Times beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer tweets that Aramis won’t be back in the lineup until this weekend’s series against the White Sox at the Cell. The BP Crosstown Cup, of course, hangs in the balance.

Ailing and celebrated, Ron Santo is in the news.  This past weekend, Ol’ No. 10 formally announced that he will cut back on his broadcasting schedule for many of the team’s road games. This is sad news for those of us who, by choice or otherwise, end up listening to many Cubs games on the radio. (Then again, I do kinda like Keith Moreland.) On a happier note, the Cubs will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ronnie’s major league debut this Saturday, June 26. Full story here.

Empty seats at Wrigley prompt controversy.  Anyone else notice a lot of, um, noticeably empty seats at Wrigley during the last homestand? I did. And it’s prompted many fans and pundits to speculate that, because of their slow start and continued struggles, the Cubs could really take a hit on ticket sales this year. Our benevolent benefactor Rob Neyer, however, urges us all to avoid jumping to conclusions. Small sample size and all that.

Cubs upgrade their technology.  Could the implementation of an, ahem, “unified, end-to-end human capital management (HCM) SaaS solution” be another sign of the impending (and slow to develop) Ricketts era? This long-winded press release may reveal another move toward a more analytical, data-intensive approach to team operations.

Ryno Bandannas? Count me in!  If you’re in the Des Moines, Iowa, area tomorrow, don’t miss the opportunity to: a) Attend an Iowa Cubs game (only 1 game back in their division!), and b) Snag a Ryne Sandberg bandanna. Rumors abound that Mr. T will be at the gate to grab the first one. You didn’t read that here. Oh, wait…I guess you did.

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Series Preview: Cubs / Mariners

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Ryan Dempster (5-5, 3.67 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (5-2, 2.88 ERA)

Dempster notched his ninth quality start in his last outing against the Athletics. He gave up two runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings, throwing 120 pitches. It’s the fourth time he’s thrown at least 120. Dempster also struck out seven as he won for the third time in his past five starts.

If there’s one complaint to have about Vargas this season, it’s that high pitch counts often limit how far into games he can go. That wasn’t an issue in his most recent start, in which he went 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 win at St. Louis. That gave him 11 quality starts in 13 tries, tying him for sixth in the Majors, and he did it on 94 pitches with no walks.

Strength – Has a low-90s fastball, plus a good slider and change-up. Displays impressive poise and command. His slider can be effective against left-handed hitters. Can start or relieve.

Weakness - Is far too hittable for the big leagues. Still needs to work on a better approach to right-handed hitters, as well as his endurance.

Randy Wells (3-5, 4.92 ERA) vs. Cliff Lee (5-3, 2.55 ERA)

Wells got back on track in his last start. He held the A’s to two runs on seven hits over seven innings. The problem in his previous starts was that he was falling off the rubber. A couple of side sessions, some work with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, advice from Greg Maddux and a good look at video helped Wells figure it out. Wells has never faced the Mariners.

Lee was nothing short of brilliant in a 1-0 shutout win against the Reds on Friday. He worked out of trouble in the first and cruised the rest of the way. His ability to avoid walks has been a major key to his success, as he’s issued just four free passes while dealing 67 strikeouts. Only three other pitchers since 1900 have tallied as many strikeouts with so few walks (Bret Saberhagen, Greg Maddux and Ben Sheets) in a 10-start period, and Lee’s the only one to do it in his first 10 outings of the year.

Strength – Has a four-pitch arsenal featuring low-90s heat, a nasty slider, curve and change. Has a fluid, sometimes sneaky delivery. Works quickly and efficiently and yields very few walks. Is durable.

Weakness – A bit of a late bloomer, he can lose his focus from time to time–which used to set him back even more early on in his career. Will give up his share of hits because he’s around the plate so much.

Carlos Silva (8-2, 3.01 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (5-5, 3.39 ERA)

This will be a different Carlos Silva than the one the Mariners had for two seasons. Silva is coming off his second straight loss, but it was his team-leading 10th quality start. In two years with the Mariners, he was 5-18. He won his first eight decisions with the Cubs and has dropped two in a row, although he has pitched well enough to win both. If he goes deep, he’s tough. Silva has a 2.07 ERA when he throws at least six innings.

