Bill James Bio?

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does anyone have the inside scoop on this? Any word out there on the SABR list or BP?

gygax! (gygax!), Wednesday, 26 October 2005 20:44 (seventeen years ago) link

First I've heard of it.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 26 October 2005 20:50 (seventeen years ago) link

The chapter in Moneyball was enough for me.

polyphonic (polyphonic), Wednesday, 26 October 2005 21:46 (seventeen years ago) link

The reason why I ask:

Scott Gray is a musician and nonfiction writer. He served as consulting editor on a series of nine sports titles for Ballantine and is the author of:

Chicks Rule: The Story of the Dixie Chicks
Heart Song: The Story of Jewel
On Her Way: The Shania Twain Story
Perfect Harmony: The Faith Hill and Tim McGraw Story.
Livin' On Country: The Alan Jackson Story

He was raised in Oklahoma and lives in New York City and Charlottesville, VA.

I think it's Yanc3y's pseudonym.

gygax! (gygax!), Wednesday, 26 October 2005 21:58 (seventeen years ago) link

this book should be RIVETING

j blount (papa la bas), Thursday, 27 October 2005 03:49 (seventeen years ago) link

I hope there's lots more about his stint as the watchman in the pork-and-beans plant.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 27 October 2005 12:18 (seventeen years ago) link

this is hardly a bio nyah? more like a summary or collection of his writing & thoughts on baseball.

John (jdahlem), Thursday, 27 October 2005 13:57 (seventeen years ago) link

five months pass...
Gleeman on the book:

I can attest that Bill is not as svelte as the bobblehead (last I saw him).

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Monday, 27 March 2006 16:36 (sixteen years ago) link

"I think that some people have the idea that we understand baseball and there are some gray areas we just have to tidy up. My notion is that baseball is an ocean and what we have figured out is about the size of a swimming pool. That's not just about baseball. It's about the world in general. What we have figured out is really insignificant compared to everything that's out there, but it doesn't diminish our ability to get it done."

--writer Bill James, on using baseball statistics to understand the game (Palm Beach Post)

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Monday, 3 April 2006 16:08 (sixteen years ago) link

four years pass...

he'll be appearing on The Simpsons this season

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 5 August 2010 21:32 (twelve years ago) link

a harvard lampoon alum wrote him in no doubt

sanskrit, Friday, 6 August 2010 02:17 (twelve years ago) link

Different book, but I bought and read this last year:

Truthfully, it wasn't all that exciting. You had a number of contributors saying the same thing 14 different ways.

clemenza, Friday, 6 August 2010 18:44 (twelve years ago) link

pretty sure I overheard Bill telling a Noodles Hahn anecdote this morning

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 8 August 2010 05:03 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

bought the paperback historical baseball abstract for $1 @ a book sale and there was a $2 bill inside

johnny crunch, Saturday, 28 July 2012 17:53 (ten years ago) link

Hard not to read this thread title as akin to Ronny James Dio.

congratulations (n/a), Saturday, 28 July 2012 18:27 (ten years ago) link

Has he (or anyone similar) ever written about team win/loss streaks... in season only, not the plexiglass principle.

queequeg (peter grasswich), Tuesday, 31 July 2012 19:37 (ten years ago) link

Probably the year after the Tigers' 35-5 start (meaning the '85 Abstract), James wrote a long thing on when a fast start starts to become significant; i.e., 5-0 doesn't mean much, 10-0 means a lot, etc. That's the only related thing I remember.

clemenza, Tuesday, 31 July 2012 19:58 (ten years ago) link

three weeks pass...

A couple of you in the past have indicated that James may have lost something over the years, that he's now part of the same baseball establishment he once questioned at every turn. Most of the time I still love reading him, but sometimes he'll write things that do make me wonder. There were back-to-back "Ask Bill"s this morning that were puzzling.

1) One thing I still remember from an old Abstract is where he tried to systematically look at a player's IQ based on factors like strike-zone judgement, number of caught stealings, the ability to improve over time, etc. I remember he identified Alfredo Griffin as the dumbest player in baseball--he may have stopped short of using those exact words--and, I think, Lou Whitaker as the smartest. He got a question today complaining about Alfonso Soriano, and whether he still thinks baseball intelligence can be quantified.

"I don't think you can reliably infer intelligence from a player's baseball statistics, no. I do think we could do a better job of charting on-field mistakes, and perhaps in that way identifying players who just don't play the game very well."

2) Right before that, there was a question on whether or not to shut down Strasburg, which was basically the exact same question he fielded a month ago.

