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15 Things That Bill James Knows ...

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15 Things That Bill James Knows ...

Postby d18Mike » Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:29 am

Realize that Bill James is a polarizing figure but I ran across this on the web and thought that a lot of it is relevant for Fantasy managers, so I put it out there for your review. It's a good and summary of his work. It's a bit old, but I think its evergreen.
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"What I wanted to write about... is a very basic question. Of all the studies I have done over the last 12 years, what have I learned? What is the relevance of sabermetric knowledge to the decision making process of a team? If I were employed by a major-league team, what are the basic things that I know from the research I have done which would be of use to me in helping that team?"

1. Minor league batting statistics will predict major league batting performance with essentially the same reliability as previous major league statistics.
2. Talent in baseball is not normally distributed. It is a pyramid. For every player who is 10 percent above the average player, there are probably twenty players who are 10 pecent below average.
3. What a player hits in one ballpark may be radically different from what he would hit in another.
4. Ballplayers, as a group, reach their peak value much earlier and decline much more rapidly than people believe.
5. Players taken in the June draft coming out of college (or with at least two years of college) perform dramatically better than players drafted out of high school.
6. The chance of getting a good player with a high draft pick is substantial enough that it is clearly a disastrous strategy to give up a first round draft choice to sign a mediocre free agent. (see note #1)
7. A power pitcher has a dramatically higher expectation for future wins than does a finesse picther of the same age and ability.
8. Single season won-lost records have almost no value as an indicator of a pitcher's contribution to a team.
9. The largest variable determining how many runs a team will score is how many times they get their leadoff man on base.
10. A great deal of what is perceived as being pitching is in fact defense.
11. True shortage of talent almost never occurs at the left end of the defensive spectrum. (see note #2)
12. Rightward shifts along the defensive spectrum almost never work. (see note #2)
13. Our idea of what makes a team good on artificial turf is not supported by any research.
14. When a team improves sharply one season they will almost always decline in the next.
15. The platoon differential is real and virtually universal

Notes:

1. Major league teams still must surrender choices in the amateur draft in exchange for signing free agents.
2. The defensive spectrum looks like this:


[ - - 1B - LF - RF - 3B - CF - 2B - SS - C - - ]
with the basic premise being that positions at the right end of
the spectrum are more difficult than the positions at the left
end of the spectrum. Players can generally move from right
to left along the specturm successfully during their careers.

Extracted from The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1988
Ballantine Books, New York
Copyright 1988 by Bill James
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Postby thedude » Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:43 am

Good read. ;-D
"I do not think baseball of today is any better than it was 30 years ago... I still think Radbourne is the greatest of the pitchers." John Sullivan 1914-Old athletes never change.
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Postby giants! » Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:46 am

I dont agree completely with number 14. It really depends on the talent involved and other factors such as how many 1 run games, strength of schedule.
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Postby bigh0rt » Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:51 am

giants! wrote:I dont agree completely with number 14. It really depends on the talent involved and other factors such as how many 1 run games, strength of schedule.


It appears to at least be a pretty good rule of thumb. I'd be interested to see if any studies have been done on seasons following 'sharp' (that's an ambiguous word) improvements, and how well they achieve.

Either way, excellent read. ;-D
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Postby Mookie4ever » Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:54 am

I am not a Bill James fan but I've got to say that it is a good read and he is probably right about all of those things.
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Postby GotowarMissAgnes » Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:13 pm

Those 15 points, known as the "Bill James Primer", were written for his 1988 Baseball Abstract.

As far as #14 goes, it's simply a fact. Teams that improve by more than 10 games are morel likely to decline by a facotr of about 5-1, if I remember correctly. I'll see if I can find some study links.
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Postby schmidty » Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:24 pm

giants! wrote:I dont agree completely with number 14. It really depends on the talent involved and other factors such as how many 1 run games, strength of schedule.


But its those other factors (often attributable to luck and variance) that have big contributions to a big 1-year improvement. There are exceptions, but that's why James used the phrase "almost always". And it is a fact, which James did an exhaustive study of. I forget the exact criteria, but its a matter of record -- look at teams that showed a substantial improvement in record for 1 year, and look at how they did the following year.

I wish I saved all my Abstracts ... they got accidentally tossed when I moved out of parents home :,-( Great reading ... and not just "stat-head" stuff.
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Postby GotowarMissAgnes » Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:51 pm

A recent article on #14, among other things...

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/print ... ndicators/
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Postby rainman23 » Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:54 pm

schmidty wrote:
giants! wrote:I dont agree completely with number 14. It really depends on the talent involved and other factors such as how many 1 run games, strength of schedule.


But its those other factors (often attributable to luck and variance) that have big contributions to a big 1-year improvement. There are exceptions, but that's why James used the phrase "almost always". And it is a fact, which James did an exhaustive study of. I forget the exact criteria, but its a matter of record -- look at teams that showed a substantial improvement in record for 1 year, and look at how they did the following year.

I wish I saved all my Abstracts ... they got accidentally tossed when I moved out of parents home :,-( Great reading ... and not just "stat-head" stuff.


It broke my heart when James stopped doing the annual abstract. For someone who grew up looking forward to S&S's baseball preview every spring, James was a whole other world. It makes me laugh when people who have never read James think he's this guy who's out there shaking the foundations of the game they love. Nobody loves baseball more than Bill James. He just did something that wasn't all that common throughout the decades. He stopped to think about all that conventional baseball wisdom. And where he could, actually go to the tape to see how that wisdom proved out in practice. If you really care about the game, this is really essential reading.

Thanks for the reminder, I think I'll go reread some of this stuff. I know exactly where mine are. Sorry!
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Postby GotowarMissAgnes » Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:56 pm

A little more detail on the plexiglass principle...

"In "Why Cleveland, Texas and San Francisco Shouldn't Be Expected to Contend in '87," James points out teams which improve by 20 or more games from one year to the next "very rarely" win even more games the following season. In fact, his study shows such teams will decline "at least 80% of the time. He contends the plexiglass principle is most compelling for teams that win a pennant or come very close because management "will be less inclined to identify and address its remaining weaknesses." However, "the tendency to relapse is somewhat weaker if the improvement was based on young players.""

http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/20 ... rom_22.php
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