Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Review: Baseball Prospectus 2023

Edited by Ben Crasley, Robert O'Connell, and Ginny Searle

There have been baseball seasons without the Baseball Prospectus, of course. We're only in the 28th edition of the annual publication. But we certainly weren't as smart back then before BP as are now, and we probably didn't have as many laughs along the way.

Data and fun have been a good combination over the years for this book, and it's back as the thinking man's (or thinking woman's) preview to the baseball season. Having reviewed this publication for several of those years, it's rather tough to come up with observations. But let's try anyway.

There has been a revolution in baseball in terms of analytics during those 28 years, as experts have been coming up with new ways to rate and judge players and teams. If you aren't suffering from information overload yet, you probably either work in the industry or haven't been paying that much attention. There are a few new ways of looking at the stats this year, and they no doubt are well thought out and helpful. Just don't ask me to explain the changes. 

All of the data has become a bit of a problem in this book, which has a paragraph on just about everyone who figures to play a role during the course of the baseball season. Baseball Prospectus uses a bunch of numbers on its own, which take a bit of effort to learn. They are listed in a table that goes with each biography. I've tried to pick up the ones that seem relevant as I skim through the listings, leaving out some of the promising minor leaguers who probably won't be worth following for the time being (except on a favorite team).

If you taken the Prospectus' numbers, and add in the advanced figures that are now out there thanks to major league baseball, you have the possibility of overwhelming the reader. Some of the writers are a little guilty of that, which makes it slightly tough going at times. 

Speaking of the writers, they come from a good-sized tradition of coming up with odd analogies and funny lines. It's a good way to bring some levity to a subject that can be a little dry. This year the humor is somewhat hit or miss in terms of presentation. Some are good at it, some aren't.

While the individual comments are the meat and potatoes of the book, the team summaries always have been a favorite. The analysts do a fine job of breaking down the big picture on all 30 teams.

Maybe there have been better, more accessible editions of Baseball Prospectus in the past. But it's still more than worth your time if you are willing to wade into the waters. The book, as usual, figures to be pulled off the shelf quite frequently as the baseball season continues.

Four stars

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