(July 13) "No, I wouldn't shut him down. I never understood the logic by which limiting the growth of innings pitched year to year could protect a pitcher, and I think most serious analysts agree that that was just sloppy research."

(today) "Well...I think (shutting him down) is reasonable, yes...Strasburg is coming back from Tommy John, and he is still very young. You're asking him to do A LOT for a pitcher one year away from Tommy John, and you're exposing a 23, 24-year-old pitcher to a full workload."

Not that I know the right answer myself, but there's quite a disconnect there.

clemenza, Tuesday, 21 August 2012 14:57 (ten years ago) link

The first problem seemed poorly stated to begin with. And what's so strange about him changing his mind 30 years later? I'm sure that plenty of things in the early Abstracts were written on a whim anyway.

There isn't necessarily a contradiction in the Strasburg stuff ... I would agree that it's reasonable to shut him down, but at the same time, I wouldn't do it.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Tuesday, 21 August 2012 16:25 (ten years ago) link

I'm always quoting and defending James, so it's weird for me to take the other side. Changing or modifying your views over time, especially as it relates to the availability of more and better information, is a good thing--actually, James's vigilance against being boxed in by dogma is one of the greatest things about him. The reason the first one caught my eye is that it does seem to line up with the idea that he's more reluctant to pointedly criticize players since he joined the Red Sox. This makes sense--once you've had more direct contact with players on the inside, it stands to reason you're a little more guarded about doing things like trying to quantify their intelligence. (Not to mention that people generally soften with age anyway.) It's just something I noticed.

With Strasburg (I didn't quote either of his answers in full), more than the first issue, I do find the contrast strange. His first response was an emphatic no, there's no reason to shut him down (the rest of his answer: "I think they need to be careful with Strasburg, perhaps limit his pitches, be extra careful about looking for signs of fatigue. But drawing an innings limit and pretending that that's somehow going to protect him is perilously close to magical thinking"). The second could have come from the Nationals' GM himself.

clemenza, Tuesday, 21 August 2012 16:42 (ten years ago) link

nine months pass...

did anyone read his true crime book

turds (Hungry4Ass), Friday, 24 May 2013 17:18 (nine years ago) link

Yeah. He's kind of a nut nowadays, but I thought it was a fun read.

Panaïs Pnin (The Yellow Kid), Friday, 24 May 2013 18:50 (nine years ago) link

I read the crime book and--no bias here--liked it fine. Don't think I've read any true-crime books other than In Cold Blood, though, so that was a limitation of sorts.

clemenza, Friday, 24 May 2013 19:32 (nine years ago) link

i heard it was kinda wackadoo

turds (Hungry4Ass), Friday, 24 May 2013 19:40 (nine years ago) link

It is kinda, but that's almost part of its charm. He keeps coming up with formulas to calculate like "how sordid was this crime on a scale of 1-20" or whatever, it's pretty funny.

Panaïs Pnin (The Yellow Kid), Friday, 24 May 2013 19:50 (nine years ago) link

Bobby Valentine said he didn't hear from Bill once when he managed Boston, so if he's a nut he may be crazy like a fox.

ballin' from Maine to Mexico (Dr Morbius), Friday, 24 May 2013 22:48 (nine years ago) link

three years pass...

Won't be able to read this till later tonight. It's long, free for now, and surely has lots for everyone to hate.

clemenza, Friday, 27 January 2017 23:08 (six years ago) link

mostly just clueless

mookieproof, Saturday, 28 January 2017 02:04 (six years ago) link

"But it rather seems to me that you could and should have won this election by, oh, I don’t know, 538 to nothing or thereabouts" is a good place to start.

clemenza, Saturday, 28 January 2017 02:45 (six years ago) link

This is not directed at you personally, mookie, but I don't really understand the ILX tendency to brush aside people like James, Marcus, and Christgau--older writers who don't necessarily have the visibility or the influence they once had; I suspect if Kael were still writing, especially somewhere other than the New Yorker, she'd get the same treatment--with curt dismissals. Your post reminds me of some of the reaction when I linked to Marcus explaining months ago why Trump might win. I don't agree with everything James writes, but there's a lot there, and I'd say at least half of it is spot-on. It's as good an election postmortem as just about anything I've read from people who write about politics for a living.

clemenza, Saturday, 28 January 2017 14:48 (six years ago) link

haha i actually thought about going deeper last night but figured why bother. 'clueless' was the wrong adjective, tbf.

