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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bill James Online Mailbag

Proving that “Pee Wee” Gaskins is not “The Meanest Man in America”...Bill James with his latest!

Hey Bill, I am a relativley new subscriber, so I apologize if this question has been asked before. Is there any chance at all for a revision of the Historical Abstract? What about even a revised all time ranking by position?

Thanks; I appreciate your interest.    People underestimate what would have to be done to revise the book.    The standards of evidence change all the time, and they have changed dramatically in the last ten years.  We simply KNOW many things now that we did not know ten years ago. ...not small things, but thousands and thousands and thousands of fairly major things that we know now, because of the Internet and Retrosheet and the computerization of records and of newspapers, that we did not know ten years ago.  I undertand better how to rate and compare players than I did ten years ago.

I hope that people will be understanding of the mistakes I made ten years ago and 30 years ago, when information was much harder to come by than it is now and much more difficult to cross-check than it is now.  But I can’t publish things NOW using the standards of accuracy that prevailed ten years ago. 

To really do the book justice, I would have to start over and do it again.  It would take me thousands of hours of work.  I’d like to do it and I hope to do it again before I die, but I don’t see it happening in the next three or four years.

Bill, Thanks to Joe Posnanski I now understand that you probably had nothing to do in the signing of Carl Crawford…and I`m glad he put the records straight. I`m sure a lot of us didn`t understand that particular move (and some other ones) but had too much respect for you and your position with the Red Sox to ask questions about it. Hopefully your input will be put to better use in the rebuilding of my favorite team.

Well, I don’t know what Joe wrote about the signing, and I’m not trying to duck responsibility for any bad decisions the team has made.  Joe and I are close friends, had lunch today, and I’m sure whatever he wrote is probably right, but I won’t read it.  But back to Carl Crawford. ...  When we win, we all get rings, you know?  When we screw up, we’re all guilty.

Repoz Posted: September 16, 2012 at 08:42 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, red sox, sabermetrics, special topics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. something like a train wreck Posted: September 16, 2012 at 09:15 AM (#4237118)
Not sure what he did wrong here. Basically he's saying that he's not going to staple on another 15 years of players in order to make a few bucks. Sounds noble to me.
   2. SteveF Posted: September 16, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4237201)
It's probably not a good idea to experience a Repoz open primarily through the lens of its truth content.
   3. T.J. Posted: September 16, 2012 at 11:46 AM (#4237210)
Sorry to go for the low-hanging fruit here, but:

Is there any chance at all for a revision of the Historical Abstract? What about even a revised all time ranking by position?

Pass.
   4. Matt Welch Posted: September 16, 2012 at 11:51 AM (#4237213)
I like that second answer.
   5. The District Attorney Posted: September 16, 2012 at 11:58 AM (#4237217)
I can’t publish things NOW using the standards of accuracy that prevailed ten years ago.
You can't?
   6. TomH Posted: September 16, 2012 at 01:24 PM (#4237269)
you can't with dignity. He's admitting that stuff that might have been great for its time is not the best to use after its expiration date. If you'd like to put a rover on Mars, Einstein's discoveries are more accurate than Newton's.
   7. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: September 16, 2012 at 01:25 PM (#4237271)
is it my imagination or are bill's mailbogs being posted twice? i could have sworn this was posted earlier this week. and same with the last mailbag.

or maybe i am getting loopy
   8. AndrewJ Posted: September 16, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4237281)
Those two statements aren't mutually exclusive.
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: September 16, 2012 at 01:44 PM (#4237283)
I love that answer by Bill on the HBA. I think it does show that regardless of the fact that he claims he doesn't really read much research being done, that he is more aware of the research being done that he likes to claim.

I would love a new book, but really if it's just a rehashing of the old book, with updated numbers, it's not really worth it.
   10. Matthew E Posted: September 16, 2012 at 06:14 PM (#4237443)
is it my imagination or are bill's mailbogs being posted twice? i could have sworn this was posted earlier this week. and same with the last mailbag.

or maybe i am getting loopy


The content of the mailbag changes gradually; new letters are added to the top and they push older letters down and off the first page. So every time you click on it, if you scroll down far enough, you'll see stuff you saw the last time.
   11. McCoy Posted: September 16, 2012 at 06:24 PM (#4237450)
I love that answer by Bill on the HBA. I think it does show that regardless of the fact that he claims he doesn't really read much research being done, that he is more aware of the research being done that he likes to claim.

Not really. He stated that we now have more information available about games played way back when and we now also have more data about how games are played now. He isn't stating that thanks to DIPS or WAR or Fangraphs or MGL or Tango that we now know more about baseball and baseball stats.
   12. Darren Posted: September 16, 2012 at 07:06 PM (#4237472)
I really like those answers. Shows a humble side of him we haven't seen in a while.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: September 17, 2012 at 12:38 AM (#4237654)
He isn't stating that thanks to DIPS or WAR or Fangraphs or MGL or Tango that we now know more about baseball and baseball stats.

Yep, you could even read his statement as saying it would take so long because he'd have to start over from scratch (and reinvent the wheel) rather than using the work of others to inform his ratings. OK, that sounds snottier than I mean. What I mean is that one could save a lot of time by taking WAR (or similar) and then tweaking those lists where you think they've got it wrong (and explaining why).
   14. shoewizard Posted: September 17, 2012 at 01:38 AM (#4237666)
Which WAR ?
   15. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4237762)
What I mean is that one could save a lot of time by taking WAR (or similar) and then tweaking those lists where you think they've got it wrong (and explaining why).


"One" probably could, but I don't think Bill James could and still have a Bill James book. One of the reasons he's still interesting and significant is that he's as interested in the theoretical frameworks that lead to answers as he is in the answers themselves. I mean, you're not going to slice and dice the numbers in any way that doesn't have Ruth, Bonds, and Williams as the greatest hitters of all time. "Who's better" is a boring game for anyone with an Internet connection. "What can we now quantify about winning baseball games that we couldn't ten years ago" is a fascinating question.
   16. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:33 AM (#4237770)
I'd love a new HBA as much as anyone, but I'm not holding my breath that there will be a new one from him.
If it was as detailed as the last one, I'd expect that finding all new things to talk about with the 100 players at each position would be quite difficult.
   17. Greg K Posted: September 17, 2012 at 09:40 AM (#4237778)
I'd love a new HBA as much as anyone, but I'm not holding my breath that there will be a new one from him.
If it was as detailed as the last one, I'd expect that finding all new things to talk about with the 100 players at each position would be quite difficult.

Partly because I have a bad memory, and partly because I have a lot of time on my hands, I've been working on a HBA style ranking of the players from my fan-life (1990 to present). Except not just top 100 at each position, but anyone with over 1000 PAs, 750 IP or 450 pitching appearances. The ranking is fun, though as #15 points out its nothing more than me taking WAR and arbitrarily weighting career and various peaks. The real value for me is in the little paragraphs I write about each guy. I mean, it would be a crime against humanity if twenty years from now I were to forget that Rob Mackowiak once hit a walk-off grand-slam, a ninth-inning game-tying home run, and had his son born all n the same day.

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