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  • Who Has Read Bill James' Work?

    After reading numerous books on baseball, I have found that a lot of them mention Bill James. I would like to begin reading his books with the goal of eventually reading all of them. (Someday)

    Which book should I start out with? Should I get the Baseball Abstract 1977 and work my way till 1988? Is there an accurate list out there of all of his books?

    Any help would be appreciated

  • #2
    Get the New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. That's the best value for your dollar.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by spark240 View Post
      Get the New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. That's the best value for your dollar.
      thanks for the help. I'm uncertain after seeing this comment..."If this edition was my introduction to Bill James, I might be less enthusiastic."

      Any other thoughts? Do they still sell the original?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by SS Express View Post
        Do they still sell the original?
        The original edition of that particular book? That would be the blue hardcover, as opposed to the green paperback I linked to. Actually the blue cover is the one I have. I'm not familiar with the differences between editions.

        Or if you mean the original Historical Abstract, from several years earlier, you can find that too, at least in used copies. I think any of them would serve as an acceptable introduction to James (and better than the single-year editions of the Abstract).
        Last edited by Pere; 10-28-2009, 05:39 PM.

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        • #5
          If you want to see how James developed a lot of his questioning/thinking about baseball, the original Abstracts are very valuable/useful/interesting. To be fair, he grew and changed over the years, so some of his earlier thoughts/analyses were later discarded for others.


          The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract- either the blue hardback or the 1 year later softback- are terrific synopses of his overall perspective on baseball- very entertaining. Some of the hardcore math analysts don't seem to like it much, but it's an excellent book, in my opinion.

          Harder stuff- but if you're into the Sabermetric side- is Win Shares, where he explains his fairly recent analytical tool for defining player value.

          His book on the Hall of Fame is fascinating reading, too- I think it's called Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?

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          • #6
            Good luck landing those two or three early abstracts. If you get a source, let me know.

            The only thing with his name on it I read and didn't like was the James/Neyer Guide to Pitching.

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            • #7
              Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame is very good. That was the first thing I read of his, and if you have an interest in the HOF, I highly recommend it. He wrote that before Win Shares, and it's not a staistically-driven book
              Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
              Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
              Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
              Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
              Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

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              • #8
                thanks for your input guys

                I was able to find the 1985 Abstract (original) on amazon.com for only $6.00. (used of course) Just ordered it.

                Is this a good place to start reading James or should i start with the '77 Abstract and work my way to '88? Sorry if I am being repetive. I know BigRon said it would be a good idea.

                the help is much appreciated :bowdown:
                Last edited by SS Express; 10-30-2009, 09:51 AM.

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                • #9
                  The Politics of Glory/Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame is a must read. Regardless of whether you're into numbers or not, get one of the Historical Abstracts. They're great armchair books for baseball fans. His Guide to Baseball Managers is definitely worth the read. I have always had difficulty finding the early abstracts for affordable prices. If you find a place, let me know. Finally, you can find reviews of each abstract here.
                  "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

                  - Alvin Dark

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by AstrosFan View Post
                    The Politics of Glory/Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame is a must read. Regardless of whether you're into numbers or not, get one of the Historical Abstracts. They're great armchair books for baseball fans. His Guide to Baseball Managers is definitely worth the read. I have always had difficulty finding the early abstracts for affordable prices. If you find a place, let me know. Finally, you can find reviews of each abstract here.
                    That was a 1994 book. I really wish Mr.James would do an update. Much has changed since that book was published particularly the fact that there are now three Veterans' Committe elections over the course of every two years: one for non-players, particularly Managers, and James has written a separate book on how he evaluates the all-time top Managers, one for players who debuted in the majors before 1943 and one election for players who debuted in 1943 or later.
                    Some players that James judged to be the best player at his position who is not in the Hall Of Fame in 1994, some 15 years later still haven't been elected. (Joe Torre and Ron Santo to name a couple.)
                    I'd be interested to know any additional findings and shifts in attitude he's had since "Politics Of Glory" was released.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Philly-brownsfan View Post
                      That was a 1994 book. I really wish Mr.James would do an update. Much has changed since that book was published particularly the fact that there are now three Veterans' Committee elections over the course of every two years: one for non-players, particularly Managers, and James has written a separate book on how he evaluates the all-time top Managers, one for players who debuted in the majors before 1943 and one election for players who debuted in 1943 or later.
                      Some players that James judged to be the best player at his position who is not in the Hall Of Fame in 1994, some 15 years later still haven't been elected. (Joe Torre and Ron Santo to name a couple.)
                      I'd be interested to know any additional findings and shifts in attitude he's had since "Politics Of Glory" was released.
                      I don't believe he thinks as highly of Bob Caruthers as he did when the book was published in 1994.
                      Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
                      Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
                      Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
                      Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
                      Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Veterans Committee Needs to be Re-Organized (Yet Again)!

