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Baseball Books

Evaluating Batting | Evaluating Pitching | Evaluating Fielding

Described below are some of the best statistically oriented baseball books available. A few of them are out-of-print, but can be purchased from sellers of secondhand books. Here are some places on the Internet to search for out-of-print books:

Advanced Book Exchange

There are other web sites that provide longer, more general lists of baseball books. For information on baseball books dealing with topics other than statistics, check here:

Baseball Book Survey
Baseball Bookshelf
Books from the Bleachers
Buying Baseball Books: A Guide
Essential Baseball Library

You can also search for baseball books by subject through Barnes & Noble. Here's the list of books on baseball statistics:

The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. If you own just one baseball book, this should be it. James divides the book into four sections. The first part is a decade-by-decade history of the game, with summaries of each era accompanied by charts and boxes of information. The second section is a thorough explanation of James' statistical methods, including several versions of his well known runs created formula. The third part is a collection of short descriptions of the candidates for the 100 best players of all time, including James' rankings by position and overall. The final section is a statistical record of many of the players described in the third section. The book is dated, since the rankings were compiled more than 10 years ago, but James is reportedly preparing a revision to be released in the next couple of years. By Bill James, 723 pages, ISBN 0394758056 (Second Edition, 1988).

The Hidden Game of Baseball. Pete Palmer and John Thorn take an even more statistically minded approach than James. This book reveals the batting runs, pitching runs, and fielding runs methods that Palmer and Thorn now use in Total Baseball. After chronicling the history of baseball statistics and explaining the technical aspects of their methods, Palmer and Thorn rank hundreds of players based purely on the numbers generated by their formulas. The book also includes a discussion of statistical studies into batting orders, platooning, and other matters of strategy. The latter part of the book contains a statistical record of every major-league season applying the then-new formulas. Like The Historical Baseball Abstract, The Hidden Game of Baseball is aging, too, but is updated every couple of years by the information presented in Total Baseball. By John Thorn and Pete Palmer, 419 pages, ISBN 038518283 (1984).

STATS All-Time Major League Handbook. STATS applies to baseball history the format it uses in its annual statistical publications. The All-Time Major League Handbook contains complete batting, pitching, and fielding statistics for more than 15,000 major-leaguers. Batting statistics are provided for every pitcher, and fielding statistics at every position are provided for every player. No other printed source provides statistics like grounded into double play, sacrifice hits, sacrifice flies, hit by pitch, hit batsmen, intentional bases on balls, batters facing pitcher, and home and road home runs for every player. Conveniently, league averages are provided next to the player's averages for the sake of comparison, and the seasons in which the player won the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Gold Glove, and Rookie of the Year awards are listed in his record. Bill James revised his runs created formula for this book, and the results for every player in every season in major-league history are presented. A brief description of the complicated new formula is provided. For more on the All-Time Major League Handbook, read the description at the STATS web site. Edited by Bill James, John Dewan, Neil Munro, and Don Zminda, 2,653 pages, ISBN 1884064523 (1998). Retail price $79.95, available from Barnes & Noble for $55.96.

STATS All-Time Baseball Sourcebook. When STATS endeavored to produce a baseball encyclopedia, it required two volumes. The All-Time Baseball Sourcebook picks up where the All-Time Major League Handbook leaves off. The book contains a season-by-season statistical chronicle, including standings, league leaders, post-season results, awards, and park effects. Rosters for every team in major-league history are provided, too. The leader boards include not only career and single-season leaders, but leaders for rookies, by age, and by span of seasons. For example, it's possible to look up who hit the most home runs in a season at age 30, in a career by age 36, and over a two-year, three-year, four-year, or even 10-year span. The teams section features franchise statistical leaders as well as essays on each club. The latter half of the book contains information on ballparks, box scores of famous games, situational statistics, post-season statistics, award voting, and more. For more on the All-Time Baseball Sourcebook, read the description at the STATS web site. Edited by Bill James, John Dewan, Neil Munro, Don Zminda, and Jim Callis, 2,696 pages, ISBN 1884064531 (1998). Retail price $79.95, available from Barnes & Noble for $55.96.

Total Baseball. Total Baseball is the official encyclopedia of Major League Baseball, having deprived the pioneer MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia of that designation a few years ago. Total Baseball applies the formulas introduced in The Hidden Game of Baseball to more than 15,000 major-leaguers. While Total Baseball features fewer statistics than the STATS publications, it has plenty of numbers itself and keeps them in a single, less expensive volume. In addition, Total Baseball contains essays on numerous topics, including the history of baseball, team histories, baseball in foreign countries, the Negro Leagues, the minor leagues, women in baseball, baseball statistics, fantasy baseball, ballparks, and more. New in the sixth edition are short biographies of the 400 best players of all time, a listing of record holders over time, and an expanded season register that devotes two pages to each league-season. The awards section has also been revised to list more honors, including players and pitchers of the month going back to the inception of those awards. Total Baseball has a web site at Edited by John Thorn, Pete Palmer, Michael Gershman, and David Pietrusza, 2,538 pages, ISBN 1892129035 (Sixth Edition, 1999). Retail price $59.95, available from Barnes & Noble for $41.96.