i haven't read a great deal of james, marcus or christgau. i have nothing at all against marcus. i think christgau is a prick and while i respect his sheer dedication to listening to literally everything, i've generally found his reviews to be useless. it's impressive that he turned being gnomic into a career, but whatever.

i respect james' grasp of statistics and willingness to challenge the received baseball wisdom of 30-40 years ago. he was a pioneer and his ideas have won the day in the game. i don't think any of that makes him a particularly insightful political commentator. among baseball writers alone, i suspect keith law and rany jazayerli and jonah keri have much more useful things to say about politics.

in this particular piece, i find his suggestions risible. these are not ideas on how the democrats can win kansas; they are ideas on how the democrats can win his (idiosyncratic) personal full support.

a package of severe inheritance taxes, intense business regulation, free college education, and massive support for inner cities doesn't really sound like a winner in kansas. nor do these interventionist policies square with his insistence that national health care be jettisoned.

Well, it is every bit as despicable to call someone a racist who is not a racist as it is to actually be a racist; in fact, I would argue that it is more despicable to do this, since it both promotes racism and debases public discourse.

this is straight-up bullshit, as is his insistence that neither trump nor jeff sessions nor anyone involved is a *real* racist.

if bill james wants to talk about baseball i'd be happy to listen. he has no particular expertise elsewhere and his (horribly written) political tracts are no different than any other 67-year-old dude ranting on facebook.

mookieproof, Sunday, 29 January 2017 01:56 (six years ago) link

Explanations help--much prefer that kind of response than the one-line dismissal.

I think he goes a little off the rails when he argues for the Nazi-in-all-of-us. I'm pretty self-critical, I think--have often written about my passive-aggressive vindictiveness--but I don't think I'm secretly harboring a Nazi inside.

I was surprised he went anywhere near race. He regularly ducks baseball questions that are too close to his job with the Red Sox, so why he thought that would be a good subject to take up, I don't know. I think some of what he says is good: "You’re letting David Duke out of his cage. If you call a million people racists, he’s just one of the millions, just another guy," and "you might as well put $20 in an envelope and mail it to Rush Limbaugh." The line you quoted above--the "more despicable" formulation--no.

I don't know if his prescriptions more accurately represent Kansas or him alone. He's been writing about Kansas regularly for almost 40 years, so I'm inclined to trust that he has some understanding of the subject, but I really don't know.

Other than choosing to write it as an open letter, a device I never like, couldn't disagree more with "horribly written." I think his influence as a writer may even outweigh his influence as a baseball analyst.

clemenza, Sunday, 29 January 2017 05:54 (six years ago) link

Knowing almost nothing abt SABR/James apart from a skimread of Moneyball once, I gave his true crime bk a go a little while back and thought it was atrocious - ignorant, reactionary, bombastic and self-regarding. And yes, horribly written. I mean, I don't like Christgau, and have huge problems w/ Kael and Marcus, but all three of them can turn a sentence on occasion, whereas James really can't (I was just about to write that he reads like a typical pompous old git on Facebook until I saw mookieproof's final sentence!)

Bongo Herbert (Ward Fowler), Sunday, 29 January 2017 11:11 (six years ago) link

I read very little true crime, but I liked James's book just fine (since then, I've read books about Paul Bernardo, Charles Whitman, Richard Speck, and Manson). We must have very different Facebook feeds--the people over 50 on mine aren't the problem.

Sensing there's not a great future for this discussion. But I do agree Kael can turn a sentence on occasion.

clemenza, Sunday, 29 January 2017 14:36 (six years ago) link

That article was very James-ian, that's for sure. I agreed strongly with some parts, shook my head in frustration in other parts, and wondered why he took so long to get to the point for at least half of it. In other words, I had much the same reaction as I do with his baseball writing.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Monday, 30 January 2017 12:02 (six years ago) link

He just opened it up to reader comments last night--waited two days before doing so; good idea with contentious online material, I think, forces people to think about what they want to say, instead of just venting--and it looks like he'll be putting in some time defending parts of it. (The early focus seems to be the idea that Clinton is as corrupt as Trump.) I like the way one reader puts it:

"I think there's a split in the article, between (1) the basic message -- which I think is just about 100% right on (and yes, as was suggested in a 'Hey Bill' post, I hope it will be widely disseminated); and (2) the specific suggestions, which I think are problematic, no less so than the specific things that the Democratic Party was putting forth."

clemenza, Monday, 30 January 2017 12:36 (six years ago) link

seven months pass...

Blaming Republicans for Trump is like blaming Poland for Adolph. He invaded the party and took over. What were they supposed to do about it?

— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) August 5, 2017

missed this bit of keen political insight

mookieproof, Friday, 1 September 2017 01:03 (five years ago) link



i'm gonna guess he still doesn't think trump and sessions are racists

Karl Malone, Friday, 1 September 2017 01:27 (five years ago) link

I can read some of his political stuff; sometimes I just stop and head elsewhere. The worst thing is, when people write in to question him on something, he's at his most abrasive. (Aka, rudest.) I think he said he voted for Hillary, reluctantly.

clemenza, Friday, 1 September 2017 01:43 (five years ago) link

was there any other way?

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Friday, 1 September 2017 02:43 (five years ago) link

two weeks pass...

He's got a new book coming out next week. Not about Trump, so it should be safe. (Evidently co-written with his daughter.)

clemenza, Tuesday, 19 September 2017 02:15 (five years ago) link

seven months pass...

If the Orioles traded Manny Machado, I don't know if they would stay in competition this summer.

— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) May 1, 2018

mookieproof, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 17:52 (four years ago) link

Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child.

clemenza, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 21:41 (four years ago) link

three weeks pass...

okay, this was funny

Did you know that Mike Trout has never in his career been credited with a Sacrifice Bunt? Complete player, my ass. . .

— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) May 23, 2018

mookieproof, Wednesday, 23 May 2018 14:49 (four years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Giving money to political candidates is NOT helpful. What is helpful is NOT giving money to political candidates. If you have a Dumpster Fire on your left and a Dumpster Fire on your right, you don't put firewood in either dumpster.

— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) June 15, 2018

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 15 June 2018 21:43 (four years ago) link

Is he a libertarian?

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 15 June 2018 21:43 (four years ago) link

Not a Pandora's Box worth opening...

clemenza, Friday, 15 June 2018 21:47 (four years ago) link

you should never put firewood in any dumpster, regardless of whether it's on fire or not

obviously DLC (Karl Malone), Friday, 15 June 2018 21:49 (four years ago) link

three weeks pass...

His Twitter feed is on the front page of his site now. He's got a poll question up there this morning: "If you could have Bryce Harper or Andrew Benintendi for the rest of his career, who would you want?"

Answer aside, I believe that's what's called sticking-it-to-you on Seinfeld.

clemenza, Monday, 9 July 2018 13:11 (four years ago) link

There's a card of him this year you can also get as a poster.

timellison, Saturday, 21 July 2018 22:10 (four years ago) link

francisF, Monday, 7 September 2020 06:15 (two years ago) link

It's an obvious reference to frequent On Cinema guest Gregg Turkington's heroic Guinness World Record feat to watch 501 movies in 501 days

francisF, Monday, 7 September 2020 06:21 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

Buried in a long post today on players who had more WAR than their league's MVP:

"WAR just ignores that, and thus implicitly assumes that the Giants are a better team than the Reds. My opinion is that this is Dumb, but then, nobody asked me. But when you apply it to individuals, Mays winds up with more WAR (8.7 to 7.7), while Robinson winds up with more Win Shares, 41 to 38. I feel strongly that my conclusion is right, Win Shares is right, and theirs is wrong. And I still expect to win the argument eventually, in history, simply because I am right and they are wrong."

No timeline on eventually.

clemenza, Saturday, 31 October 2020 03:44 (two years ago) link

four months pass...

I was looking for a different thread where I could post this...some thread on "intangibles" or "leadership" or "old baseball players/writers never die." I think there's one like that somewhere, but I can't remember the title.

Anyway, James on the famous 1979 NL MVP race, which he thinks should have gone to Schmidt or Winfield. However:

But also, let's acknowledge OUR blindness. Willie Stargell had real leadership value. Dave Parker told this story...I'm sure he has probably told this story a thousand times, but I happened to hear it directly from him, so it made an impact on me. The Pirates flew in to Montreal for a critical late-season series (almost certainly 9-16-1979). Montreal was technically in first place, 87-57, .604, the Pirates at 88-58, .603. It was Sunday night; they got into Montreal pretty late. The bus driver who picked them up at the airport "got lost" and drove them all over Montreal for 2 hours before he took them to their hotel, and the guys on the bus were angry about it, shouting stuff at the bus driver. Finally Pops (Stargell) stood up and said, "Guys, don't worry about it. You just remember this when we take the field tomorrow." They beat the Expos two in a row.

