Living is Easy

August 6, 2019

When Bill is on his game, he’s the best there ever was, but as Dave Pope’s elegant translation of Horace Stoneham asserts, even Homer nods, so you get all sorts of embarrassing passages in the Iliad and the Odyssey where the old, blind, mendicant singer is copping ZZZZs and drooling all over himself. It goes without saying that there are all sorts of brilliant apercus throughout Bill’s oeuvre, far too many to count and too deep for me to understand properly, so let’s just shove all those to the side for now, and focus on a few passages where Bill and Homer and Triple and Double are all conked out, snoring and drooling, just to reassure you that when you or I say dumb stuff, we’re in good company.

Testicles are required equipment in prediction-making, and there are books where Bill produces predictions with the regularity of momma rabbit squeezing out little wet baby rabbits. I was just thumbing through the 1991 Baseball Book, much of which consists of Bill answering catechistic questions of a largely predictive nature about players and their futures, a foolish enterprise in that some of these, if only by the sheer volume of them, are bound to be wrong, and some of the wrong ones are bound to be as wrong as possible. You, on the other hand, probably haven’t been perusing the 1991 Baseball Book lately, or for that matter any time since the spring of 1991, before you ever heard the name "Derek Jeter" or even "Hillary Clinton." The last time most readers looked at the book was when it was still far too soon to know if any of Bill’s predictive comments would prove prescient or myopic. (Doesn’t rhyme with "biopic," by the way—just a sight-rhyme.) So predicting the future in 1991 was both crazy-risky and crazy-safe. Bill was committed to being colossally wrong about some things, and we were committed to never noticing.

Bill did us the courtesy of providing a binary guide to his boldest predictions of 17 young players who he felt especially strongly would do well in their major league careers from that point on: he festooned their entries with three stars below and three above their names, meaning these were players for whom he was foreseeing stardom. He didn’t put five stars for some and two stars for others: these young players were either six-starred or unstarred: of the hundreds of predictions, these were the 17 he wanted most to call to our attention. I’m going to list the starred players below straight off, and discuss whether stardom was in the cards for them:

 

Starred Player’s Name

Nut Quote

Ellis Burks

 

"...probably the number one pick for the American League MVP this year."

Norm Charlton

"no reason why he wouldn’t become a quality pitcher."

Steve Decker

"Maybe he won’t [hit .289, with 16 HRs and 75 RBI, as projected] in 1991….but he’s going to do it."

Leo Gomez

"as a major leaguer, Gomez would [slug] close to .500 and a good many walks…comparable….to Dwight Evans"

Juan Gonzalez

"the number one candidate to win the A.L. Rookie Award."

Kevin Gross

"If he’s healthy, he’ll win 15 games for the Dodgers."

Mark Guthrie

"I like him a lot…if anyone can [succeed] I think Guthrie will."

Ken Hill

"could be a completely different pitcher than he was in ’89."

Chuck Knobloch [sic]

"should hit about .270, steal about 20 bases, hit doubles"

Julio Machado

"He’s a terrific pitcher….The Mets made a mistake in letting him get away."

Dick Schofield

"is going to have his best major league season in 1991"

Steve Searcy

See below

Paul Sorrento

"he will hit .250-.275 with more than twenty homers if he gets the playing time"

Frank Thomas

"he will rank as a hitter with Canseco, McGriff, Eddie Murray—the best in the game….no telling how good he can be"

David Wells

"no reason…he won’t be as good as Stieb or Key this year."

John Wetteland

"betting on him to be an outstanding pitcher"

Bobby Witt

"more comparable to Koufax than any other pitcher has ever been"

 

These 17 players, mind you, are far from the only predictions in the 1991 Baseball Book—they’re just the ones Bill marked with stars, which as I said is a binary kind of notation, marking where Bill went out of his way to say very good things were going to happen to these players in the near future. But the Book was littered with other predictions, which we’ll explore soon.

The comments are self-explanatory, except for the Steve Searcy entry, where Bill posed the questions "Will he ever make it in the majors? What’s the holdup?" and then wrote a very long comment, 2 full pages, where he forgot to say anything at all about Steve Searcy.  He mentions him three times in passing, but the whole long comment is on his prediction system and some self-criticism of it, namely that he needed to be more systematic and less subjective, especially with pitchers. This comment was where he developed one of his more successful systematic studies of pitchers who were due for a breakthrough, as measured by their K/Wins ratio.