                        Originally posted by Philly-brownsfan View Post
                        That was a 1994 book. I really wish Mr.James would do an update. Much has changed since that book was published particularly the fact that there are now three Veterans' Committe elections over the course of every two years: one for non-players, particularly Managers, and James has written a separate book on how he evaluates the all-time top Managers, one for players who debuted in the majors before 1943 and one election for players who debuted in 1943 or later.
                        Some players that James judged to be the best player at his position who is not in the Hall Of Fame in 1994, some 15 years later still haven't been elected. (Joe Torre and Ron Santo to name a couple.)
                        I'd be interested to know any additional findings and shifts in attitude he's had since "Politics Of Glory" was released.
                        The only ones to be elected in these three BI-ANNUAL ELECTIONS are players who are now deceased who played in baseball's distant past (the pre-1943 group) and Non-Players, primarily Managers. That's because these two groups are elected by panels of experts. Under the current system the more recent players who debuted in 1943 or later who are primarily modern era and Post World Two players keep getting shut out and never get elected. That's because their electorate are Living Hall Of Famers. Their lack of generosity and THEIR stinginess in bestowing this honor on others who may have garnered a few dozen less votes than they did from the writers is terrible. Put simply, the Veterans Committee vote needs to be taken away from the HOF players - but that's opening a whole new can of worms and it's a topic that deserves several new TOPIC threadS.

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                        • #13
                          I'm not so sure the HOF players are to blame for not electing anyone. The other two committees are much smaller and meet in person much like the old Veterans Committees did. You know, the ones who kept electing their old teammates. For the post WW2 players the HOF voters (currently 60-something of them I think) are presented with a pre-screened ballot which they then vote on and mail in. They never meet and probably never get a chance to discuss any of the candidates. It is a system that virtually guarantees that nobody will ever get elected. Trying to get 75% of any large group to agree to anything is nearly impossible. Since the most obvious players have already been elected by the BBWAA the veterans end up splitting the vote between several almost equally qualified candidates. Santo is the player who got the most votes in the past 2 elections, but he is stuck at around 60% of the vote.

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                          • #14
                            Bill James "starters"/Old Abstracts.

                            Hi - agree w. all the other recommendations posted & would like to add another, the 1989 book "This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones"; this is sort of a "best of" collection of essays from the Abstracts w. the emphasis on James prose, not statistics & methods. So if you're looking for an introduction to his writing style, philosophy etc. This is a great place to start.

                            As far as the original Abstracts; James began SELF PUBLISHING these in 1977; they were essentially printed on demand as orders were received; Am fairly sure fewer than 200 copies of the 1st few years were ever published & not many more of successive years until his first commercial publication in 1982. Anyway - THAT'S why the pre'82 books are so hard to find & so expensive if/when found.

                            A few years ago, in response to demand for "reasonably priced" copies of the older books, James issued REPRINTS of some of them. I believe these were also issued "on demand" - that is you had to contact him & ask for them. It may be possible that reprints are still available from James. I don't know what he charges for them, but suspect it's substantially less than original editions would cost.

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                            • #15
                              1977-81 pretty darn hard to find!

                              Originally posted by baseballbooks View Post
                              Hi - agree w. all the other recommendations posted & would like to add another, the 1989 book "This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones"; this is sort of a "best of" collection of essays from the Abstracts w. the emphasis on James prose, not statistics & methods. So if you're looking for an introduction to his writing style, philosophy etc. This is a great place to start.

                              As far as the original Abstracts; James began SELF PUBLISHING these in 1977; they were essentially printed on demand as orders were received; Am fairly sure fewer than 200 copies of the 1st few years were ever published & not many more of successive years until his first commercial publication in 1982. Anyway - THAT'S why the pre'82 books are so hard to find & so expensive if/when found.

                              A few years ago, in response to demand for "reasonably priced" copies of the older books, James issued REPRINTS of some of them. I believe these were also issued "on demand" - that is you had to contact him & ask for them. It may be possible that reprints are still available from James. I don't know what he charges for them, but suspect it's substantially less than original editions would cost.
                              I agree with "This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones" as a good place to start to see Bill's writing style. You might also read Alan Schwarz's "The Numbers Game" or "Moneyball" by Billy Beane, er, Michael Lewis (I was momentarily possessed by the ghost of Joe Morgan there) to put James in context. I have read the 1977 Abstract, and that's really not a good sample of Bill's work. It was his first effort, largely made up of numbers--it gets much better from there.

                              As for the reprints, I thought he put them out in the mid-1980s after people read his nationally published annuals and wanted to delve back into the self-published ones. I actually bought a set of reprints from Bill about 8-10 years ago. He said he was down to the last few copies. I think he may have charged $150 for the set of 5 books, including postage, and he apologized profusely for having to charge that much, saying it was because he had so few left and wasn't going to reprint them again. I was just happy to be able to get them at all!

                              This SABR-related site has some good detail on all of Bill's works: http://members.cox.net/sroneysabr/JamesIndex/

                              And this "Abstracts from the Abstracts" series is also a good place to see what was in those early volumes:
                              http://baseballanalysts.com/archives...ts_from_12.php

                              The bottom line is that I'm not sure you will be able to easily find the early ones. When they come up on eBay, either originals or reprints, they sell for $100 or more each. Start with something more available, and search for them if you become obsessed about it!

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