Leadership is a real thing. You win games because of it. David Ortiz and Willie Stargell have a lot of things in common, a lot of things. David just has a natural leadership. He knows how to stand up and say something, when to stand up and say something. We won a lot of games because of it. It's hard to put it on a balance sheet, but it's there.

clemenza, Tuesday, 2 March 2021 04:15 (one year ago) link

totally told this story before, but

in march of 1977, when i was 5.5 years old, we went to visit my grandmother in florida. (iirc she lived in boca raton, which was well away from bradenton, so maybe my dad was all like fuck that, we're going to bradenton!)

anyway we went to a pirates spring training game, which was a bit less formal 45 years ago, and i was encouraged to go down to the railing to get autographs, which i did, until willie stargell looked at me and said . . . now what do you say? and like a year later i blurted out 'thank you?'

anyway willie stargell by no means deserved the 1979 NL MVP but he was my hero (and i suspect david ortiz may have had a similar impact, which is why i have no qualms whatsoever supporting him for the HoF)

mookieproof, Tuesday, 2 March 2021 04:56 (one year ago) link

I had never seen his post-2016 thing and wow

This is just... aggressively ahistorical.

If you want a catalogue of your failures along this line perhaps we will do that another time. (Prohibition, Lyndon Johnson’s great society, Bill Clinton’s trade policies, the Warren Court’s willy-nilly extension of legal rights, triggering a massive increase in crime, Obama’s health care initiative.)

Joe Bombin (milo z), Tuesday, 2 March 2021 06:12 (one year ago) link

Morbius and I argued about the concept of mystique once--I thought it was a fair thing to apply to certain players, he thought it was an empty abstraction.

Stargell was one of those players I'd apply it to in the context of when I started to watch baseball, right at the beginning of the '70s. The 48 HR he hit in '71 was the most by anybody between Killebrew in '69 and Foster in '77--i.e., for me, the benchmark for hitting home runs. And his 40/40 season in '73, 40 doubles and 40 HR, that felt like science-fiction.

I think my single biggest regret as a baseball fan might be (as I posted on another thread) tuning out in '79 and missing the whole We-Are-Family mania and Stargell's swan song.

clemenza, Tuesday, 2 March 2021 15:42 (one year ago) link

Meant to say, that's a great story, mookie.

clemenza, Tuesday, 2 March 2021 15:43 (one year ago) link

Had to laugh at this--his arbitrariness when it comes to reader e-mail is often staggering.

What broadcast teams do you like to listen to past or present while watching a baseball game? (If any)
Asked by: chauncynnts

Answered: 3/7/2021
I'm not in the opinion business, you know?

clemenza, Tuesday, 9 March 2021 16:27 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

Sorry, this is becoming an obsession: James's arbitrary rudeness.

Reader e-mail yesterday:

A friend and I were discussing the relative values of SP across eras
Asked by: willibphx

Answered: 4/24/2021
Sign Posts? Signal Patrols? Starter's Pistols? Sunday Prayers? Sausage Patties? Snappy Patter? Singing Performance? Street Parking? Sorry...I don't speak acronyms.

James cut the e-mail off there; I'm quite sure "SP" was very clear in the context of the whole question. So the same guy wrote back today:

My apologies, I mistakenly assumed that SP was common vernacular for this audience. To try again, how would you compare the value of two starting pitchers in different eras...

And the question went on there. This time, James answered.

Honest to god--getting the guy to write twice because James wanted to make a point, even though anyone reading would have fully understood him the first time. I remember James, 35 years ago, writing something to the effect that the reason he started self-publishing was because he wanted to be able to mention Babe Ruth without stopping to explain who Babe Ruth was; now he makes an issue of making people explain that SP means starting pitcher.

clemenza, Saturday, 24 April 2021 21:10 (one year ago) link

are these questions are from people who pay him money for the privilege of asking? either way, adler otm

mookieproof, Saturday, 24 April 2021 22:02 (one year ago) link

Definitely, and I did think about it--the questioners (as I am) are paying. It's a nominal amount, but still. Another one from a couple of days ago:

Re: Maris/Killebrew...Off the top of my head I can think of three reasons why MVP voters might have looked more favorably on Maris than Killebrew:
Asked by: howard38

Answered: 4/21/2021
Good for you. Let's find something more interesting to talk about.

Followed by:

As you wish. Sorry I cut across your lawn.
Asked by: howard38

Answered: 4/23/2021
There is a difference between cutting across one's lawn and repeatedly insisting that I answer a stupid question.

If he just simply ignored questions he doesn't like, I'd say fine. But he edits them, insults the reader, and publishes them.

clemenza, Saturday, 24 April 2021 22:18 (one year ago) link

(And, just to clarify, the "Ask Bill" section is a small part of what you're paying for, although I tend to read that far more regularly than the rest of the site, only some of which is written by James. I sometimes link here to Dave Fleming's stuff--I like him.)

clemenza, Saturday, 24 April 2021 22:24 (one year ago) link

five months pass...