In essence that ratio says that a pitcher who strikes out 20 times as many batters as the number of games he is credited with winning in a given year has an 85% chance of improving his W-L record the next year, which falls to an 80% chance of improving if that ratio is 18 to 1, and so on down to a 15% chance of improvement with a 5-1 ratio.  The system recognized that strikeouts are more reliable as a real mark of pitching ability than are the number of wins that pitchers accrue. Searcy appears towards the very top of Bill’s catalogue of pitchers who were due for improved records in 1991, with a 33-1 ratio in 1990.

Didn’t happen, but the system gives no guarantees. (Elsewhere, in answer to the Mark Langston question, "Will he come back this year?", Bill says, "Absolutely. You can be as sure as you can ever be, which is maybe 80% sure.")  If you have 14 pitchers who are "due" for an improvement, as Bill does, then as a group they will have a better W-L record in the next season than they had in the last one.

Seems to me that this system, if only in its general principles, is now fully and routinely employed by every MLB team—that is, teams have hurled into the circular file the importance of "Wins" in a given year, and are habituated to using K/IP as a reliable measure of pitching ability, so as a system, there is no real advantage to using Bill’s magical ratio anymore because everyone uses it. It’s sort of like inventing the umbrella—after a while, you can’t be all boastful about staying dry in a downpour because everyone’s got one.

But there was a real advantage at the time: it also seems to me that some team was the first to adopt the ratio in assessing pitchers, its own and other teams’, and there were tremendous free-agent pickups (or lopsided trades) to be made before the other 29 teams caught on.

If we start by examining Steve Searcy’s record in 1991, we can see some limitations of Bill’s method here: Searcy definitely improved his 2-7 W-L record in 1991, and for the remainder of his MLB career, from where it stood in 1990. Unfortunately, he also pitched much worse: the remainder of his MLB career consisted of 81 more innings with an ERA of 6.53. It isn’t hard to improve on 2-7 and still get your ass kicked so hard your great-grand kids will grow up rubbing theirs and wondering why.

Unlike Searcy, we’ve actually heard of most of the others on Bill’s list of pitchers due for improvement. The others were Jamie Moyer, Steve Avery, Steve Wilson, Jose Deleon, Chuck Cary, Matt Young, Sid Fernandez, Mark Langston, Mark Gardner, Nolan Ryan, Roy Smith, Jim Deshaies, and David Cone.

In retrospect, and probably at the time, you’d be able to look at some of these guys, and think, "Huh. Healthy star pitcher, didn’t get a lot of run support that year, maybe some nagging minor injury, due for a big bounceback," and not think much of Bill’s elaborate system for prognosticating the future. I mean, Nolan Ryan, really, Sherlock? His 1990 stats were less than impressive, but the guy had a HoF career under his belt and still was doing what he always seemed to do, strike out batters by the cubic yard, so, yeah, an improved W-L record was a pretty obvious call.  But also guys like David Cone and Mark Langston who had been big winners and still had live arms, and off-years in 1990, so again, you didn’t need to be Bill James to figure out that they would very likely tweak their W-L percentage upwards in the near future.

Bill singled out five non-obvious candidates for improvement in 1991: "say, Steve Avery, Steve Wilson, Chuck Cary, Mark Gardner, and Jim Deshaies—you will probably have at least one player who takes the league by storm in 1991." This was for the purposes of fantasy leagues, which I have about as much interest in as I do in these five guys’ interpretations of the Gospels. Maybe in fantasy leagues, you can draft five pitchers in the hope that one of them will do well, but honestly if you drafted these five in real life hoping that one would do well while the other four would continue sucking eggs, you’d lose your GM union card pretty durn quick.

For the record, these five had a collective 27-52 W-L record in 1990 (.342), and they improved that to 33-37 (.471), with the bust-out year belonging to Steve (18-8) Avery. The other four remained below .350, so it’s hard to say how a system that predicts success accurately for one player in five is very useful. Any dartboard of baseball cards of pitchers with terrible W-L records in 1990 would yield a few solid hits for 1991, wouldn’t it? Besides, it’s not like Bill was picking among universally reviled pitchers—as he pointed out, players like Cone and Nolan Ryan and Langford weren’t exactly available for bupkis on the open market—their teams understood that they had probably had a random down season in 1990 and were due for an uptick. The Braves certainly were full of hope that Avery could have the kind of 1991 that he actually did have.

