As diehard Twins fans, we salute our gallant team, thank them for a great season, and wish the Angels success in the World Series. We have a sentimental spot in our heart for the Angels as the team that provided Rod Carew his only postseason appearance. In any event, the Twins’ elimination from postseason play has officially delivered us to the time when we wait till next year and try to deepen our understanding of the game.
In the 1980s Bill James published annual versions of his Baseball Abstract each spring. His statistical /historical analysis of the game, its players, and its past sought to introduce a scientific rigor to the kind of arguments that baseball used to generate among its fans. Rocket Man not only read each year’s edition of the Abstract upon publication, he actually retained James’s points and explained them with great gusto. I remember in particular Rocket Man’s expounding James’s analysis of Harold Baines’s butchery in the field.
The only analysis I remember ever understanding from the annual abstracts was James’s analysis of the sacrifice bunt. My recollection, which may well be mistaken, is that James demonstrated with something like Euclidean logic the absolute worthlessness of the sacrifice bunt. It seems to me that he proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the single most powerful factor in run production was available outs, and that giving up an out under any circumstances through the sacrifice bunt was the baseball equivalent of lunacy. I thought James’s analysis was so powerful that it would have an impact on the game, but I don’t believe that it has.
I have been trying unsuccessfully to track down a summary of James’s analysis on the Web. The best I have been able to find is a recent column on the ESPN Web site alluding to James’s analysis in a way that slightly belies my recollection of it. The column refers to James’s book evaluating baseball managers, a book that sounds interesting in itself. The review is “Surprise, surprise: Bunting may be OK” by Rob Neyer. If you can supply us with any information to pursue the issue, please e-mail us at the address on the left.
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