Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Baseball Prospectus 2015

Edited by Sam Miller and Jason Wojciechowski

We've hit the 20-year milestone in the publication history of the Baseball Prospectus. In that time, it has become a welcome sign of the approach of spring. Along the way, the series has taught us much about baseball, how it's played and what might happen in the months and years to come.

So what do people want to talk about when it comes to reviews on Amazon.com? The layout of this year's book. That's a new one, for this book and almost every other published volume.

Two points do come out rather quickly when taking the quickest of glances at this year's book. It's smaller than the 2014 edition by around 100 pages or so. When it comes to data, this is sort of like going from the Los Angeles phone book to the Dallas phone book. Huge to very big. There are a few players dropped from the sum total, but the 2015 version still has more than 2,000 players ranked. Someone who turns out to be significant might have slipped under the cracks, but the odds are against it. It's not a major problem for most.

Then there's the matter of design. The player capsules have been redone, so that there is less white space between lines and it might be a point of type size smaller. (OK, you try to tell the difference between 8 pt. and 9 pt.) It's a little bit more difficult to read. That's particular true because the line of type goes across almost seven inches of the page. It might work better to make each comments fit into two columns, with a little canyon of white space in between. Yes, it would expand the size of the book, but that could be attacked with slightly shorter comments or moving a few more players into the list of other players covered at the end of each team chapter.

Speaking of those catch-all sections, the type size and leading definitely has been reduced, making it somewhat intimidating to read. Personally, I glanced over the list looking for familiar names, and then moved on quickly. That's not the best idea in a book.

Otherwise, everything works out nicely. The writers obviously know what they are talking about, and there's a major effort to make the writing of each player capsule filled with fun and information. The team reviews, a couple of pages that serve as the introduction to the chapter, are for the most part well done.

The group at Baseball Prospectus have adopted the new statistics that have entered the game with zeal. There are all sorts of figures that come out here, and not just anagrams. There's good information on a variety of aspects of the game, and how that might affect future performance. In other words, there are such things as FIP and FRAA calculated, but they won't hurt your enjoyment of the book. If there's a lesson to be learned out of such work, it's that it's a reminder how athletically we all start declining in the mid-to-late 20s, and a typical player doesn't get very long to prove he should be or can stay a major leaguer.

As I've said before, "Baseball Prospectus" gets read here when it comes out, and then put away for reference during the course of a season. If there's a trade involving prospects, it's a primary resource for background information. It's a must-read for the major baseball enthusiast. Just make sure your glasses are clean before you start reading.

Four stars

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