Hernandez has taken four of his past five starts through at least eight innings, and his most recent outing was his best yet. He followed up Cliff Lee’s shutout with a one-run complete game, walking one and striking out nine. That was a point of pride for Hernandez, who wasn’t happy about having to leave his previous start after 8 2/3 innings. To say the least, he and Lee make a formidable pair. There’s just no telling how much longer it will last.

Strength – His fastball can reach 97 m.p.h., and he adds a devastating curve and a very strong change-up to his impressive arsenal. Induces plenty of groundballs, since his fastball has a ton of movement and sinking action. Has amazing command and poise.

Weakness – Can get a little flustered with runners aboard and struggles to keep them at bay. Also gets first-inning jitters on occasion. Left-handed hitters show a little more power against him.

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Who are the Top Defenders in 2010?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Two and a half months into the season, it is a good time to look and see who have been our best defensive players of the year. Let’s take a look at our overall leaders, in terms of Defensive Runs Saved.

2010 Runs Saved Leaders
Player Team Pos. Innings Runs Saved
Ben Zobrist Rays 2B/RF 547 15
Yunel Escobar Braves SS 448 15
Austin Jackson Tigers CF 498 13
Alexei Ramirez White Sox SS 530 12
Michael Bourn Astros CF 527 11
Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 3B 445 11
Chase Utley Phillies 2B 515 11
Robinson Cano Yankees 2B 550 10

Ben Zobrist is no surprise here, as he finished near the top of the league last year with 31 runs saved. What’s impressive about Zobrist is that he has accumulated his runs saved at numerous positions, having spent time at first base, second base, and all three outfield spots.

Yunel Escobar has always been one of the best defenders at shortstop, with runs saved totals the last two years of 12 and 13. Always strong on plays to his left, Escobar is now making some of those plays to his right. He has already eclipsed his previous career high in Defensive Runs Saved.

Overshadowed a bit by his hot start with the bat, Austin Jackson has been the best defensive outfielder in baseball. Jackson excels especially on deep balls, as he rates a +14 in Enhanced Plus/Minus so far this year. This young star has a bright future ahead of him.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Afraid to Change

Monday, June 21st, 2010

On Saturday, after a 12-0 loss to the Angels, Paul Sullivan tweeted a quote from Lou about the loss and the season in general.

We’ve done everything I can humanly do to get this thing turned around. That’s all I can do.” ~ Lou

A few days before, Sully posted that Wrigley Field was now using taped walk up music for the players instead of the traditional organ music that we’ve heard for so long. He goes on to list the songs chosen by the players and notes that Lou’s song is “My Poor Brain” by the Foo Fighters.

Maybe it’s just me, but when you combine the tweet quote with his warm up music title and quotes all throughout the year that he “Don’t know”, you have to diagnose that Lou, as good of a manger as he is, is not the guy for this team right now. This team is going nowhere and it’s happening fast. Sure, it was nice to see us win big yesterday, behind Carlos Zambrano’s strong effort no less. The fact still remains that we’re not winning series. We’re not inching closer to .500 baseball and we’re really not showing any signs that we can hit with any regularity.

My biggest fear right now is that this team is afraid to make a change. I’m not just talking about changing managers, though it begins there, but rather changing out pieces of the puzzle in all aspects in an attempt to try something new.

First and foremost, it’s going to have to start with the manager. Ideally, Lou would be fired or re-sign before the year is over. Give Alan Trammel the audition he deserves for the rest of the season, but don’t expect too much from him. Simply monitor his managing in various situations and use of the pitching staff, then make a decision on if he’s the right guy moving forward. If not, get someone in here for next season. I say ideally because I truly believe that Lou is afraid to re-sign because it would look as though he’s a quitter and that’s not how he wants to end his managerial career. On the flipside, I believe Jim Hendry would not dream of firing Lou out of sheer respect for what he’s done in the past. It’s hard to just throw him in the garbage after all he’s done in baseball. Because of that, the Cubs will ride him into the sunset. Why? Because we’re afraid of change.

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GirlieView (06/18/2010)

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Since I don’t have much to talk about, and in honor of the Ricketts’ hiring of Ari Kaplan as the team’s new Statistical Analyst Manager, I thought I’d use this week’s column to get us caught up on some of our VFTB statistics. Look out, sabermetricians, this is gonna blow you outta your seats. Heh.