An unanticipated pleasure in reviewing these 28-year stats was discovering that most of these players had gotten a bit hazy over the decades, so I found myself encountering now-familiar names but needing to put them in the context of "unknown quantity" again. In the winter of 1990-1, Tino Martinez, for example, was a total crapshoot, but I had forgotten that. When I saw him listed in the 1991 Baseball Book, I assumed that his MLB stardom was fully underway.  (Not sure why that is: with most players of the 1960s or 1970s whom I followed as closely as I did Martinez, I’d be willing to place a sizable bet on the precise stage of their careers in any given year, but with more recent players, I could be easily be off by five or even ten years. What’s up with that?) "How good is he?" was Bill’s catechistic question about Tino, who had been USA Today’s minor league player of 1990, and his answer was in violent opposition to the received wisdom of the time, and, as it turned out,  to history’s assessment of Tino Martinez:  "if you ask me is this a player to get excited about, my answer is that he definitely is not. He is the most overrated rookie of the 1991 crop." Bill referred to USA Today‘s assessment as "nuts," and predicted that Martinez would "hit around .260 with 15-18 HRs."

You could take that prediction either way: Bill was dead on the money, in that Martinez spent most of 1991 in the minors, and then batted .257, .265 and .261 with Seattle for his first three years as their first-baseman, hitting 16, 17, and then 20 HRs. But you could also say that Bill missed the boat entirely in starting off his comment with "I’m very cool  towards him" overall:  in the seven seasons from 1995 to 2001, Tino Martinez posted (per 162 games, which he nearly played) 122 RBI per year, with a high of 141 RBI in 1997, when he came in second in the AL MVP voting to his former Seattle teammate Ken Griffey Jr.  That’s pretty call torn where I come from, and hardly what "most overrated rookie of 1991" implies about Tino’s potential.

Tino’s almost-teammate (twice) on the Yankees, Ruben Sierra, was a player on whom Bill was very high in the Book, despite an off-year in 1990, which Bill attributed to playing through an ankle injury. "He was on a Hall of Fame path a year ago," he concluded, "and he’s on a Hall of Fame path now." That path had exactly one remaining step to it, and then it ended in a Wily-Coyote/Roadrunner-type cliff: Sierra had an excellent 1991, his second season with a +5 WAR, but after 1991, age 25, Ruben Sierra had only one more year, 1992, with a WAR even above 3.0—from there on out, 1993 through 2006, Sierra’s collective WAR over the final fourteen years of his career was a negative 3.8. Ouch. And not even close to the HoF, needles to say.

Serendipitously, in the 1991 Book, Gary Sheffield is on the facing page from Ruben Sierra: as positive as Bill sounds about Sierra, and as mistaken, is his negative view of Sheffield’s prospects.  Although Bill eventually came around to reassessing Sheffield’s demeanor and talents as overwhelmingly positive, that was far from his prognostication in 1991: "Frankly, I doubt he’ll ever help anyone," he wrote, despite the great talent Sheffield had already exhibited, along with great "emotional instability," as of 1990. "It’s probably a good idea just to stay away from him."

Another parallel Bill draws explicitly is the one between Sierra and Will Clark, both of whom had off-seasons (for them) in 1990, due to foot problems, and for whom Bill predicts a bright future nevertheless, pointing out how closely year-by-year Sierra’s annual stats mirror Clark’s. This comparison is correct in some respects—both Clark and Sierra did have big bounceback years in 1991—but not in the respect of the long run. "If you want to know who eventually will have better numbers," Bill wrote, "my money is on Sierra," which was wrong, but they both fell off the cliff. Clark landed softly, having caught quite a few tree branches on his way down, sparing him the long, hard crash that broke Sierra’s HoF career in a hundred places, but after 1991, Clark’s path to the HoF disappeared. Comparing some glorious stats from his first seven seasons (1986-91, ages 21-27) to those his final nine seasons, it’s not even close.

 

GAMES

HR

MVP SHARES

ALL- STAR GAMES

OPS+

1986-1991

  884

146

1.67

4

.149

1992-2000

1092

138

0.17

2

.128

 

Nothing to be ashamed of, his is actually a GOOD second career half, compared to Sierra, but .128 was Keith Hernandez’s career OBP+, and Clark wasn’t Keith Hernandez on defense.

