Culling the Bill James Handbook

One of the few positives of the end of the baseball season is the Annual Bill James Handbook (aff link) arriving on my doorstep. At one time it was the only place to easily find a number of uncommon stats. Sites like Fangraphs and Baseball Reference and the rise of Pitch F/X data make some of these stats easier to come by, but the Handbook is still a trove of baseball stats.

This year’s edition has the usual favorites like:

  • Base running stats: Gerald Laird was one of the better base runners on the team at +11 bases. Ordonez was –17 and dragged down by his GIDP rate and the fact he went first to third in only 2 of his 27 chances.
  • The Fielding Bible Awards: Placido Polanco and Brandon Inge ranked 6th at their respective positions while Curtis Granderson finished 3rd amongst center fielders.
  • Manufactured Runs: The Tigers ranked 8th in the AL, right in the middle of the pack. The Angels were far ahead of anybody else and the Twins were a solid second. Granderson manufactured the most runs for the Tigers and Gerald Laird was second on the team.
  • Manager’s Stats: When the Tigers offense would struggle many would blame Jim Leyland for not putting enough plays on to manufacture runs. Leyland ordered 60 sacrifice attempts which was second in the AL to only Ron Gardenhire. He was second in putting runners in motion to only Mike Scioscia. Perhaps he was trying to hard to manufacture runs.
  • Leaderboards: These are my favorites every year. Some things that I found interesting:
  • Ordonez had the 4th highest batting average against lefties at .352.
  • Everett led the AL with 15 sacrifice hits.
  • Granderson had the lowest GIDP percentage at 0.94 which bested Ichiro Suzuki and Carlos Gomez.
  • Ordonez had the 5th highest OPS in the 2nd half of the season.
  • Verlander threw the 3rd highest percentage of pitches in the strike zone and he had the 2nd lowest stolen base percentage allowed.
  • Porcello had the 3rd  highest GIDP per 9 innings.
  • Fu-Te Ni allowed the lowest percentage of inherited runners to score and the lowest batting average against lefties for relief pitchers.
  • Verlander and Jackson were first and second in total number of pitches thrown at 95 mph or faster.
  • Rodney had the 3rd fastest average fastball for relievers and Ryan Perry was 7th (Zumaya didn’t throw enough innings to qualify but he had 198 pitches over 100mph which was more than the rest of the league combined).


  1. ian (seattle)

    November 9, 2009 at 10:39 am

    oh my, Bill…you werent kidding…those leaderboard stats are awesome!

    Im so excited Fu TeNi did so well…i was just talking to my friend in Taipei yesterday. They’re extremely proud.

  2. Coach Jim

    November 9, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    The first I heard of Bill James was in 1983 when an article was published in the Free Press. He talked about how Tony Armas, recently moving from Oakland to Boston, would “tattoo the Green Monster”, and how Robin Yount was the most productive batter the previous season. He justified this with a formula to calculate runs created. I remember it assigned run values for each kind of batting event. Walks and HBP were 0.25 (it took 4 to create a run), singles were .35, stolen bases were .33, and so on. I saw a similar chart recently, but the values were different (I remember seeing walks as .25 and HBP as .28 – even though they have EXACTLY the same effect on scoring…hmmm). Anyway, I love this sort of thing. I use those numbers to calculate salaries in a card-and-dice baseball simulation game I’ve invented.

    By the way, last year I emailed Billfer asking if he knew where I could find information like how many times a runner took more bases than a batter (going from 1B to 3B on a single) to help create a nice formula for calculating base-running acumen. He pointed me to Retrosheet, but this exact item is used as an example. It’s been many years since I bought a Bill James book. Looks like my holiday wish-list just got another item.