2006 Reds / Baseball - General / Reds - General / Reviews

Fun With Bill James

I just received my copy of The Bill James Handbook 2007. I don’t usually get this book, but the price was right, and I’d heard a lot of good things about it. The first thing to say about the Handbook is that it is not a Bill James Abstract. James wrote several articles for the book, and “participates in the design and production” of the book (whatever that means), but this isn’t cover-to-cover Bill James. The good news is that the primary authors are Baseball Info Solutions – John Dewan and the guys who brought you The Fielding Bible.

The bulk of the book is the “Career Register,” which is 250+ pages of the basic career stats of every active major leaguer. It’s nothing more (and actually quite less) than you can find online, but is handy to have while you’re watching TV or riding the train.

To me, the real value of the book (it cost me $14.93) comes in James’ small essays and the unusual statistics scattered throughout. After the jump, some of the Reds-related tidbits. I’ll add a few more over the next few weeks:

  • “The Fielding Bible Awards” – This addresses a weakness in “non-statistical” evaluation of defense: All we really have is the Gold Glove Award, which (among many other flaws) only tells us the “best” fielder in each league. To go deeper, Dewan surveyed a panel of 10 experts, who voted 1st-through-10th, MVP-style. Only “regulars” were eligible. The ranking Reds (and former Reds):
  • Sean Casey – 14th at 1b.
  • Brandon Phillips – 11th at 2b.
  • Alex Gonzales – 4th at SS (Only appeared on 5 of 10 ballots, but was voted 2-2-3-3-5 when he was named).
  • Austin Kearns – 5th at RF.
  • Dave Ross – 20th at C (24 different guys received votes).
  • Bronson Arroyo – 14th at P.
  • Griffey and Dunn – received no votes.
  • Manager’s Record — James looks at all the MLB managers in several categories, including lineups, strategic moves, and pitching staff usage. Here’s how Jerry Narron looks:
  • Player usage
  • 140 Lineups in 162 games – More than any other NL manager. Most ranked around 115. This is definitely a tendency. He used 73 lineups in his 93 games after taking over from Dave Miley (remember him?) in 2005.
  • “Platoon Advantage” – 56% of the players in Reds’ starting lineup had the platoon advantage. That’s around average, but shows that all the lineup tinkering wasn’t the result of heavy platooning (and it shows the absence of any switch hitting regulars).
  • Pinch Hitters – 273, ranking in the upper half.
  • Pinch Runners – 23, around the middle of the pack.
  • Defensive substitutions – 46. Makes sense, given the “abilities” of his starting lineup.
  • Pitcher Use
  • Narron rates out as a “slow hook,” which makes a lot of sense, given the relative strengths of his rotation and bullpen.
  • Had 4 outings of > 120 pitches – I think those were all Harang. No worries.
  • Only 2 “long saves” (closer outings of >1 IP) – of course, I have no clue who the “closer” was on this team.
  • Narron used relievers on consecutive days 121 times, which was about in the middle. Though, given that this team used 24 different relievers over the season, it probably took some doing to use the same guy multiple days in a row.
  • Those 24 guys made 476 different appearances, giving the Reds an average of 3.9 pitchers per game. The saddest thing is that Narron wasn’t even close to the lead. Dusty Baker set a new major league record with 542 relief appearances.
  • Tactics
  • The Reds were involved in 157 steal attempts (theirs or their opponents), ranking 6th in the NL. My recollection is that the team really stopped running after Lopez was traded. Phillips, especially. Of course, that may have been more because they didn’t have anyone on base…
  • The Reds’ 86 sac bunt attempts ranked just in the bottom half of the league. Fairly average.
  • Same went for hit-and-runs and intentional walks.
  • Narron only pitched out 11 times, lowest in the league. I think pitchouts are pretty lame, myself. But maybe Dave Ross could use the help.
  • 3 thoughts on “Fun With Bill James

    1. Thanks for that Chris – I was actually eyeballing that book myself the other day but was underwhelmed when thumbing thru it at the stats available. Glad to know there are some positives to picking it up.

    2. It’s a great book, I’ve been getting it for 4 year snow and each year there is something new (manager stats, base running stats, etc..) Pick it up and you’re bound to get lost in it for an hour or more.

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