Perfect example of James's blind double-standard in the "Hey Bill" section.

Yesterday, responding to a questioner: "Well, that's partly true and partly nonsense."

Today, responding to someone else who used the word "bizarre" in connection to something James wrote: "I'm sorry; did you want to remain on the site? This is a discussion among friends and gentlemen..."

clemenza, Tuesday, 28 September 2021 17:53 (one year ago) link

"friends and gentlemen", pffffffft

typo hell #5: maybe you get an idea of what went into, or (Karl Malone), Tuesday, 28 September 2021 18:15 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

World's Best Hitter List from the Bill James Handbook 2022, Page 8: 1. Mike Trout, 2. Juan Soto, 3. Bryce Harper, 4. George Springer, 5. Mookie Betts, 6. Ronald Acuna Jr., 7. Fernando Tatis Jr., 8. Freddie Freeman, 9. Paul Goldschmidt, 10. Trea Turner.

Springer 4th? I assume Vlad's omission is based on three years' worth of data.

clemenza, Thursday, 4 November 2021 14:24 (one year ago) link

Springer is a surprise. we sure he's not taking fielding into account?!

FRAUDULENT STEAKS (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Thursday, 4 November 2021 15:58 (one year ago) link

Going by the title, I'd say no...The thing is, if this is based on the last three seasons--which would accommodate Acuna, Soto, and Tatis's inclusion, and explain Vlad's absence--then Springer had a career year in 2019, a pretty good COVID year, and a good but shortened 2021. If you don't ding him for time missed this year, I'd agree with Top 10, but not fourth.

Freeman/Goldschmidt side-by-side, of course.

clemenza, Thursday, 4 November 2021 16:45 (one year ago) link

world's best hitler list

just staying (Karl Malone), Thursday, 4 November 2021 17:58 (one year ago) link

Really interesting piece, not behind the paywall.

clemenza, Monday, 15 November 2021 23:12 (one year ago) link

this was good

he’s just doing a thought exercise and trying to shed light on less-recognized greatness — and this in no way invalidates that effort — but this

Three of those four categories, however, discriminate against catchers, since catchers do not normally get enough playing time to lead the league in Win Shares or WAR or to have a total which is among the Top 20 in the decade. To address that issue, I awarded one additional point to any catcher who had 29 or more Win Shares in a season.

seems amusingly arbitrary in a field that’s already not short of such. (tbf he also discusses how there is no meaningful difference between players separated by tenths of WAR.)

mookieproof, Wednesday, 17 November 2021 18:38 (one year ago) link

It felt like a breakthrough of sorts to see him even use WAR for all of this (two years ago, he would sometimes dismiss reader e-mails for simply using the WAR acronym)--he has generally stuck to Win Shares for past studies. I think he's on something like the 5th stage of grief when it comes to Win Shares.

clemenza, Wednesday, 17 November 2021 22:34 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

Three of my e-mails concerning a billing question have gone unanswered. I'll vent here.

Reader e-mail the other day: "Where do you rank Scherzer-Degrom in the best 1-2 pitching duos conversation?" (He went on a bit from there.)

James: "I must not be following you. In what sense are DeGrom and Scherzer a 'duo'. In what sense are they better than Carlton and Gibson? In what sense are they better than Roberts and Spahn? In what sense are they better than Newhouser and Feller? I am just not following you."

Someone else followed up today: "An earlier writer asked about a Scherzer-deGrom pitching duo. I'm assuming you hadn't yet heard they were teammates. But to ask a specific question: entering 2022, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom will be teammates. They are currently 1-2 in the Starting Pitcher rankings with scores of 487.1 and 466.1, respectively..."

Those Starting Pitcher rankings are James's own creation.

James: (after a few preliminary paragraphs about great 1-2 duos) "In this case? It'll never work. What creates great team pitching is a combination of ballpark, fielding, usage patterns and great talent. Scherzer is almost 40; deGrom is well past 30 and has broken down more times than a 30-year-old Chevy. It won't work."

He may well be right. The bizarre thing, though, is treating the question like it's silly when Scherzer and deGrom are presently on top of his own leaderboard.

clemenza, Monday, 6 December 2021 06:47 (one year ago) link

I'm glad you're around to document Bill James slowly losing his marbles. Why is he being so willfully obtuse?