Like Sierra and Sheffield, Larry Walker and Robin Ventura, who broke in about a month apart in 1989, are en face from each other alphabetically (pp. 170-171) and Bill, writing after their full rookie seasons in 1990, undersells them both. He’s harsher on Ventura—"there’s nothing about him that says ‘STAR’"—but he places Walker "somewhere between Rob Deer and Jose Canseco—better than Deer, not as good as Canseco, but the same type of player."  Over his career, Walker accumulated more WAR than Deer and Canseco combined, with a few of their teammates and woodland creatures thrown in to even up the scales. The most egregious statement about Walker’s potential is the one about "It is very unlikely that Walker will ever be a .300 hitter, because he strikes out so much." To start with, Walker struck out 112 times in his rookie year, which ain’t hay, but which falls a trifle short of Canseco’s 175 Ks his rookie year or Deer’s 179 in his rookie year. Over the course of his career, Walker would strike out 100 times per 162 games, which is a bunch but not historically outstanding. (Canseco, btw, batted over .300 twice in full-time seasons. Mantle did it routinely while striking out over 100 times.)

Walker would of course bust through the .300 barrier like a stripper busts through a bachelor-party’s cake, batting .379, .366, .363, .350, and .338 (plus a few more .300+ BAs)—this was in Colorado, so you need to deflate those numbers quite a bit, but there’s not enough deflation in the world to bring those averages below the .300 mark, or even close. "Ever," as the song goes, is a long time, and no one expects the Denver Thin-Air Phenomenon any more than he expects the Spanish Inquisition, but still there were years Walker batted over .300 on the road (.346 in 1997) so I have to think he could have put in a year or two above .300 playing anywhere.

To his credit, Bill does recognize Walker as a major talent, albeit one with flaws—but he’s utterly dismissive of Ventura’s abilities. He predicts improvement, but on a minute scale: he "will be a better player next year—maybe a .270 hitter with eight to ten homers." Missed that by a hair—in 1991, Ventura hit .284, 23 HR and 100 RBIs, eventually retired with eight 90-RBI seasons and six Gold Gloves.

Another pair of players facing each other in the 1991 Baseball Book is Dale Murphy and Eddie Murray, whose HoF chances Bill explicitly compares: he comes down as a supporter of Murray for the honor, though his actual prediction of what will happen contradicts his stated view of what should happen. "Murphy probably will go into the Hall of Fame without a fight," he begins, though from our privileged vantage-point we now know that his career ended so lamely that he got knocked out while lacing up his gloves, whereas Murray’s HoF chances were deemed "Not as good as Dale Murphy’s." Bill accurately predicts what is going to happen: "Murray probably will do more in the rest of his career than Murphy will, and that may make him the stronger candidate….while Murphy may be forced into retirement in a few more years," thus covering all the possible bases, including the lunar base. I don’t know if I have an actual point here, other than to pontificate on the perils of making predictions.

Predicting is fiendishly difficult, as I hope I’m demonstrating, especially (as Yogi never said) regarding future events. What I hope I’m showing is NOT what an idiot Bill was, but that degree of difficulty. You can be the most intelligent, rational, systematic, objective, informed person in the universe, which I believe Bill was in the winter of 1990-1 on the subject of baseball, and you are going to get things wrong.

Truth to tell, I can’t really distinguish "right" from "wrong" very clearly here, and it’s not because Bill is ambiguous-- he was trying very hard not to be. For one thing, his system of putting stars on the 17 players that he did marks with great clarity his adamance that great things were in store for them. Calling Ellis Burks "the number one pick for the American League MVP this year," for example, is as specific as you can get. The fact that Burks had a mediocre 1991 (and 1992, -3, -4 and -5) makes Bill’s powers of prediction look pretty weak, except for the fact that Burks delivered on the prediction at the age of 31 in 1996. He was playing for Colorado by then, having passed through the Red Sox system and the White Sox system like a gallon of prune juice would pass through your system, with about the same results, but then he put up gi-normous MVP-type numbers for the Rockies, six seasons after Bill predicted that outcome for 1991. Is this a very good prediction, or a very poor one? Seems to me, you could make either case.

Burks is an outlier in other ways: most of the other 16 players on Bill’s list of future stars are rookies or near-rookies, but Burks had already made an All-Star team, gotten some MVP votes, won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger and made over 2300 plate appearances over four full seasons, so I’m not sure why he was being lauded for his potential alongside guys who’d hardly played in in MLB yet.

