For me, the baseball season doesn’t start with Spring Training like for so many aficionados of our national pastime. For me, it all begins when my copy of Baseball Prospectus comes in the mail.
Yes, Amazon Super Saver Shipping took long enough, but it has finally delivered Baseball Prospectus 2008 to my front door. After countless (fine, maybe only like 5 or 6) nights of asserting my nerdiness and falling asleep analyzing statistics and projections, my analysis of the Tome/Bible/(insert sacred writing synonym here). I am officially ready for the baseball season.
For the uninitiated, Baseball Prospectus is a (fairly) advanced tool for statistical interpretation of baseball. It has become increasingly popular in our post-Moneyball world, and many a privy fantasy baseball GM has used such analytical tools to their benefit.
Granted, the Tome provides above and beyond the statistics any normal fantasy player would need. It is written more from an analytical scouting perspective than your standard fantasy preview magazine making random stat projections for the upcoming year. However, there are many stats in here that can help us common folk out.
The Tome utilizes two things called the Breakout and Improve rates, which are the odds that a player’s statistics will improve 20% or at all respectively. This tool is used for both hitters and pitchers. It’s definitely fun to look at an already established player like David Wright or someone and still see them with high rates, envisioning what other greatness they might accomplish this season.
For hitters, I also like to look at the EqAVG, which tries to translate batting averages from other leagues (such as various levels of the minors or overseas leagues) into what they would be in the majors. To me, this is a crucial tool in evaluating the incoming rookie class or any other prospect who gets called up. There are plenty of guys who hit .360 with 30+ homeruns in the minors only to fail to reach anywhere near such numbers in their careers ever again. Hell, I might be able to push the Mendoza line in the rookie leagues, but I sure as hell will never get a major league hit.
For pitchers, I’m a big fan of the BABIP and STUFF statistics. BABIP refers to the batting average of balls in play. Many pitchers suffer from either extreme bad or good luck. If you see a spike in BABIP one year, odds are it will stabilize to around .290-.300 as it is for most pitchers. This definitely helps me try to understand the previous year’s pitching stats and determine what was a fluke year or who had bad luck. The STUFF statistic is a mathematical formula for rating a pitcher’s demonstrated skills depending on his age. Once again, a good tool for evaluating rookies, mid-season call-ups, or any other prospects.
There is a multitude of other statistics and rating methods within the pages of the Tome. Personally, I use the aforementioned ones. I highly suggest you check out this fine source of information for yourselves. DO IT!!!