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Bill James Presents... Stats All-Time Major League Handbook
by Bill James
ISBN 1884064523 / 9781884064524 / 1-884064-52-3
Publisher Stats Inc
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Just what the sports world needs, another baseball encyclopedia, right? Don't scoff. If you're a true fan, there is never enough information, never enough stats, never enough raw data. So what sets this 2,696-page, eye-scrunching, numbers-crunching rookie apart from its more established veterans, the venerable Baseball Encyclopedia and its modern cousin Total Baseball? For starters, it has the name-recognition cachet of Bill James.
James pretty much revolutionized baseball statistics in the '70s and '80s; finding deeper meanings in the numbers, he extrapolated new statistical categories that gave the numbers deeper meaning, like runs created for hitters and the amalgamation he called a pitcher's component ERA. And when it comes to numbers, the Handbook packs a powerful lineup. Which is both its strength and weakness. James, to his credit, understood that going in. The Handbook, he admits, is not for everyone.
On the plus side, the entry for Steve Carlton, as James points out in his introduction to establish comparisons, has 625 statistics to describe his stellar 24-year career in Baseball Encyclopedia, and a slightly different set of 625 numbers in Total Baseball. The Handbook almost triples that to 1,795. Does everyone need all that? Of course not. Does anyone? "Only," suggests James, "if you're a baseball fan"--more accurately, an amazingly dedicated one--because if you are, "you want the sharpest and clearest picture of a player's skills that you can get."
The Handbook provides that picture through its myriad numbers for every player to ever make it to the Bigs. What it won't give you are those important, comparative lists of all-time and seasonal leaders, or the provocative essays that beg for debate. However, James steps onto that field in his follow-up at-bat, the Handbook's equally titanic companion volume, All-Time Major League Sourcebook, which includes seasonal summaries and box scores of every postseason game every played. Together, they aspire to be the statistical equivalent of Murderers' Row. --Jeff Silverman [via]