Moving straight from explosive diarrhea to something truly Gross, Bill’s rosy view of the second half of Kevin Gross’s career also missed the mark. "If he’s healthy, he’ll win 15 games for the Dodgers" never happened—I’m not sure how healthy Gross ever got, or how gross Healthy ever got, but he did start 147 more games in his career (narrowly exceeding his last name) so he must have been not quite on Death’s doorstep, and he never won more than 13 games again. (Three seasons of 30 or more starts is a pretty fair sign of health.) In 1991 he went 10-11 for the Dodgers, then 8-13, maintaining his pre-Dodgers W-L percentage in the .470s in his career beyond 1990—basically identical to what he’d been as a Philly phailure. No breakthrough to stardom there.

Of the Gang of 17, the oddest name for me is that of Steve Decker, whose future stardom Bill comes very close to guaranteeing personally.  I happened to mention (somewhere on this website, a few years ago, maybe in a "Hey Bill" conversation, maybe in response to an article) the name of "Steve Decker" as my shorthand for a prediction of success that never happened, and to my surprise Bill somewhat testily replied "Who the hell is Steve Decker?" which was my entire point. Who the hell ever was Steve Decker? Though it was instructive that, after a decade or two, even Bill didn’t remember touting him as a future star, or even recognize his name. Well, who was he? He was a young catcher in the Giants system, whose defense and power and "take-charge" attitude impressed Bill no end, but finally he just never hit and his career fizzled out. In seven partial years in MLB, he got up 688 times and batted .221 with a .613 OPS.

I dwell on Decker, not just because his fizzle never matched the sizzle of Bill’s glowing predictions for him, but also because of the diametric-opposite prediction the 1991 Baseball Book made about another young catcher who, like Decker, had a handful of big-league ABs when the Book came out: "his bat is so weak that even a Gold Glove couldn’t keep him in the lineup. I don’t think he could hit .250 or hit for any power in the major leagues….If he does develop, he’ll be a regular. I doubt that he’ll be a star."

That was Bill’s upside prediction for a very young Todd Hundley, who wound up hitting over 200 HRs in the big leagues, with a high of 41 in 1996, setting the record for Shea Stadium and for MLB catchers. He wasn’t a star for very long (elbow injuries) but for a few years he fit that description perfectly. He sure as heckfire had 10 times the star-power of Steve Decker.

Returning to Bill’s list of 17 future stars, we find the name of Dick Schofield, whom Bill predicted "is going to have his best major league season in 1991"—but 1991 turned out to be another no-hit, good-field season that both Schofield pere et fils produced regularly, while Julio Machado (of Your Smile) never quite fulfilled the promise of "He’s a terrific pitcher….The Mets made a mistake in letting him get away." Over the past 57 years, the Mets have made more personnel errors than Daryl Strawberry would have made if you put a burlap bag over his head and left him out in right field for all eternity (a fate otherwise known as "Strawberry Fields Forever") but letting Machado go wasn’t one of them. (Of course, being sentenced to 12 years for committing murder in Venezuela probably falls outside of Bill’s data base.) Among Bill’s other mis-predictions, I think we must number Leo Gomez, whose slugging, you’ll recall, Bill put at "close to .500 and a good many walks…comparable….to Dwight Evans." If .417 is close enough to .500 for ya, that’s a hit, but I don’t think Gomez’s other career stats have garnered many comparisons to Dwight Evans’ accomplishments.  And finally, of Bill’s mis-steps, we will also have to number this one for Juan Gonzalez: "the number one candidate to win the A.L. Rookie Award." Gonzalez did not get a single vote in 1991’s Rookie-of-the-Year balloting.

That surprised me so much that I violated my own principles and did some actual research:  turns out, Juan Gone had used up his rookie eligibility in 1990, so that was actually a mistake of a different stripe entirely. The 1991 ROTY award went instead to Chuck Knoblauch, whose name Bill couldn’t yet spell but whose career path he enthusiastically foresaw: "should hit about .270, steal about 20 bases, hit doubles." The actual 1991 figures were .281, 25 SB, and 24 doubles, which is darn close. His other calls on Charlton, Guthrie, Hill, Sorrento, Thomas, Wells, Wetteland, and Witt were also pretty close to the bull’s eye. (Maybe a tad over-enthusiastic about Guthrie and Witt, who had decent careers but never came close to stardom.) These eight had careers ranging from "solid regular" to "Hall of Fame."

