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Vol. III, Issue #1 - March 2015
(a review of two key books)

** Segment I -- Review of the book: "Bill James Handbook 2015"  **
      (submitted by Wolfman Shapiro published by ACTA Sports, Nov. 2014 working with Info Baseball Solutions who collected the stats to make this book possible.)

Notes from the Wolfman
- Bill James is the mastermind who has been the inspiration for this book for its 26th year now which is supported now by BIS (of which John Dewan is the president, see our interview in the August 2013 issue) has revolutionized the way to look at Baseball Statistics. So if you are the GM of a team in any SOM baseball league using the new card set that came out in February, this is a MUST HAVE book due to all the statistical views of the 2014 MLB season. Within this review will be detailed information why most baseball fans have this book on their shelf. Also last year we were able to conduct an in-depth interview with Baseball Info Solution Vice President, Mr. Jedlovec for which this company supplies all the key data. To read this interview visit:


(Note: the Baseball Info Solution (BIS) website I will be recommending can be reached at:
http://www2.baseballinfosolutions.com/ )

I first heard about this handbook when I was having a conversation with Marc Wasserman (the co-founder of this newsletter), who mentioned it to me and how this handbook was very well known throughout the baseball world as well as the standard of which all other statistical books are compared to. So for the past three years, since the inception of the Ultimate Strat Basebaseball newsletter I have made an arrangement through ACTA Sports, who publishes and sell this book that our members can buy it at a discount. But actually, Bill James works with John Dewan, the president of Baseball Info Solutions, who collect the statistics which are used to make this book a reality.

In 2013, when I saw my first version of this handbook, I was floored by the great amount of information contained within this handbook so each year I ask ACTA for a review copy of the latest version which for this review, it is the "2015 Handbook".

Thus, I think you will find this book could be a great benefit for your franchise in your league (as people in professional baseball buy this book as well) if you are using the 2014 MLB based cards. Once again, at the end of this review you will find a link with explanation how to get your own copy. I can confirm for you that I have already poured through this book (as well as the other book and guide shown below) which helped me prepare for the draft of the league I am, the CBA, which took place in early March. So for my review, not only will I give you a good idea of what the book contains but also new stuff that hasn't appeared before.


Can you Live without this book?

Most people know of Bill James, as he has the ability to see perspectives within Baseball Statistics that arre kept, that no one else seems to see.  This book is fully supported by IBS through John Dewan. Remember John shared with our members in his interview his love of statistics plus that his company is not only providing Strat-o-matic with the information they need to make the newest cards but supplying most likely every Major League team in Professional Baseball as well. Thus a great combination!

My goal in this review is to look at the book as a SOM GM and tell you what the book contains, why I like it and why I believe you will like it also. Mr. Jedlovec told me that if they put into this book (which is only 579 pages) all the information they track and have, it could be thousands of pages long. Anyway it has enough information to take anyone many hours to digest it all.

(Wolfman's Note:  First I will update the sections we talked about in the 2014 edition and then discuss some new information added to this latest edition ... )

PLAYERS STATS: 266 pages of every individual ball player who played any amount during the 2014 season as well as showing all the years they have played in the majors with their past seasons in the minors too - hitters and pitchers are all combined. They are listed alphabetically with all the main stats you would expect for the hitters and pitchers and a few extra categories which if you don't know what they mean, there is a Baseball Glossary in the back that defines them.

Bill James has a habit of coming up with new perspectives on how to look at a player's performance and I remember when I watched the video presentation on the MLB.com website where they were discussing who should get the Cy Young Award for Pitching last year, they used some of these very same statistical views that Mr. James has created to make their final determination.  So this is part of the magic you also get within this book, these other statistical views which help you evaluate the truth worth of any and all of the current players. The times are changing as we get much more sophisticated these days aye?

2015 PLAYER PROJECTIONS: This is a key section because if you are going to keep your players from year to year, you want to know how will they do in the baseball season in this next season coming up. Last year I intervewed Mr. Jedlovec, the VP at Baseball Info Solutions how Mr. James and Mr. Dewan, president of BIS are able to make these projections and Mr. Jedlovec answered:

The projections are a product of John's and Bill's collective experience over the years. They developed projection systems for hitters (and later, for pitchers) which have been updated and tweaked regularly. The current projections are a series of algorithms based on both John's and Bill's work, among many others.

Again, you may want to consult the SOM Baseball World News page in this issue as I share numerous other on-line sources of predicting how players will perform for the 2015 MLB (especially some of the new prospects and rookies coming up). Also on the BIS website you can order in a spreadsheet form these projections for a small price and also last month the projections were updated which you can also order on the BIS website to take into account the signings and trades by the Major League teams just before spring training started.

INDIVIDUAL FIELDING STATISTICS: -- We all know in SOM Baseball how important fielding is, especially if you have in the field all "1"s - that would certainly help your pitching. But not only in this book do they give stats about the fielding of any major leaguers but they also provide a completely detailed look with new stats of the efficiency of the player's fielding that I have never heard of. It would take a good week to just study these new stats and try to figure out what it all means. This might be overkill for us in SOM as a fielding rating and e-rating gives us enough but for Major League teams, it could give them an extra edge too.  I understand that this is a key area which Mr. Dewan is very involved with and is always helping.

Also the Fielding Bible Awards for 2014 are included where besides Bill and John voting for the best fielder at each position there are 9 other individuals voting along with two other groups. 