BTS after 06/16′s game:

  • Terrelle Pryor = 4
  • April = 1
  • dat_cubfan_daver = 1
  • Doug Bagley = 1
  • Joe Aiello = 1
  • ketan = 1
  • Lizzie = 1
  • Rusty Goodwin = 1
  • youngkaren = 1
  • Everyone else = 0.

BTS after 06/17′s game:

  • Terrelle Pryor = 4
  • dat_cubfan_daver = 2
  • youngkaren = 2
  • April = 1
  • Doug Bagley = 1
  • Joe Aiello = 1
  • ketan = 1
  • Lizzie = 1
  • Rich Beckman = 1
  • Rusty Goodwin = 1
  • Tommy = 1
  • Everyone else = 0.

BTS after 06/18′s game (today):

  • Terrelle Pryor = 4
  • youngkaren = 3
  • dat_cubfan_daver = 2
  • Doug Bagley = 2
  • Lizzie = 2
  • Rich Beckman = 2
  • mrbaseball2usa = 1
  • Everyone else = 0.

Wanna play along? Make your daily pick here –> VFTB BTS

Lizzies

  • Ted Lilly, You Look Marvelous
  • My last thought was Lilly giving a post game conference had he completed the no-no and saying “This is what I have to do to get a win around here”.
  • Stand closer; it’s shorter than you think.
  • But, hey, maybe Soriano will absent-mindedly jog across Dallas Braden’s mound and we’ll see another cosmic freakout from the perfect-game-hurling southpaw.
  • We need to take the “kick to the groin” and give Soriano away to an AL team who doesn’t need defense.
  • For example:
    -How does the result of this home stand effect the organization’s stance as either buyers or sellers?
    -What internal solutions are on the horizon to upgrade the team?
    -What managerial adjustments have been made to promote better performance, and how has your coaching strategy changed over the season?
    -What is the overall plan to improve in the short term and long term scope of the season?
  • When you lose as many games as they have to the Pirates, Astros and White Sox you can’t use the excuses that you’re under-performing anymore, they’re simply not good.
  • The flowing locks, bad facial hair, and rock star appeal brought some personality to the game.
  • The Cubs like Kefir. Perhaps this digestive aid can help the Cubs loosen up their constipated run production.
  • the Cubs announced the hiring of Ari Kaplan as Statistical Analyst Manager.
  • Perhaps Mr. Hendry should look at the new hire as another tool for doing his job at a higher degree. The methods they’re using now certainly aren’t netting very good results.
  • Mr. Hendry, by not being part of the solution, is defining himself as part of the problem.

Lizard

  • It could only be improved if he and Lil’ Babe Ruth were posing arm-in-arm…

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (VFTB and/or GirlieView and/or Dave) and Facebook (VFTB and/or GirlieView). Have a nice weekend!

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Series Preview: Cubs / Angels

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Scott Kazmir (6-5, 5.27 ERA) vs. Carlos Silva (8-1, 2.89 ERA)

Kazmir’s stuff was alive against the Dodgers, but too many deep counts didn’t enable him to get past the fifth inning, yielding two earned runs on three hits and four walks while striking out five men. He threw 106 pitches, forcing his exit. He has given up only four earned runs in his past 17 innings, dropping his ERA from 6.34 to 5.26. Kazmir is making his Wrigley Field debut. He has faced the Cubs once, giving up one earned run in 4 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Strength – Boasts heat that can top out at around 97 m.p.h, and also has a great slider and emerging change-up. Can rack up strikeouts, especially against lefty bats.

Weakness – Has work to do on his command and endurance. His smallish frame is a concern, because he has already endured plenty of injury issues.

Silva should be 9-0. In his last start, the right-hander gave up two runs on seven hits over seven innings, but one of the runs could have been prevented if his defense stepped up. Silva did throw a career-high 123 pitches, so the extra day of rest should help. He was quick enough in his last start to recognize that he needed to change speeds more to keep the White Sox off balance. It worked.

Jered Weaver (6-3, 3.29 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (2-5, 2.90 ERA)

Weaver is coming off a solid effort in a win against the Dodgers on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, yielding three earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven across six innings. The slender right-hander has been among the AL leaders all season in strikeouts and was on top after his most recent effort with 96 in 87 2/3 innings. He has a 2.39 ERA in day games and has yielded three or fewer runs in 11 of his 14 starts. Weaver’s 4-2, 4.44 in eight road tests. He will be pitching in Wrigley Field and against the Cubs for the first time.

