This past Tuesday, I received a copy of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006.
I have to confess, when I looked at it for the very first time on Tuesday night, I was initially overwhelmed at its content. Truly, my first reaction was “This thing is so jam-packed that I don’t know if I can read it. I’m not even sure where to start?” Honestly, it was somewhat intimidating – like a normal appetite person sitting down in front of the “Norm Peterson Special” at the “Hungry Heifer.” But, determined to give it a try, I started thumbing through the book nonetheless.
This book is penned, as the title would suggest, by the gang over at The Hardball Times (THT). If you’re not familiar with them, let me share that they are a very smart outfit – but not an elitist (which happens sometimes with smart folks) ivory-tower-type group. I’ve personally corresponded with Brian Borawski, Dan Fox, and Aaron Gleeman (among others at THT) recently (before reading this book) and they were very approachable and accommodating with me. That’s one reason why I wanted to try their book.
In addition to the work from the THT brain trust, the book also contains “guest contributions” from several noted and enjoyable baseball authors – such as Rob Neyer, Bill James, Alex Belth (again, among many others). That was another draw here for me.
The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 provides an extensive review of the 2005 season (including the post-season) plus an additional 11 essays on topics from the 2005 season – including Alex Belth’s fun guest piece “Never a Dull Moment” detailing the happenings in the Bronx this season.
The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 also includes 4 great essays related to baseball history – including Bill James Hall of Fame case made for Bert Blyleven. And, there are also 9 essays that the “stat heads” will enjoy – such as “What’s so magic about 100 pitches?” and “What’s a batted ball worth?” and “Do players control batted balls?”
Lastly, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 provides pages and pages of stats, stats, and more stats. There are stats on every team and player from the game – and the types of stats that you just don’t see everywhere – like Fielding Independent Pitching, Homeruns per Outfield Fly, Incremental Baserunning Runs, etc.
Now, the stats-thing is worth expanding on – because these stats are not for the person who thinks Neifi Perez is helpful because he’s a middle infielder who hit .274 last year with 9 homers. Because of the sophistication and amount of the stats that are found in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006, if you’re someone who hates the deep thought “stats-side” of baseball, then this book is not for you.
But, if you’re someone who felt like you were holding the Holy Grail the first time that you read one of Bill James Baseball Abstracts, then you’re going to love The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. I must confess, on my third night of thumbing through the book, that’s what it felt like for me – like it was 1982 all over again and I was reading a “Baseball Abstract” for the first personal time.
As a Yankees fan, in addition to the Belth essay, you’ll enjoy learning things like the fact that Robinson Cano was one of the best base runners in the game, and that the Yankees defense was truly terrible last year, and that the lack of a bench probably cost the Yankees about 5 wins in 2005 – and home field in the ALDS.
And, if you like players on other teams, and/or learning about other teams, you’ll find lots of juicy stuff on them in this book as well. It’s more than worth the $17.95 (suggested retail price). You’ll get at least 6 hours of enjoyment from the book – probably much more. Think about that – how many long-lasting good times these days can you get for less than three bucks an hour? It’s a bargain.
I highly recommend The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006. I’ve read many books like this over the last 25 years and this one is right up there among the best of the group. I’m very happy to have the chance to review it.