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Prospectus Prospectus

Oh, the arduous winter days might be spent baling snow and watching, gack, the NFL, but the arrival of the latest Baseball Prospectus book means the awful time of year is coming to an end. This year's Prospectus is, as always, filled with charts, statistics, and inscrutable acronyms for the statistics. To the unitiated, it might seem like an exercise in hyper-nerdism; the sound of one hand caressing an abacus. While the statistical revolution is spending a lot of time trying to build a better mousetrap, the foundation is so, so beautiful in its simplicity:

  • Outs? Try not to make to many if you are a hitter.
  • For pitchers, striking people out is good. Walking people is bad. A lot depends on the defense behind them after that.
  • Good for the past three years? They'll probably be good next year.
  • Bad for their career, then good last year? They have a good chance to be bad again.
  • Batting average doesn't tell as much about a hitter's abilities as we used to think.
These are the vaguest of vague generalizations, but it's the heart of what the bastard children of Bill James and Che Guevara believe. Which of the above are still in question? If you don't want to read about Moises Alou's VRZLLP (*9) being 45.2 hexagrams better than Michael Tucker, then don't. That side of the statistical world will always give me Sabean-sized headaches, to be honest. But Baseball Prospectus isn't a book about that sort of thing, really. It's a book that keeps the above precepts in mind when discussing players, and is by far the best preseason baseball book on the market. The writing is crisp, usually witty, and extensive.

Fogball are a good bet to out-cogent my thoughts, and are laying down their take on the Giants chapter of Baseball Prospectus. My quick and few quibbles with the book:

  • The chapter intro rails against the Benitez signing. As supporting evidence, the following is offered: "Did the Giants learn nothing from the success of Dustin Hermanson and Tim Worrell?" Ignoring that Hermanson was nothing more than acceptable, the more important question was if the team learned from Matt Herges. They did, and that's why El Alces was paid too much money to be the closer for the 2005 season. Exactly why the team overpaid was answered in the Benitez comment of the book. "The guy is just never bad."
  • It seems the book could use a quick proofread from a Giants fan. James Garcia's out pitch is a changeup, not a slider. Kevin Correia is a hardish-throwing reliever now, not a soft-tossing starter. Ticky-tack problems, sure, but ones that could be easily fixed. You can bet the Mariners chapter doesn't suffer from the same problems.
  • Another quote: "Between (Travis) Ishikawa and Brad Vericker, the Giants could have nice options at first base in a few years, if ever they get over their disdain for rookies." Patently unfair. The list of prospects who could have been described as being blocked under the Sabean regime:

    Rich Aurilia, who when he was 23, hit like the Neifi of AA-ball. In Aurilia's 24-year old season, he had a decent year in AA, and a sub-Jason Ellison season in the PCL. When Aurilia was 25, he hit .239/.295/.296 in the majors, and had a lot of time to do so. Bringing in Jose Vizcaino wouldn't have been my choice, but Aurilia was not a super-prospect at all.

    Bill Mueller was the best thing about the 1996 season. Bringing in Mark Lewis to platoon in `97 wasn't a good idea.

    There ends the list. The Giants were never in the business of blocking a David Wright-sized talent. They just haven't had talent come up. You can't block what you don't have. It's not like they gave Armando Rios a shot, it didn't work out, and the Giants swore off anyone under 30.

Everything else in the chapter was pretty entertaining. My favorite sentence in the book was, "Moises Alou, Ray Durham, J.T. Snow and others all have faults, but all also bring varying degrees of offensive utility." That's the upcoming season in one sentence. I would not have built the team as Sabean did, but that doesn't mean the team isn't going to be good or worth watching.