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January 15, 2007

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007

shandler2007.jpg

Last month, I reminded readers of WasWatching.com that I am a firm believer that, someday, mainstream baseball - in the collective sense of more teams, players, agents, media and fans than not - will learn to embrace the usage of such (presently cutting-edge) baseball statistics such as Win Probability Results and Batted Ball Type Results.

Why should baseball accept this enhanced view of production? It is simply because the traditional end-numbers that the presently accepted baseball stats yield are sometimes skewed - either positively or negatively - by an element of luck.

Ron Shandler is one of the first baseball analysts to look "behind and inside the numbers." Shandler specializes in analyzing and evaluating baseball players' performance in terms of their "component skills." And, he's been sharing the findings that he and his team of experts have been able to uncover via his annual "Baseball Forecaster" for the last 21 years.

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007 is now available. Having reviewed this year's edition, I can share that this is a book that any fan of the game of baseball will want to read - and read again and again.

Shandler notes that his book was "a well-timed collision of sabermetrics and fantasy [baseball]." And, he continues with that this book is sometimes "shunned by the two schools" as neither the sabermetric crowd or the fantasy baseball enthusiast wants to mingle with the other.

I have been a fan and follower of sabermetrics since 1982. From 1989 through 2000, I served as a commissioner (and franchise owner) in what many would consider an intense fantasy baseball league. And, while I no longer "play" fantasy baseball, I believe that I understand what makes both sides of these "schools" tick. There's a tremendous amount of enjoyment that both the saber- and roto-heads can take in reading Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007.

Having examined Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007, I know that anyone from either of the aforementioned two schools who elects to avoid Shandler's work is making a serious error in judgment on their part.

In the "Baseball Forecaster" you will find detail on the tools, principles, rules, axioms, doctrines, and standards behind the forecasts provided in the book. Further, you will find research abstracts from many authors. And, of course, you will find performance projections galore as well as articles on fantasy baseball gaming strategies that can be applied in various league formats. (Note, this is just the meat of the book. It is not an all-inclusive list. There are several other studies and statistic presentations to be found in the "Baseball Forecaster.")

As a Yankees fan, I found the following information from Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007 to be very interesting:

+ There's a trend between Jason Giambi's 2003 and 2006 seasons that suggests that his 2007 season may end up like his 2004 season. (And, that would be bad news for Yankees fans.)

+ Based on his Major League Equivalency stats from last season, Gerardo Casadiego was a pretty good pick up for the Yankees last season.

+ There's evidence that suggest that Chris Britton should be more effective for the Yankees this season than Brian Bruney.

+ Why, in part, Worm Killer Wang excelled in 2006: In the majors last season, grounders were turned into out 53% of the time. In Yankees were above average at this in 2006 - as they did it 55% of the time. However, with Wang on the mound, the Yankees infield did this 56% of the time. (Although the Yankee Stadium grounds-crew may have helped with this.)

As a zealous Yankees fan, I want to know information like the above (and that Robinson Cano should hit 20 homers this year, as his "component skills" suggest).

Now, take this type of Yankees-stuff and then add it for the other 29 teams in baseball. This is what you will find in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007. Therefore, whether you are a member of the sabermetric and/or fantasy baseball legions, or just a fan of the game who wants to know more about his favorite players and/or teams, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007 is a book that you will want to read before Opening Day - and continue to reference during the 2007 season.

The fictional Emil Faber said once "Knowledge is good." While those words were never said in reality, the notion is perfect and true. Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007 is 252 pages of knowledge at a suggested retail price of $24.95. (And, if you use the links in this review, you will see that you can get it at Amazon.com for $16.47 - at this time.) Therefore, for baseball fans, reading this book is good.

What does "good" mean? It means something has desirable or positive qualities, it is agreeable or pleasing, thorough, a commodity, something that is valuable or useful.

This is how I would summarize Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2007. It is thorough, pleasing, and a valuable commodity for all fans of baseball whether they love stats, fantasy play, or just following their team. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at January 15, 2007 08:34 AM

Comments

I think the relevant question that you didn't answer is how accurate his "forecasts" have been in the past

Posted by: ieddyi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 10:15 AM

You might find this interesting: http://www.baseballhq.com/free/free060203.shtml

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 10:23 AM

"In the majors last season, grounders were turned into out 53% of the time. However, with Wang on the mound, the Yankees infield did this 56%"

Is a simply explaination that because of a great sinker, GBs off of Wang are simply NOT hit as hard as the 'average' GB? Might Mo also be in this group?