Ken Hill was a particularly impressive call: through 1990, Hill had gone 12-22 with a 4.32 ERA for the Cardinals. That promptly changed to 11-10, 3.57 in 1991, and an average of 13-8, 3.50 over the 1991-1996 period. In 1994, Hill was Cy Young runner-up, which is definitely "completely different" from 7-15.

Some of Bill’s predictions of disaster are pretty funny, such as his assessment of Stan Jefferson:

"Can he play?

No." [That was the entire comment.]

Or his evaluation of Kip Gross’s potential:  "as much chance of cracking the Reds’ bullpen as Luis Polonia has of anchoring Nightline."

Or Chris Codrioli:

"What was he doing in the major leagues?

Desperation."

Of course, the PED crisis was still on the far horizon, so Bill had no way to foresee the bright future of some players now thought to have dabbled in the dark arts, among them Brady Anderson and Ken Caminiti. (Although I’d stop short of calling the remainder of Caminiti’s sad life "bright" on balance, he did have a monster 1996.)  And occasionally, not always, Bill’s predictions take the tuchus-covering tone of your weatherman advising you that there’s a 30 per cent chance of rain today. He’s totally got that covered if it pours and also if it’s drier than Tranquility Base. So what to make of Bill predicting the 21-year-old Carlos Baerga’s "chance of developing into a star player is maybe 15 to 20%"? I’ll remind you of Bill’s sensible observation that the closest you could possibly come to an absolute guarantee is 80%, so what does the remainder signify? An absolute guarantee that Baerga wouldn’t become a star?

Bill was much more definite on the chances of George Bell’s younger brother, Tito, developing into a star: "he’s a major league shortstop all the way. The Orioles need to figure some way to get value for him." Me, I never heard of him, or maybe I forgot about him. 0.3 WAR over 7 partial MLB seasons. Anyone know what happened there? Injury, maybe? Sinkhole tragedy?

His assessment of Steve Finley’s future ("this train ain’t bound for glory…he’s not any kind of any offensive player") sells Finley for two cents on the dollar – eventually, he hit over 300 big league HRs, which has to constitute some kind of offensive player, but he’s very reassuring about Mike Greenwell, who’d had a slight off-year in 1990: among the players who had down years, including Will Clark, Ruben Sierra, Robin Yount, Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn, "Greenwell may be the most certain to come back…He’ll be great this year. Hell, he could be the MVP." As you probably know, Mike Greenwell wasn’t the 1991 MVP, and averaged under 10 HRs a year for the remaining six years of his career.

Like I said, living is easy, predicting is hard—not slagging on Bill here, but if the best-informed and wisest prognosticator is this far off base this often, why do any of us ever bother to offer our stupid opinions on future events?  I can’t do 0.00001% of the research Bill does into players’ stats, and I couldn’t interpret my research with any of Bill’s insight, so it’s plainly foolish for me even to pretend I know a young player is going to develop in the years to come. My watchword from here on out is "I don’t know nothing" and it should be yours as well, no matter how brilliant and prescient and all-knowing you may credit yourself with being.

I still do it, of course. All the time—"That rookie looks good, that one not so much, I predict great things for this 17-year-old shortstop we just signed, we should trade our All-Star at the deadline to get this terrific prospect in exchange"—but I guess we all have a built-in tendency to make idiots out of ourselves. The fact that no one listens to our prognostications, and no one cares, and no one records the nonsense that comes out of our mouths and writes articles about it 28 years later helps, too, of course.

​​
 
 

COMMENTS (17 Comments, most recent shown first)

LesLein
I had Decker and Gomez on my fantasy team. There was a game where Decker hit a home run and caught Bud Black’s shutout, leading to the inevitable headline. I have to blame myself for my team’s performance after trading Gonzalez for Erik Hanson.
9:30 AM Aug 15th
 
garywmaloney
Goldleaf, i love when you go through the great old books and pull out material, as you have here and elsewhere. I too have thumbed endlessly through Bill's old works, and there is plenty to love and enjoy even from this distance (28 years). I keep badgering Bill to collect the philosophical / non-baseball gems from all these old works, but deaf ears so far.

