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Nuggets From The Bill James Handbook

A couple of days ago I received "The Bill James Handbook" in the mail (from ACTA Sports).  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the handbook, it's 95% stats with a little commentary thrown in.  Earlier, I posted what the handbook had projected for the 2010 Angels, but here are a few other things I found interesting:

Team Efficiency Summary

The most efficient team in baseball is usually the Los Angeles Angels - anyway it was in 2009, and it was in 2008, and it has been in other years.  The Angels do little things so well that they are consistently able to grind five or ten more wins a year out of their team than what one would think was available.  We don't really understand how they do it, to be frank, but since they do it every year, we know it's not luck (emphasis mine).  Saying that they "do the little things well" is just a way of covering for the fact that we don't actually know how they do it.

Finally, someone (Bill James) has the balls to write that the unquantifiable success the Angels have had over the past few seasons is not because of luck.  Although James doesn't write what he thinks is the actual reason for the added wins, taking that first step away from calling it luck is satisfying.

Eff Wins
Act Wins Overall Eff
Angels 90 97 107
Mariners 81 85 106
Tigers 81 85 106
Astros 70 74 106






Fielding Bible Awards

The Handbook lists their version of Gold Glove winners for each defensive position.  There were no Angels listed at the top of any position rankings, but a couple were ranked within the top 5.

1B - Albert Pujols (Kendry Morales #7)
2B - Aaron Hill (Howie Kendrick #11, Maicer Izturis #17)
3B - Ryan Zimmerman (Chone Figgins #3)
SS - Jack Wilson (Erick Aybar #12)
LF - Carl Crawford (Juan Rivera #4)
CF - Franklin Gutierrez (Torii Hunter #9)
RF - Ichiro Suzuki (none)
C - Yadier Molina (Jeff Matis #7, Mike Napoli #16)
P - Mark Buehrle (none)

Nothing too surprising here.  Having not seen Zimmerman play much, I'll just have to take their word for it that he was better than Figgins at 3B (Adrian Beltre was ranked #2), but in the next section of the handbook, they list the "runs saved"  and "plus/minus" leaders and Figgins is at the top of both categories at third.

Runs Saved and Plus/Minus Leaders

Runs saved and plus/minus leaders are two more metrics to evaluate a player's defense.  Plus/minus is measured by how often fielders turn grounders and flyballs into outs, while runs saved adds in arms, double plays, CERA and other defensive traits.  The handbook lists the leaders for each position for the last 3 years, but below are the leaders for the 2009 season:

Runs Saved
1B - Albert Pujols 12 (Kendry Morales 6)    Worst - Adam Dunn -18
2B - Ian Kinsler 23 (Howie Kendrick 7, Maicer Izturis 6)    Worst - Alexi Casilla -12
3B - Chone Figgins 31 (Ryan Zimmerman was #2 with 22 runs saved)    Worst - Mike Lowell -18
SS - Jack Wilson 27 (no Angel listed)    Worst - Orlando Cabrera -33
LF - Carl Crawford 24 (Juan Rivera 23)    Worst - Chris Coghlan -16
CF - Franklin Gutierrez 31 (no Angel listed)    Worst - Dexter Fowler -14
RF - Hunter Pence 19 (no Angel listed)    Worst - Jose Guillen -17
C - Rob Johnson 8 (Jeff Mathis 4)    Worst - Victor Martinez -12
P - Mark Buehrle 11 (no Angel listed)    Worst - Brad Penny -7

1B - Albert Pujols +14 (Kendry Morales +9)    Worst - Adam Dunn -24
2B - Ian Kinsler +24 (Howie Kendrick +5)   Worst - Alberto Callaspo -19
3B - Chone Figgins +40 (#2 Ryan Zimmerman +28)    Worst - Mike Lowell -23
SS - Jack Wilson +32 (no Angel listed)    Worst - Orlando Cabrera -40
LF - Carl Crawford +32 (Juan Rivera #2 with +26)    Worst - Ryan Bruan -31
CF - Franklin Gutierrez +43 (no Angel listed)    Worst - Vernon Wells -30
RF - Ichiro Suzuki +21 (Bobby Abreu -18)    Worst - Jermaine Dye -28
C - Not compiled
P - Mark Buerhle +9 (no Angel listed)    Worst - Derek Lowe -7

The two things that stand out the most to me were how good both Figgins and Rivera were in 2009.  Figgins saved 9 more runs than any other 3B, while Rivera was rated just slightly behind the most highly touted Carl Crawford.  By the way, free agent left fielder Matt Holliday ranked #3, and Jason Bay finished in the bottom 5 of the 3-year rating.  Bay's lack of range was probably aided by playing in front of the Monster in Boston as he was not in the bottom 5 in 2009.  If the Angels are considering signing either of these two players, the smart choice would be Holliday and moving Rivera to RF.

Ballpark Effects

The handbook looks at each teams' ballpark's effect on hitting using indices that "are calculated in a way that neutralizes the effect of a team's makeup and isolates the effects of the park...a park with an index of exactly 100 is neutral and be said to have no effect on that particular stat.  An index above 100 means the ballpark favors that statistic.  For example, if a park has a home run index of 120, it was 20% easier to hit home runs in that park then the rest of the parks in that team's league."

Angel Stadium of Anaheim had a home run index of 123; 116 for left-handed hitters and 129 for right-handed hitters.  The 123 rating ranked 2nd behind Yankee Stadium as the easiest park in the majors to hit a home run in (Cincinnati was the easiest in the NL with a 119).  The hardest park in the AL to hit one out of was Progressive Field in Cleveland with a rating of 67.  What's strange with the Angels high rating was that it is out of character with the park's 3-year average.  Angel Stadium has been almost neutral over the last three years with a rating of 101.  It'd be interesting to see someone figure out what happened to the stadium to cause such a large increase, especially if the calculations are supposed to isolate the park effects regardless of the team makeup, and there were no dimensional changes made to the ballpark.

There's much more covered within the handbook and all of it is very interesting, especially if you're into numbers.  Also, it's very handy to have the stats within one book for quick reference while watching the game or answering a trivia question.