Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Playing Hardball During The Offseason
Posted Dec 2, 2008 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Dec 3, 2008 at 11:24 PM
For baseball junkies, any kind of information is welcome during the offseason. In fact, it is cherished.
So when a book comes along with sharp, insightful writing, intriguing stories and a mountain of statistics, it is the perfect fix. And when a good deal of the focus centers around the Rays’ magical journey to the postseason, it is even better.
“The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009” (ACTA Sports, $21.95) will help baseball fans keep their sanity from the end of the World Series until the beginning of spring training.
You can put this book down, come back and turn to another page — and still be delighted with what you discover. True, the contributing writers are respected number crunchers, but they also deliver a human element with sharp wit and excellent analysis.
The Rays take center stage in a pair of feature stories — “Where the Devil did These Rays Come From? …” by Steve Treder; coupled with “… And How Did They Get Here?” by Matthew Carruth. Treder compares the Rays’ 2008 season with other teams that had turnaround seasons, including the 1969 Mets, 1914 Braves and 1991 Braves. And kudos for including the 1912 Senators and 1967 Cubs.
Carruth writes about the components that made the Rays successful in ’08 — a dramatically improved defense and a stronger bullpen. But he stumbles badly when he notes that Tropicana Field is located in Tampa.
The funniest line in the book might have been penned by Anthony Giacalone, who was writing about the 1968 season. (“Youth Culture and Baseball in 1968” )
“The boring baseball of the 1960s did not have repercussions in the wider world,” Giacalone writes. “No one ever said, ‘If only Eddie Bressoud stole more bases, then I’d stop protesting this war.’ ”
Bressoud, by the way, only stole nine bases in his 12-year major-league career and was caught 13 times.
Joe Posnanski, writing about possibly the greatest Hall of Fame class in history — the 2013 list of first timers could be a doozy and controversial, with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa all likely to be eligible — takes a swipe at the John Fogarty song, “Centerfield.” I guess Joe never saw the video, which makes the song even better.
Rob Neyer weighs in with a look at midseason trades, while Craig Wright recounts the eye-popping statistics of Honus Wagner after his 40th birthday. Definitely an absorbing read.
A glossary helps the casual fan wade through the formulas the writers use. There are some good ones, like PRC (Pitching Runs Created); GPA (Gross Production Average); WS (Win Shares, invented by numbers guru Bill James); and my favorite, BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play). Here is the formula for BABIP: a measure of the number of batted balls that safely fall in for hits (not including home runs).
There are comprehensive pitching, hitting and fielding statistics for each team, too.
It’s a total package of statistics, analysis, wit and commentary. That makes the wait for spring training that much easier to take.