Tag Archives: fantasy baseball

Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster 2009

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster 2009

Let the record show that I am not a fantasy baseball participant: I have only participated in one such league, and it was a season long home run derby. I think I finished third or fourth, if it’s of any consequence to you. I’ve only participated in one other fantasy venture – a hockey league that I drafted my players and promptly forgot about it. I don’t even know where I stand in that league.

While I don’t participate in fantasy sports, I certainly appreciate the analysis and insight that those who do have brought to the table for discussion. When you are serious about the league you are playing in, and by serious I mean willing to put money out on your predictions, you want the best information as possible.

That is what Ron Shandler and his crew are trying to deliver, and is what they once again succeed at doing, of course with the all important disclaimers.

When I spoke with Mr. Shandler last year about his 22nd edition, he was careful to remind all of us that right now, the best projection systems are only able to achieve about 70% accuracy. That number is still in effect with the 23rd edition, so bear in mind that there is still a fairly large amount of space that can’t be nailed down.

Along with that, it’s tough to be critical of the projections that the book puts forth because we won’t know their accuracy until after the season, which isn’t the best time to put out a review of a book such as this. So I’m leaving the projection side alone, and focusing on the commentary and analysis portions of the book, which I find to be the real juicy parts and the ones that almost any fan can get into, regardless of whether or not they participate in fantasy baseball.

Ron Shandler

For me, the first 50 pages of the 271 in the book are where the goodies lie – Shandler and his contributors do a remarkable job explaining their thoughts and strategies in a way that makes it easy to understand and gives the reader an understanding of the trends that shape player performance and valuation.

If anything, the book is brutally honest – case in point, The Gravity Principles, mentioned on page 23, which basically state that it is incredibly hard to be good, and that all levels of success are susceptible to disappearing at any time. Likewise, it’s much harder to get yourself out of a slump than it is to maintain a level of success.

The Baseball Forecaster also establishes age and performance markers that help you really see if a prospect or player is worth picking up or not. Having crunched the data on thousands of players over many, many years, they have developed a fairly accurate way to look at a player and see what he might be capable of. Again, by no means a definitive set of criteria, but something that does provide a guide tempered by historical research.

As I read the book, I began feeling that I could make the argument that this is as much a life philosophy title as it is a baseball book focusing on fantasy projections. It strips down the task of trying to predict player performance to looking at “component skills analysis,” a much easier thing to wrap your head around.

Which is why I enjoy the book so much – while it deals in statistics and projections, it maintains a level of approachability that other books don’t. It also manages to throw in a good amount of humor – some laugh out loud funny, some not – but it manages to keep the book from getting too heavy. Instead of just being page after page of numbers, it helps you look at the traits a player exhibits, both good and bad, and how that fits into his makeup and thus affects his performance.

Using a good amount of well-known players as examples, they clarify the concepts even further, something that will be appreciated by those both familiar with fantasy baseball and those just wanting a better understanding of how players get valued for what they bring to the park everyday.

The Baseball Forecaster 2009 presents the opportunity for any fan who wants to better understand the performance side of baseball to do just that, and in a format that should keep you engaged while not bogging you down with too many numbers. Not to say that there aren’t a good amount of stats and terms put forth – but think of it like this: remember when you had to take a class in college that was taught by several professors? You’d ask your friends which professor made the material more enjoyable, and you tried to get his or her class. The same goes with this – Professor Shandler and his book make player valuation an approachable subject for those who might otherwise be intimidated by it, while keeping his credibility with his upper-level students who want more information and knowledge.

Shandler asks you to leave antiquated statistics like ERA and batting average behind in favor of looking at performance rates – but he doesn’t expect you to make the jump on your own. The explanation for his requests are always present, and his rationale is clear. If you’re still looking at the scoreboard to see what a guy is hitting or how many wins the starting pitcher has, this will be a bit of a departure for you, but the net is never taken away; you’re just reminded why you won’t need it.

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John Burnson and I talk about the Graphical Player

John Burnson's Graphical Player

Take a listen.

If you’re not familiar with John Burnson’s Graphical Player, you really don’t know what you’re missing. If you make the mistake of flipping through it and saying “I don’t get it!” then you really should rethink your approach to books.

Don’t feel bad — as until you learn how to read the graphs, it seems like a lot of work. But as Burnson says in the intro to the book, “if you can follow the course of a fly ball, you can follow this book.” He’s spot on with that —

Now in it’s 5th edition, the premise of the book is to use the right half of the brain to show a graphical representation of what statistics show the left brain. The result is a faster way to process historical trends and see just what a player has been up to – and whether or not it’s in line with past years or leans to the fluke side.

Burnson also contributes some great analysis of team’s minor league systems, major league ballparks, and a white glove/black glove analysis of defense that provides a snapshot size look at where teams’ strengths and weaknesses are in the field.

For the fantasy player or avid baseball fan, give a strong look at Graphical Player and find a spot for it on your reference shelf. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Log in and post your thoughts!

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My chat with Ron Shandler about the Baseball Forecaster

Ron Shandler's 2008 Baseball Forecaster

Take a listen to my recent interview with Ron Shandler as we talk about the 2008 edition of his Baseball Forecaster.

The book is a great tool for those involved with fantasy baseball, as well as an excellent resource for those who are really into baseball numbers, stats and projections. We talk about the issue of noise in gathering accurate information about players, as well as numerous other topics, including what happens when Ron has to write an unfavorable projection about his favorite players.

While the book is made up of statistics and projections that will have to wait until the end of the season to be judged, there are some great articles in the book that will open your eyes to the fog makes projecting performance difficult.

The piece on “noise” is worth the price of admission — as is the section on injuries. Both bring to the light the many factors that go into the injury problem, affectionately referred to by Shandler as “the bane of our existance.” I won’t give the goodies away – but it will make you think about things differently when you read the sports section the next morning.

As a non-fantasy leaguer, I got a ton out of this book, and it will occupy a prominent piece of real estate on my shelf this season. I think you’ll find that if you pick up a copy, it’ll do the same.
Be sure to post your comments about the 2008 Edition of Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster.

Thanks to Mariners Radio for hosting the stream.

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The Bill James Handbook 2008

The Bill James 2008 Handbook

Reviewing a book such as The Bill James Handbook 2008 is a tough job – mainly because so much of it is statistics that aren’t really grounds for review. There are only a few pages of articles and opinion — so that’s what I’ll focus on.

By far the most interesting and progressive part of the book was James’ section on which teams have the best young talent – and who the most talented young players are. James takes on the challenge of placing a value on youth in a quest to name the best players under age 29. His Young Talent Inventory is certainly something that every baseball fan should take a look at – as the results will surely spark debate in your circle of fellow seamheads.

The real question is what will you do with this book? While James is known for producing some great analysis of baseball – he challenges you to do the same by providing you pages and pages of data to draw your own conclusions from. If nothing less – I think it would be fair to say that he hopes you’ll become a more engaged and aware fan by having a concise resource to reference.

If you’re not a fantasy baseball player, you may dismiss this title as something that doesn’t need to be on your bookshelf. However – if you’re in to having information at your fingertips – regardless of your involvement in a fantasy league – this should have a spot within arms reach.

What do you think about The Bill James Handbook 2008? Join the discussion and post your comments!

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