STATS Major League Handbook. Released not long after the World Series every year, this annual publication is the earliest, most in-depth statistical review of the just-completed season. Career statistics are provided for every player active during the previous campaign. The book also includes left/right statistics for each player and pitcher, pitchers' batting statistics, position-by-position fielding statistics, team statistics, and a section on ballparks and park effects. Provided in the latter part of the book are leader boards and statistical projections for the following season. For more on the Major League Handbook, read the description at the STATS web site. Edited by Bill James, 400 pages, ISBN 1884064566 (10th Edition, 1998). Retail price $19.95, available from Barnes & Noble for $15.96.

STATS Player Profiles. Another of the annual STATS baseball publications, the Player Profiles also appears just after the end of each post-season. The Player Profiles provides detailed situational statistics, including left/right, home/road, day/night, grass/turf, by month, by line-up position, by clutch situation, and by count, for all major-leaguers active during the just-completed season, including totals for the previous year as well as over the last five seasons. The Player Profiles features leader boards for all kinds of situations. For more on the Player Profiles, read the description at the STATS web site. Edited by STATS, Inc., 587 pages, ISBN 1884064582 (Seventh Edition, 1998). Retail price $19.95, available from Barnes & Noble for $15.96.

STATS Baseball Scoreboard. Readers of the annual Bill James Baseball Abstracts of the '80s should enjoy the scores of essays in the yearly Baseball Scoreboard. The book proposes and answers questions on teams, players, strategies, and more. STATS' massive database of statistics is used to apply an analytical approach to questions such as "Will Griffey Shatter the Home-Run Record?" and "How Important Is It to Score First?" An appendix toward the end of the book features all kinds of player statistics not found elsewhere, like RBI as a percentage of opportunities and "holds" for outfielders' arms. For more on the Baseball Scoreboard, read the description at the STATS web site. By John Dewan, Don Zminda, and Jim Callis, 321 pages, ISBN 1884064620 (10th Edition, 1999). Retail price $19.95, available from Barnes & Noble for $15.96.

Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?: Baseball, Cooperstown, and the Politics of Glory. Bill James brings his statistical acumen to the Hall of Fame, chronicling the history and selection processes of the institution as well as examining what standards, if any, have been applied to candidates for Cooperstown. James doesn't campaign for who should or shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, rather he attempts to figure out why the electors make some of the decisions they do, what impact those decisions have had on the institution, and how the Hall of Fame could be improved. An ongoing theme of the book is the candidacies of Phil Rizzuto and Don Drysdale, two players at the center of the debate over the Hall of Fame's standards. By Bill James, 452 pages, ISBN 0684800888 (1995). Retail price $14, available from Barnes & Noble for $11.20.

Big Bad Baseball Annual. The self-proclaimed descendant of the annual Bill James Baseball Abstracts, the Big Bad Baseball Annual is thicker than any of James' yearly editions. The book, released each spring, features lengthy essays on all 30 major-league teams, including statistical breakdowns. The players section contains a brief note on every major-leaguer, as well as statistical rankings by position. The articles at the front and back of the book discuss statistical methods and other baseball topics. The volume of numbers might overwhelm the uninitiated, especially since many of the statistics are innovative and, hence, unfamiliar. Jim Furtado's highly accurate extrapolated runs method is described in excruciating detail. The Big Bad Baseball Annual has a web site at By Dan Malcolm, Ken Adams, Brock Hanke, and Jay Walker, 428 pages, ISBN 0809226553 (1999). Retail price $19.95, available from Barnes & Noble for $15.96.

The Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book. If you've ever wondered about the record for runs scored in an inning, walks in a game, or pinch-hit home runs in a season, the annual Complete Baseball Record Book has it. Records are listed for individuals and teams, single-season and lifetime, regular-season and post-season, by inning, game, week, month, series, by franchise, etc. Batting, pitching, and fielding records are all included. The book includes literally thousands of records. Edited by Craig Carter, 558 pages, ISBN 0892046031 (1999). Retail price $17.95, available from Barnes & Noble for $14.36.

Bill James Baseball Abstract. Published annually from 1982 to 1988, the Baseball Abstracts are still worth reading although they're a decade old. James' writing and analysis improved over time, so the 1987 and 1988 editions are most recommended. James begins each book with a few discussions on more general questions, like platooning or the strike zone, then delves into team essays. In addition to discussing the team itself, James or a co-author picks a topic relevant to that team and addresses it in an accompanying article. The latter part of each book usually offers player evaluations or other studies, often contributed by other writers. Among the present books offered by STATS, the Baseball Scoreboard is the one that most resembles the old Baseball Abstracts. James is one of a kind, and it's a shame for readers that he no longer writes annually. By Bill James, published annually from 1982 to 1988.