Baseball Prospectus 2013 is landing in mailboxes and e-readers everywhere this week. I see the tweets popping up all over. I can now say to my friends, "Now you know what I did all winter."
In case you don't already know, Baseball Prospectus 2013 is this season's edition of the most complete guide to Major League Baseball you can buy. It's almost 600 pages of the data and projections for players and teams you need, whether you are trying to win your fantasy league, get a handle on what your team is doing (or failing to do), or just stay one step ahead of the color commentators trying to figure out what to say about that guy who got called up.
Building the annual is a little like building a baseball team. You spend all winter on it, sweating the details and hoping it all works, but until it gets out there, you don't know how it'll do. Well, the book hasn't even been out a week and, as this is written, is holding both the no. 1 and no. 2 slots on Amazon's baseball bestsellers list (with the paperback and the Kindle version), and is at no. 60 in all books (and climbing). Past volumes have reached the New York Times bestseller list as well, so I feel pretty good that we've got a winner on our hands.
We like stats, and chances are that if you're reading BP, you do too. So here are some numbers to note about this year's book.
- Players included in the book: 2,210. Last year the book topped 1,600, or about 55 players per team. This year it's more than 70 per organization.
- Page count: 592. Up 9% over last year. The book is basically as large as we can manufacture it without having to make it hardcover.
- Authors on the BP team: 31. Every roster has turnover. Here at BP we lost some veterans and gained some hot rookies, and the team grew overall by eight members. I won't call them all out by name here, but these are the same folks you see day in and day out on the BP website, bringing the insights, analysis, and wit you expect. They're as snappy as an ulnar collateral ligament.
- Non-team-specific essays: 2. In the olden days, the book used to contain miscellaneous essays not about any specific team. In recent years, those were cut and writers were instead encouraged to try to shoehorn their insights into the team essays, often resulting in clunky treatises that left some readers feeling that while they may have learned a lot, they didn't learn how their team would do. We decided this year to take the same approach with the team essays as we do with the individual player capsules, boiling the information down to the crucial elements of what the team does wrong, what it does right, what it can or can't fix, and what its outlook is for this season and long term. The two additional "big picture" essays we added, by Colin Wyers and Russell A. Carleton, examine baseball analysis itself.
But you want to know what's in the book. Last year we correctly predicted down years for Jose Bautista, Josh Beckett, and Jeff Francoeur, and playoff runs for Cincinnati and Washington. What are some of the subjects we're looking at this year?
- Will the new-look Blue Jays live up to the hype?
- Can the Dodgers spend their way to the top of anything but the highest-salary list?
- Can 2012 upstarts Baltimore and Oakland continue their playoff ways?
- Will things start to go right for the Twins if they stop relying on pitchers who can't strike anybody out?
- What do you mean the Yankees signed more old guys and no catcher?
(I can't tell you the answers here: you're supposed to go look them up in the book. No spoilers.)
As I mentioned above, the book is available not only as a paperback, but in ebook form, and as a mobile app. I loaded the app onto my phone before I left for spring training last year, and it instantly made me a one-woman scouting department in the stands. I had a scouting report right at my fingertips for nearly every random replacement player who got a late-inning at bat after the star players had headed for the golf course. The same was true all throughout the season. Now I can't imagine living without it. Is that veteran my team just got as insurance washed up or does he have something left in the tank? What's that hot prospect's big weakness? Our rotation's in trouble… or is it? Whether I was sitting in the stands, or in a sports bar, or watching the game with friends at home, I no longer had to wait for the color commentator to tell me about a player, and instead of some factoid, I could see the stats that matter.
That's the reason the BP annual sits on the desk of many big-league general managers. One of them, Houston's Jeff Luhnow, wrote the preface to this year's book, in fact. I feel like the only thing snazzier than having BP on my phone would be Billy Beane's Blackberry.
The core of all the numbers we provide in the book is PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm). Developed by Nate Silver, whose prominence as a big data guru reached new heights in 2012 with his success in predicting the Presidential election, PECOTA is continually tested and updated. Each player in the book has a 2013 prediction in each of 19 different statistical categories. (If you have the app, and technology works as it should, you should even see these predictions change throughout the year, just like you do on the BP website.) Some of these are "traditional" stats like wins, batting average, and ERA, while others are advanced metrics like TAv, FIP, and of course WARP.
There's also the Top 101 prospects feature, which used to be written by Kevin Goldstein. Since he has been lured away to a job in The Show by the Astros, Jason Parks took over curating the list this year, with input from six more of BP's brightest.
I had a fantastic time co-editing the book with King Kaufman. I couldn't be more excited that now it gets to be in your hands, and be your companion all season long. A huge thanks to everyone on the team. Now it's time to play ball.
Buy Baseball Prospectus 2013 from Amazon.com
Buy Baseball Prospectus 2013 from BN.com
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I preferred the old team essays too; they were less formulaic. I did like the year of sabermetric developments in review essay though.
Interesting to note that an MLB.com article says Martin *had* moved away from his curve but that the Phillies had him mix it back in last August. So perhaps it was just a case of working off old information here.
And so many inconsistencies. For example, in the team "report" (I refuse to call it an essay) for the Cincinnati Reds, its says "Todd Frazier...will man third base." But in Frazier's player comment it says "he doesn't have a position." Oh and it says Frazier can "play all 4 corners". Hmm...don' think he's ever played RF...3 corners, yes. And in Billy Hamilton's comment, he said he moves from SS to centerfield "last season." Should say "in the Arizona Fall League." He played SS in the minors all season. Just shoddy editing.
Oh and the Pecota system needs some refinement. Whatever changes were made makes the projections skew way too heavily to past performance. It also needs to take into account likely playing time. Or I guess a ton of players will have exactly 250 plate appearances this season.
As a long-time subscriber to this website and buyer of the BP annual and the other books produced by the BP team, I'm extremely disappointed and frustrated with the overall nosedive of the content in the BP annual the last few years. It's taken more and more thought each year before I renew my subscription, and now I'm going to pause before I buy the Prospectus in 2014.
So my advice is...
"This ain't Bleacher Report, step up your game!"
As for the inconsistencies, we will make note of them, but just to point out, Todd Frazier played 73 games at 3B, 39 at 1B, 7 in LF, and 1 in RF. Now I realize he only played one game in RF, but he did play there. Nevertheless, I understand your point.
Regarding PECOTA, "book" PECOTA doesn't take into consideration projected playing time or depth charts (and never has as far as I can remember). We just don't have that information available at the time of publishing. The book projections use baseline data based on historical information. That's why we run PECOTA again and again on the SITE leading up to the season using playing time estimates. You can find updated PECOTA numbers on the depth charts and the player cards.
Thank you again for your thoughts. I promise I take comments very seriously.
Production error, sorry about that. Helton's 2013 player comment and statistical workup will be freely available on his player card soon.