Strength – Is a reliable work horse who combines a low-90s, four-seam fastball with a slightly slower two-seamer and great movement. Has good command of four pitches and deception in his delivery.

Weakness – Challenges hitters a little too much, despite not having overwhelming strikeout ability. This leads to too many homers hit against him.

In his last outing, Lilly was “brilliant,” as Lou Piniella said. The left-hander had a no-hitter through eight innings on Sunday and lost his bid when pinch-hitter Juan Pierre singled to lead off the ninth. Lilly was then pulled after throwing 108 pitches. The lefty got the win, which snapped a personal five-game losing streak. In three starts this month, he’s 1-1 with a 1.52 ERA. In his career, Lilly is 5-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 10 starts against the Angels.

Joe Saunders (5-7, 4.70 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (2-5, 5.66 ERA)

Saunders returns to the road, to Wrigley Field for the first time in his career, and he probably welcomes it. His home struggles continued on Monday night against the Brewers, who cuffed him around for six earned runs on six hits, including a pair of homers and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Saunders is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in six road assignments, but he has yielded 33 earned runs in 44 innings (6.75 ERA) while going 1-6 at home. Command of his two-seam fastball is imperative for Saunders, who didn’t have it during a five-run third inning that included Ryan Braun’s grand slam.

Strength – Is a battler. Uses a solid fastball and change-up to keep hitters off balance, as well as to challenge them when the need arises. Knows how to pitch to contact.

Weakness - Can be prone to serving up too many long balls, especially when he becomes a little too predictable with his pitches. Doesn’t strike a lot of batters out.

Zambrano took the loss in his last start Tuesday against the Athletics, and it was an ugly game. The Cubs made four errors, so only two of the five runs off Zambrano were earned. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first, but wasn’t so lucky in a four-run fourth. Zambrano went six innings, striking out four. And he even got a RBI single. Big Z admitted he was aiming for the building beyond the left-field bleachers in his last at-bat in the sixth.

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not

Get ready for more pitching folks. The Angels are going to lead off the series with Scott Kazmir (6-5) who has won his last three coming into the weekend, and has not given up more then 2 runs in any of those starts. Sounds like a perfect recipe for our struggling bats.

We also have to deal with their bats which do not sport the best of averages (.258 17th overall in the majors), but they do hit for power ( 71 HR’s ranked eighth in the majors) and drive in runs (310 RBI’s ranked 7th overall). With Kendry Morales injured the Angels lean on Torri Hunter to be the stud in their lineup he is batting .304 in his last 7 games with 1 HR and 6 RBI’s. Let’s hope those winds keep blowing in, probably too much to ask for at this point in the season.

The angels are struggling to find a leadoff hitter. Macier Izturis and Erick Aybar are both injured which is causing some lineup shuffles. This also leaves them with a rather spotty infield on the defensive side of the ball. Torii Hunter has also struggled in the field as of late where he has faced some criticism. Sounds like this series could be interesting considering the Cubs on again off again defense and the Angels patchwork infield.

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Book Review: How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The book (“How Bill James Changed Our View Of Baseball”) and this book review are particularly appropriate to read and to understand at this point in time. Earlier this week the Cubs hired professional stats guy Ari Kaplan to be a member of their staff, answering to
GM Jim Hendry.

As dat_cubfan_daver posted here on VFTB, Jim Hendry’s public “Welcome Aboard” statement leads me to believe that perhaps he (Hendry) does not embrace modern statistical analysis as applied to baseball situations to the degree that the folks writing in this book do. If that’s the case then Mr. Hendry, by not being part of the solution, is defining himself as part of the problem.

We learned from Bruce Mile’s column that Ari Kaplan will answer to Jim Hendry within the Cubs front office. I hope that he will also be answering directly to the Ricketts family, either officially of unofficially.

I am not advocating the abandonment of scouting and scouting reports (aka “human intelligence”) in analyzing baseball players and baseball situations. But modern statistical analysis deserves a seat at the table. Jim Hendry and the Cubs organization will misuse or ignore this valuable tool at their peril.

The full title of this book is “How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball by Colleagues, Critics, Competitors and Just Plain Fans”. It is edited by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce, and was published in 2007 by ACTA Sports in Skokie, Illinois.

