March 9, 2011
THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR:
Baseball Prospectus: Best of fearless forecasters (Gordon Edes, 3/08/11, ESPN)
Here is how I describe it: The most entertaining, always challenging, occasionally confounding, wickedly funny preview of a baseball season that you could possibly wish for. It is not for the statistically faint of heart, but just as you don’t have to be a theoretical physicist to enjoy Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time, you don’t have to be a sapling on Bill James’ family tree to learn plenty from BP’s offering.
Goldman and his team of contributors (which no longer includes the inestimable Joe Sheehan, who now publishes his own, highly recommended newsletter) live to deconstruct anything that claims to be conventional wisdom on a given subject. Like David Ortiz’s claim, for example, that Fenway Park’s distant right-field fences have cost him “around 100” home runs over the years.
Team BP collected data, watched five years’ worth of video of balls Ortiz hit to the wall, sketched a diagram of where the Sox had contemplated moving the fences in, and concluded that Ortiz lost about 10 home runs in that span, not 100, or an average of 2 a year.
They can be unsparing in their criticism of the great (here’s BP on Derek Jeter: “For years, Jeter’s bat more than made up for the singles he allowed with his leather. That is still true, but the margin is shrinking and will soon vanish altogether”) and the obscure (On Daniel Nava: “On defense, Nava is lost: If his first instinct were to fall down and then run after the ball, it would look about the same as his current outfield strategy”).
But mostly, they’re smart, informed and bold in predicting how teams, players and prospects will fare in the coming year. Put it this way: It’s an oversized paperbound book too large for me to put in my laptop bag, but it goes with me wherever I go on the road.