We break down batted balls into Flys, Linedrives and GBs... but isn't it just as important, or MORE important to consider the 'how much wood' factor... or 'hit poorly', 'hit solid', or 'smashed'?

Some GBs are hit so hard, an infielder can only take 2 steps before its past him. Some GBs are hit poorly, and infielders can take 10 steps before its past him.

Isn't this a MAJOR factor?

Posted by: singledd [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 12:17 PM

~~~I think the relevant question that you didn't answer is how accurate his "forecasts" have been in the past~~~

The December entries at this blog

http://lanaheimangelfan.blogspot.com

test out the projection systems for last year. Baseball Prospectus' Pecota system beat out Shandler last year for both pitchers and hitters. Still, no system has shown that it has any great success in projecting pitchers at all.

I don't like Shandler. The last few paragraphs of the free column that Steve linked too are so poorly written that they constitute gibberish.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 01:18 PM

~~~Some GBs are hit so hard, an infielder can only take 2 steps before its past him. Some GBs are hit poorly, and infielders can take 10 steps before its past him.~~~

Ask Al Leiter how hard that Luis Sojo grounder was in the 2000 WS. {wink} Really, location is what it's all about.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 06:27 PM

~~~I don't like Shandler. The last few paragraphs of the free column that Steve linked too are so poorly written that they constitute gibberish.~~~

I like to believe there's a matrix for sabermetric writers. There are four quads in it.

Those who really know their stuff and who write very well (like Bill James).

Those who really know their stuff and who don't write to entertain (per se).

Those who don't know their stuff but maybe entertain you with their writing.

And, those who don't know squat and write poorly as well.

If you look at those four outcomes, clearly, writing well, or to entertain, is the least important, no?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 06:31 PM

~~~If you look at those four outcomes, clearly, writing well, or to entertain, is the least important, no?~~~

Sure, but I don't think that you can separate them so easily. If you don't know what someone is trying to say, how can you even tell if they even know their stuff?

For example, try to translate this:

Most players -- the other 70% -- are just going to follow some type of regression. That's a percentage play strong enough to provide a good foundation for prognosticating accuracy. But here's one better...

"Marcel the Monkey" is the assertion by folks on some of the sabermetric blogs that a "chimp forecasting method" — a simplistic averaging of the last few seasons and making minor adjustments for age — is nearly as good as any other, more comprehensive system. Well... this is mostly true. If 70% accuracy is the best that we can reasonably expect, Marcel gets us about 65% of the way there. All of our "advanced" systems are fighting for occupation of that last 5%."

Hmmm... wait a minute.

If 70% of players naturally regress...

And the best accuracy we can expect is 70%...

Then it seems that it doesn't take much to achieve the high water mark of prognosticating accuracy.

And creating the most accurate player projections in the universe becomes a no-brainer.

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 07:15 PM

I'm going to take a different spin on this.

In the Forecaster, Shanler & Co. show you the numbers behind the projections - in that they show you the component skills data for the last few years, the trend lines, the warming signals, the indicators for suggested improvemnet, etc.

How many other projection sources show you that?

Even if the projections miss, at least you can see why, and agree or disagree for yourself, why they were made.

Maybe it's just me, but, I like that.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 15, 2007 10:19 PM

I always hated Bill James and have been more a fan of Shandler than James. Though I understand that the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, at least for some. But after reading Fantasyland and reading about how James shunned Shandler, during Shandler's early years of work, then it just reinforced my feelings against James.

I understand that James was the "founder", he's prophet for some, but I also don't like the arrogance he's started with some in the SABR crowd. I really enjoy Shandler's book because I actually find it easier to understand than some of the SABR stuff. He's such an easy read and he breaks things down so simple. I think he would be a great teacher, he's great at doing comparisons and giving you great examples. I just bought my last Bill James handbook because I just don't find it AS INTERESTING as Shandler's books.

A lot of my hatred towards James has to do with his hatred towards the Yankees, and it's OK if he doesn't like the Yanks but he tries to make the most at every attempt to give the Yanks (and Jeter) a good stab.

Plus in the back of Shandler's 2007 book he has a hat of my favorite Dominican team, Las Aguilas del Cibao.

Posted by: Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 16, 2007 09:10 AM