This book consists of an Introduction by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce, 12 main essays, and Bill James’ The Last Word. The editor, Mr. Pierce, freely admits that he had never heard of Bill James until 2001.

Software Architect Dan Fox recalls reading his first “Abstract” in the spring of 1984, stating: “From that point forward, my view of the game changed to one where the primary question I asked myself was not ‘what happened?’ but ‘why did it happen?’.”

Senior Technical Writer Tom Rathkamp from Cedarburg, Wisconsin opines that Bill James “taught me that facts are irrelevant without context.” He continues, “…if Bill James wrote a book about peanut butter, I would buy it immediately”.

On that subject of “context”, Dave Studenmund, editor of “The Hardball Times Baseball Annual” includes among the things that Bill James taught him: “A pitcher’s wins and losses depend a great deal on his team’s offense”, and “Batters will have more RBIs if they bat with more runners on base”. Mr. Studenmund further notes: “Today we have remarkable websites like Retrosheet.org and Baseball-Reference.com that are fantastic resources for many fans. For that, you can thank Bill James”.

Gary Huckabay, founder of Baseball Prospectus, observes, regarding the charge that “arrogance” is often perceived by an existing power structure to the suggestion of change: “The disquieting reality is that the true arrogance is not displayed by the upstart with the new idea but by the calcified inhabitants of the positions of power”.

Engineer and business owner Ralph Caola submits: “…Bill James’ annual book made my interest blossom. The parochial outlook of a fan was transformed into the more critical outlook of an analyst….I discovered a new place for baseball in my life thanks to Bill James”.

Sam Walker, sports columnist for “The Wall Street Journal” and author of“Fantasyland” (Note from Joe: Fantasyland is a fun read and well worth your time even if you don’t play fantasy baseball) describes having sprung an intellectual trap on Bill James, “a question I’d worked up on the drive down from New York…that was designed to challenge the very notion that accurate statistics can be kept on baseball, let alone be used to evaluate player performance”. He recounts Bill James’ response: “The world is vastly more complicated than anyone can understand. Therefore everyone has understandings of it, and only fools imagine that those understandings are so complete that they’re immediately exclusive”. Mr. Walker ends his essay with a personal message for Bill James: “…I’d like to officially forgive you for lobotomizing my dad, apologize to you for all my earlier venom…and thank you for making baseball a hundred times more enjoyable
for old farts the world over”.

Steve Moyer, President of Baseball Info Solutions, says: “That’s really how Bill James changed my view of baseball, turning me into a much more intelligent baseball fan. It’s funny, between sabermetrics and fantasy baseball I’ve lost my love for one individual team. I no longer live and die by the St. Louis Cardinals or any other single franchise”.

Keith Sherer, an Attorney and Baseball Analyst from Chicago, describes the 2600 word reply Bill James sent to an email from Mr. Sherer, which included the following: “The role of lawyers in discussing crime cases in public venues…is essentially identical to the role of athletes in the discussion of sports. Not to put too fine a point on it, they are essentially purveyors of bullshit”.

Daryl Morey, Assistant General Manager of the Houston Rockets, shares some of Bill James’ baseball principles which apply to  basketball, including the following : “Past performance is the best predictor of future success….Amazingly, this principle continues to be ignored by the leadership of multiple teams….This ‘past performance’ principle…is a necessary but not sufficient condition to succeed”. Mr. Morey continues: “‘It has always been done that way’ is not a good reason to do anything”. And Mr. Morey concludes: “…he has changed my view of life in general”.

Rob Neyer, ESPN analyst and author of “The Big Book of Baseball Blunders” (Note from Joe: Also a good read if for no other reason that to see some of the comments he writes about Dusty Baker’s lineup choices) adds in part: “Bill James either changes your life or he doesn’t”.

Bill James himself, in the final essay of the book, observes: “People like me don’t have ‘mentors’; we have parole officers”. He also says: “I never understood why John Rocker became a pariah for expressing opinions that roughly 85% of baseball players privately agree with”.

And the editor, Mr. Gregory F. Augustine Pierce, in his closing statement includes: “…I follow my Cubs every year, even though they always break my heart…”

I learned a lot more about Bill James by reading the opinions and reactions of these insiders to him. I enjoyed reading this “gift sized” book very much and I recommend it highly to everyone. (Final note from Joe: I’ve also read this book and enjoyed it a lot as well)

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