Not noted in your comments was another statement Bill made about Bobby Witt -- (slight paraphrase)"He's turned a corner, but that's not to say he won't turn another corner." Very few pitchers can be a Koufax, even for a short time; Witt had that moment, for a season or so, and alas it went away very quickly. (For Karl Spooner, it went away even faster!) And, lest we forget, even SK himself was only SANDY KOUFAX for five or six years . . .
1:56 PM Aug 10th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Well, we know that if they took steroids, it didn't do them a bit of good.
8:05 PM Aug 7th
 
steve161
We "know"? The hell we do. If Fernando Vina was a user--outed in the Mitchell Report and confessed--anybody can be a user. The failure to hit a batch of home runs isn't proof of anything, any more than the fact of hitting them. That being so, I'll stick to the presumption of innocence.
6:33 PM Aug 7th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Good point, thoughtclaw. Martinez? Walker? Hundley? Ventura? Finley? We know that Mike Greenwell, Tito Bell, Dick Schofield, and Steve Decker must have been pretty clean.
1:37 PM Aug 7th
 
thoughtclaw
Steven, you mentioned PEDs in passing, but I think it's highly likely that a fair number of players who haven't been directly implicated were using them. Therefore, I think it's highly likely that some of those Bill underestimated went on to exceed his expectations because of chemical assistance. Of course, we'll probably never know exactly who, but I think it's worth keeping in mind.
12:09 PM Aug 7th
 
Steven Goldleaf
One of the things I didn't mention, because Bill didn't, is the usefulness of the Wins:Strikeouts ratio in reverse. It could also theoretically tell you which pitchers had a lucky-as-hell season. If you had one of those, a guy who won 12 games despite striking out only 60 batters, you should deal him off ASAP to some team blinded by those gaudy 12 victories. Those days are also gone, I think.

I wonder if anyone studies the proportion of Ks that are of NL pitchers. I would imagine an NL pitcher who won 12 games with 60 Ks may have had a higher proportion of those Ks of pitchers, but maybe that figure doesn't vary enough to be worth studying.
7:09 AM Aug 7th
 
shthar
Leo Gomez.

You broke my heart.


2:33 AM Aug 7th
 
Gfletch
Indeed, we are in agreement, not that there was any doubt.

As to my head exploding in 2025...I figure my odds of even getting to 2025 is only about 60/40.
5:36 PM Aug 6th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I agree, Gary: it would be foolish for Bill to review his past predictions, but I think it's fun for us to do it. I mean, what's the point of predictions? If they're just there for the week they're made, then they're kinda bullshit, right? I could predict your head will explode in 2025, if man is still alive, but if we can't revisit that prediction, then it's just me blathering.

Not that that stops me from blathering.
5:18 PM Aug 6th
 
Gfletch
I remember Bill writing something like, 'I don't revisit or reassess my predictions because that just gives you a chance to be wrong twice.' Bill has also never really forgotten to embrace the spirit of Bill Veeck ("It's supposed to be fun, you know.")

Hey, we bought his books because we enjoyed reading what he had to say.

I've said this before, but nobody is gonna stop me from saying it again - Bill's writing can be divided into two groups - pre-Red Sox Job and post-Red Sox Job. I think it's more fun to be sure of yourself than it is to recognize that there's a lot to be unsure of.
5:01 PM Aug 6th
 
Steven Goldleaf
bearbyz--I don't think there's anybody on the planet, if I didn't make this point clearly enough, who could have made hundreds of predictions and gotten more of them dead-center right. My focus here was on the ones Bill got wrong--it makes for a much shorter article. Otherwise I would have been here all year.
4:52 PM Aug 6th
 
bearbyz
I meant to say I finished the book a few months ago not a few years ago.
4:22 PM Aug 6th
 
bearbyz
I am slowly going thru Bill's old books and the Stats Scoreboards. I just finished the 1991 Baseball Book a few year ago. Overall I don't think Bill did badly on his picks. I think there were probably more explanations of steroids having him miss some picks than you said, but you and I will never know for sure.
4:22 PM Aug 6th
 
Steven Goldleaf
"To do is to be"--Nietzsche

"To be is to do"--Kant

"Do be do be do be do"--Sinatra​
1:22 PM Aug 6th
 
nettles9
We praise or blame as one or the other affords more opportunity for exhibiting our power of judgment." Friedrich Nietzsche, "Human,All Too Human" (1878)
12:05 PM Aug 6th
 
3for3
I did a similar look back from the 86 Abstract in the reader posts section:

boards.billjamesonline.com/showthread.php?9173-Predicting-the-Hall-of-Fame.-A-Look-Back&highlight=3for3

Bill did very well there Of course there were a lot of mid and late career predictions.

9:01 AM Aug 6th
 
 
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