Many baseball fans from the "Baby Boomer" generation haven't really bought into the immense change in how statistics are viewed. They still look at the game with their eyes and are only concerned with the numbers on the back of the baseball card. For those of us more immersed in the details of the game, the man who guided us through the wilderness is Bill James. Starting in the late 70's, he published an annual "Baseball Abstract" that began the task of analyzing data in new and different ways. By 1985, he wrote the first "Historical Baseball Abstract" and that 700+ page volume still sits on the bookshelf in my office.
For fantasy baseball players who play in keeper leagues, Bill also helps us get through the winter while we're longing for box scores. Each November, The Bill James Handbook gives us a review of the season, lifetime stats of every major league player and numerous articles and lists to make the "hot stove" season tolerable. The 2014 version is available now and at 570 pages, offers just about something for everyone. The Old Duck has an annual exercise, where I take my initial cursory glance at the book and begin discovering information that surprises and enlightens me.
So, here are some random observations from my first time through the pages...
> Using defensive runs saved as the metric, the two best defensive teams in 2013 were the Royals (92) and Diamondbacks (90).
> The best ERA by starting pitchers was 3.13 for the Dodgers and the best bullpen ERA of 2.46 belonged to the Braves.
> Yasiel Puig didn't get to the Dodgers until June but still led all of baseball by making 11 outs on the basepaths.
> Freddie Freeman led the Majors in foul balls hit with 561. He also had the highest ratio of called balls to called strikes...taking 925 pitches for balls and only 185 pitches for strikes. For a 24- year-old player, this is incredible strike zone judgment.
> Norichika Aoki was the only major league player to hit over 300 ground balls (328).
> The most line drives were hit by Matt Carpenter with 145.
> Kyle Seager led the Majors in fly balls and pop outs with 223.
> James Shields was behind the batter 1-0 after one pitch 401 times in 2013, the most in baseball.
> 72% of major league pitchers have an average fastball velocity over 90 miles per hour.
> Adrian Gonzalez had the most "productive outs" in baseball with 45...Daniel Murphy had the most "unproductive outs" with 97.
> Miguel Cabrera led the AL by hitting .400 with runners in scoring position (RISP), but two NL hitters were even better...Allen Craig at .454 and Freddie Freeman at .443.
> Alcides Escobar had 22 stolen bases and wasn't caught even once.
> Evan Gattis hit the longest home run at 486 feet.
> Joel Peralta led the Majors in Holds with 41.
> Stephen Strasburg threw 1,260 pitches that were 95+ mph.
> Jamey Wright has hit 151 batters in his career.
> Carlos Gomez robbed five home runs in 2013...no other OF had more than two. Torii Hunter is the career leader with 12.
Hope that whets your appetite for the off-season. And we didn't even talk about "Win Shares" or the "Hall of Fame Monitor." As for me, the remaining 500 pages awaits.