I think he's trying to say that it's silly to compare them to other great duos when they haven't played together yet. He could explain himself like any reasonable person would, why does he treat his paying customers this way?

NoTimeBeforeTime, Monday, 6 December 2021 08:51 (one year ago) link

I'm going to send in an application to ghost answer his reader e-mail: "Theoretically great, yes--they presently sit 1-2 on our Starting Pitcher rankings--but let's see if they're healthy." Is that so hard?

(There's unmistakable sarcasm in the follow-up e-mail; I notice readers are starting to push back a bit.)

clemenza, Monday, 6 December 2021 11:34 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

Interesting James response to Tom Tango today:

"There are critical problems with WAR that you have never acknowledged and the public is completely unaware of, but this is probably not the optimum place to try to discuss them. I'd like, if we can find the time, for the two of us to have an extended discussion of the issues, perhaps to be published as a short book."

"...and the public is completely unaware of" made me laugh--it's like the Kennedy assassination, the truth is being held back--but I would read that book.

clemenza, Friday, 24 December 2021 04:08 (one year ago) link

"No, I definitely do not think that Trout takes too many walks. Mickey Mantle walked a lot more than Trout does, and as I recall the Yankees did win a championship or two despite this handicap"--that's how you handle an awkward question. (I'm going to refrain from calling it a dumb question, because the guy very carefully explained what he meant.)

clemenza, Monday, 3 January 2022 21:15 (one year ago) link

"Asking MLB and the players to sit down together and work out a solution to baseball's problems is kind of like asking John Dillinger and Machine Gun Kelly to sit down face to face and work out a solution to the bank robbery problem."

clemenza, Thursday, 6 January 2022 14:03 (one year ago) link

Try again Bill

Tracer Hand, Thursday, 6 January 2022 16:47 (one year ago) link

I thought that was a pretty good analogy.

clemenza, Thursday, 6 January 2022 21:34 (one year ago) link

James took one of my "Hey Bills" and turned it into a piece he posted today (mentioning me by name). That's it; life can't show me anything more.

clemenza, Thursday, 13 January 2022 17:10 (one year ago) link


Tracer Hand, Thursday, 13 January 2022 21:11 (one year ago) link

following on clemenza/bill james' "one team" hall of fame methodology, there was a fun post on a cardinals blog applying the same thing to cardinals players to see how much they were associated with the Cardinals vs other teams:

Bill James recently took a look at the importance of being associated with one team for Hall of Fame candidates. The idea is that players who accrue most of their value for one team, or mostly for one team, have an easier time making the Hall of Fame than players who accrue their value for multiple teams. If you’d like an imperfect example, Gary Sheffield had 62.1 career fWAR, but he had 12 or more for three different teams, and 6 or more for five different teams. By contrast, Willie Stargell had 62.9 fWAR, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates. James’ research compared those two types of players and all others in the gray area. James found that players with mutliple team associations had a much harder time getting into the Hall of Fame. That’s fascinating... and it’s also not what I want to talk about today. In his process, he developed a fun little tool to determine what percentage a player was associated with a specific team. I thought it would be fun to apply that process to various St. Louis Cardinals and determine how “Cardinal-y” they were.

First, here is James’ methodology:

Suppose that a player has 10 Win Shares (or 10 WAR, or 10 games played, or 10 RBI, or 10 homers; it doesn’t much matter.) Suppose he has 10, and all 10 are with one team. Then his “one team percentage” is 100%.

(10 ^ 2) / (10 ^ 2) = 100 / 100 = 1.000

Suppose that he plays for two teams and has five Win Shares for each team; then his “one team percentage” is 50%:

[(5 ^ 2) + (5 ^ 2)] / (10 ^ 2) = (25 + 25) / 100 = 50/100 = .500

Suppose that he plays for three teams, and has four Win Shares for each team; then is “one team percentage” is 33.33%:

[(4 ^ 2) + (4 ^ 2) + (4 ^ 2)] / (12 ^ 2) = (16 + 16 + 16) / 144 = 48/144 = .33333333

then they apply this to various cardinal players. some interesting ones:

Albert Pujols, 99.57% (almost completely associated with the cardinals despite a decade with the angels)
Ozzie Smith, 98.17%
Willie McGee, 92.53%
Jim Edmonds, 82.12%
Matt Holliday, 63.10%
Keith Hernandez, 62.59%
Terry Pendleton, 54.37%
J.D. Drew, 51.99%
Scott Rolen, 43.40%
Joe Torre, 34.55%
Curt Simmons, 26.23%
Mark McGwire, 19.71%
Steve Carlton, 7.26%
Johnny Mize, 65.79%

etc. fun exercise, and it would be fun to see for other players and teams, too

Karl Malone, Friday, 21 January 2022 18:28 (one year ago) link

uh, also the author of the post and various commenters are not sure if they used the formula right. lol. sorry. it's a vox run blog, they get paid like $2/article and online mattress promo codes, the standards are low

Karl Malone, Friday, 21 January 2022 18:32 (one year ago) link

"Yeah, I borked it. Full disclosure."

welp. if a mod wants to remove the last 3 posts (including this one) that's fine with me.

