Winks and Links
I have been fortunate to join up with some of the best publications of late and wanted to share these contributions with you. The quantity and quality of information is better today than ever.
The Hardball Times 2007 Season Preview is now available. It can be purchased as a printed book or in the format of a PDF file. The Season Preview, which features a beautiful photo of Felix Hernandez on the cover, "contains three-year statistical projections for virtually all major leaguers and many minor leaguers, as well as reviews of every major league team and several general articles."
Editor Dave Studeman asked me to write the team commentary for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the style of the "Team in a Box" format from the Bill James Baseball Books from the early 1990s. My article can be found here.
I also contributed an article in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007. This is a fabulous book with some of the best batted ball information available anywhere. You get 350 pages of commentary, history, analysis, and statistics, including Win Shares and Win Probability Added. My entry was entitled, "2006: The Year of the Rookie." The 4,500-word, six-page essay includes the following paragraph:
Spearheaded by the foursome of Liriano, Papelbon, Verlander, and Weaver, this class of first-year pitchers could be the best since 1984 when Rookies of the Year Dwight Gooden (17-9, 2.60) and Mark Langston (17-10, 3.40) were joined by Roger Clemens (9-4, 4.32), Orel Hershiser (11-8, 2.66), Ron Darling (12-9, 3.81), and Mark Gubicza (10-14, 4.05). Given the unpredictable nature of pitchers, this year's Fab Four could be caught or surpassed in due time by any number of their fellow rookies, including Chad Billingsley, Boof Bonser, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Rich Hill, Chuck James, Josh Johnson, Adam Loewen, John Maine, Scott Olsen, Anthony Reyes, Anibal Sanchez, James Shields, and/or Jeremy Sowers.
Team and division commentaries are in demand during spring training. With that in mind, I participated in the Hope and Faith project at Baseball Prospectus by covering the Los Angeles Angels. The title of the article is "How the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Can Win the World Series" (subscription required). Here is an excerpt:
The pitching staff is tops in the American League. Last year, the team had the third-best ERA (4.04) while tying for first in strikeouts and allowing the fewest home runs in the league. It doesn't take much imagination to envision the Halos surpassing the Twins (especially given the absence of Francisco Liriano and Brad Radke, and the possible inclusion of Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson in this year's Minnesota rotation), and one can make the case that they were better than Detroit in 2006. Sure, the Tigers had a lower ERA, but the Angels put up superior K/9 (7.2 vs. 6.2), BB/9 (2.9 vs. 3.0) and H/9 (8.7 vs. 8.8).
Lackey has emerged as a top-of-the-rotation starter, ranking in the top half dozen in the AL in IP (217.2), ERA (3.56) and K (190). Kelvim Escobar, Ervin Santana, and Jered Weaver round out what could be described as one of the best foursomes in the league. Joe Saunders should be a capable fifth and, speaking of hope and faith, what if Bartolo Colon magically returns to his 2005 Cy Young form upon his return later in the season? (I know, let's set aside for a moment whether or not Colon deserved it.) A bullpen led by K-Rod, Shields, and the newly-acquired Justin Speier means the seventh, eighth and ninth innings are pretty well taken care of most nights.
Brad Wochomurka and I also talked about the Angels' chances on Baseball Prospectus Radio. You can listen to the 10-minute discussion here.
In the meantime, don't forget to pick up Baseball Prospectus 2007 if you haven't already. I have all of the editions going back to 2001.
I also had a (very) small part in the new book, "How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball." An All-Star cast of contributors (John Dewan, Gary Huckabay, Steve Moyer, Daryl Morey, Rob Neyer, Hal Richman, Alan Schwarz, Ron Shandler, Dave Studeman, John Thorn, and Sam Walker) each wrote a chapter, as did Bill and his wife, Susan McCarthy. My contribution was nothing more than a two-paragraph sidebar on page 40, which included the following opening lines:
I believe Bill James is the most influential person in baseball with respect to how insiders and serious fans think about the game of baseball since Branch Rickey. He challenged long-held consensus viewpoints by researching such issues and presenting indisputable evidence to the contrary in many cases.
The book, edited by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce and published by ACTA Sports, is a breezy, 136-page read. I recommend picking up a copy as it promises to be a worthwhile addition to your library of Bill James books.
Lastly, I would like to point readers to award-winning columnist Joe Posnanski's new blog, The Soul of Baseball. It is a blog dedicated to the memory of John "Buck" O'Neil. Joe wrote "The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America." The book went on sale earlier this month. You can read an excellent interview with Alex Belth at Bronx Banter and an excerpt here.
I hooked up with Joe last week to discuss the NL West. He asked me 21 questions, mostly about the Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants (in no particular order...all right, that is how I see the division ending up) but also plays word association on a totally separate topic:
OK, let's play a word association game. I'll say a word, and you say the first thing that comes to mind. The word is, hmm, let me think of a good one ... BLYLEVEN.
HALL OF FAMER.
Is Opening Day really just two weeks away?