Karl Malone, Friday, 21 January 2022 18:58 (one year ago) link

First thing I noticed was McGwire at 20%; at the very least 50/50 with Oakland, but I suspect he's much more identified with the Cardinals at this point.

clemenza, Friday, 21 January 2022 19:50 (one year ago) link

bash bros 4ever

Tracer Hand, Friday, 21 January 2022 19:59 (one year ago) link

four weeks pass...

mookieproof, Friday, 18 February 2022 22:41 (eleven months ago) link


Tracer Hand, Saturday, 19 February 2022 00:14 (eleven months ago) link

Obviously Bill "learned" a few things working in management with Boston for 10-plus years.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Monday, 21 February 2022 10:28 (eleven months ago) link

one month passes...

Answering a "Hey Bill" about Dale Murphy:

"But the problem is that they are very weak MVP seasons. It was just a league in which no one had a season which meets the normal standard of an MVP season. Somebody had to win it, and they picked Murphy, which is fine, but if Mickey Mantle had ever had a season like that, the Yankees would have panicked, or the same with Steve Trout."

Not sure if that's a joke or an old-guy mistake.

clemenza, Tuesday, 29 March 2022 21:25 (ten months ago) link

Maybe he meant Mike Carp.

Tracer Hand, Tuesday, 29 March 2022 21:45 (ten months ago) link

two months pass...

In case you were wondering.

I don't know if I have written this, but I categorize Hall of Fame candidates in one of 5 groups.

Group 1 is the inner-circle, automatic-unless-there's-a-scandal Hall of Famer--Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Roger Clemens or Mike Trout.

Group 2 is a player who is above the normal standard of a Hall of Fame player--Al Kaline, Roberto Clemente, Harry Heilmann, Charlie Gehringer, Johnny Bench.

Group 3 is a this-type-of-guy-is-normally elected to the Hall of Fame--Duke Snider, Early Wynn, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins.

Group 4 is the players-of-this-caliber are not usually Hall of Famers, but sometimes they get lucky group...Catfish Hunter, Luis Tiant, Gil Hodges, Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda, Jack Clark, Willie Randolph, Harold Baines.

Group 5 is players who clearly should NOT be in the Hall of Fame, even though some have been selected...Travis Jackson, Chick Hafey, Rick Ferrell, Addie Joss, Lee Smith, Matt Kemp, Ernie Lombardi, Vic Wertz, Bill Mazeroski, Doc Cramer, Mark Buehrle, etc.

clemenza, Friday, 17 June 2022 19:02 (seven months ago) link

one month passes...

"The Searchers is not one of the 25 best John Wayne movies, probably not one of the 50 best."

I really wish he'd add an "If you ask me" or an "I know I'm alone on this" to that, something to make it sound less like an assertion of fact. Just not his nature.

clemenza, Wednesday, 10 August 2022 01:51 (five months ago) link


mookieproof, Wednesday, 10 August 2022 01:52 (five months ago) link

you should absolutely demand that he list the first 25 tho

mookieproof, Wednesday, 10 August 2022 01:53 (five months ago) link

He's also oblivious to the film's history. "It's an almost unwatchable movie much admired by pretentious twits who base their opinions on what the critics tell them." The Searchers would have been totally ignored by whatever pretentious twits walked the earth in 1956--that's not the path it took to its present-day stature.

clemenza, Wednesday, 10 August 2022 02:00 (five months ago) link

three months pass...

Not behind the paywall, I don't think.

clemenza, Tuesday, 29 November 2022 16:02 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

How to save yourself the cost of hiring someone to poll your demographics:

The first player you clearly remember seeing (live or on TV) was a contemporary of:

(If you're too young to remember any, please choose 4th group. Thank you.)

— Bill James Online (@billjamesonline) January 17, 2023

clemenza, Sunday, 22 January 2023 23:38 (two weeks ago) link

No votes for Old Hoss Radbourn.

clemenza, Sunday, 22 January 2023 23:39 (two weeks ago) link

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