HITTER'S AND PITCHER'S ANALYSIS: -- These two sections are showing how affective each MLB Hitter and Pitcher were during the season but again, Mr. James is looking at many other factors that you and I would never consider.  But this is why this book is so unique, as there is no other organization on the planet that does such an in-depth analysis of the MLB players. Again a careful study of this section will reveal secrets about the players that could guide you in future drafts.

Of course this book shares all the normal stats we are use to seeing via boxscores and team and league stats or even what we see in the SOM Computer Baseball game such as league leaders, how the teams stacked up against each other in hitting and pitching. Some new stats that SOM is including in the 2015 edition of the computer game is also being inspired by Bill James.  But then, you have other sections in the handbook which go beyond this such as (using the names from the book):

Team Efficiency Summary -- Base Running -- Pitcher's Fielding and Holding -- Pinch Hitting

Manufactured Rounds with Productive & Un-Productive Outs -- Home Run Robberies

Of course the handbook also comes with the Lefty - Righty Stats of each player as well which if you choose not to buy the Strat-o-matic Rating guide, then you will see these stats as well.If you love what Bill James offers there is a website he has with even more information and articles that you can find by searching on google.

Now lets discuss some of the other and new sections to the book I found quite intriguing:

Starting Pitching Ranking  -- which were the best starting pitchers in 2014, all starters evaluated with a comprehensive table to support the rankings.

Pitcher Velocity by Season -- shows a table of various pitchers average fastball by age.

Runs Saved Multi-Year Summary -- shows a table of key players and how many runs by season they have saved due to the defensive capabilities.

Who Gives a Shift? -- in 2014, more than ever before teams used extreme shifts of their infielders against certain hitters who pull the ball. This section discusses the results and how successful was this strategy.

Runs Saved & Plus/Minus Leaders -- for 2011-2014, which players by their fielding abilities made more outs than the average fielder at their position saving runs from being scored.

Relief Pitching -- How effective in 2014 for each team were any of their relief pitchers with at least 10 appearances during the season.


Again, the only slight problem I had with this version of the handbook was because they pack in so much information, squeezing it into less pages so ACTA wouldn't complain, the size of the text used to show the data and very statistics is very small and compressed. I am sure that if a person wanted they could get any of this information from BIS as data file though.

Anyway, in conclusion, if you love Baseball and you want to fully understand from a statistical perspective of what happened in the the 2014 MLB season, which then is indirectly related to know about all the players who are available to us in the new 2015 SOM Baseball card set, this is the book you must have.  It always comes out in November of the MLB season it reports upon and has updates available via the BIS website.

For those who can't wait, here is how as a member of the "Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter" you can receive a 10% discount on this book (and any other baseball book ACTA Sports sells).

To get your copy of the
"Bill James Handbook 2015" go to:

(type in when you order, the promotion code: SOMB for your 10% discount)



** Segment II -- Review of the book:
"Ron Shandler's 2015 Baseball Forecaster"

      (submitted by Wolfman Shapiro published by Triumph Books with support for
the content from Baseball HQ, at the end of 2014, this is the 29th edition

Notes from the Wolfman
  Through my contact with ACTA Sports, I had noticed that they carried this book as well. However, until we interviewed Matt Beagle in December (last year) who is one of the on-line baseball analyst that writes articles for Baseball HQ, the source of the information for this book, I didn't know who was involved in its creation.  Then as I got to know Ray Murhpy, one of the key adminstrators at Baseball HQ and I saw they had this book on their website, Ray was very kind and generous to send me a review copy.  Ray also was one of the editors of this book.  You might want to also visit our page where we interview Ray to see how he became involved with this company and the amazing job Ron Shandler and the team he has setup at Baseball HQ to cover every aspect of not only MLB but Fantasy Baseball, visit:


Before I begin my review of this book (which did start a few years before the Bill Jame Handbook, since 1986), I want to make a few other comments about this guide.  Although "Baseball Forecaster" shares some of the same statistical views of the MLB (and minor league players who could be active in 2015), this book seems to be geared more toward the fantasy gamer. Now as we all know, Strat-o-matic is not the only fantasy way to play with Major League players - there are many other games and systems that exist so I believe that Baseball HQ has come up with a very interesting publication to address as many of these ways to play Fantasy baseball.  The Subtitle of this book is "Encyclopedia of Fanalytics".  So now lets go some of the sections of this very comprehensive book.


Who is Ron Shandler?

Ron Shandler began the conversation about component skills analysis in his 1993 Baseball Forecaster. His LIMA Plan in 1998 pioneered the application of these concepts for fantasy baseball. Since then, he continues to further the discussion, enhancing and refining the process of winning with such tools as Pure Quality Starts and the Mayberry Method, and strategies such as the Portfolio3 Plan and Xtreme Regression Drafting. Other sites have picked up on the power of these tools (and when you see analyses using gauges like contact rate and strand rate, know that they originated here) and have incorporated Ron's concepts into their own work. But the source of the original thought, and the place that continues to pioneer innovative new ideas, is BaseballHQ.com. (taken from the Baseball HQ website....)

Just as with the Bill James Handbook, there is a whole slew of new statistical views I have never heard of. But the book begins with a very nice Abbreviation Section (abbreviations used for these stats) with a definition of the name and which pages they are defined which I found very helpful. Let me give an example of some of these statistical views which I found very interesting.

BIP - balls in play; DOM - dominance ration (K/9); Eye - Batting eye (bb/k); xERA - expected ERA

I also like the section called Fundamentals, as the team at Baseball HQ explain keys to what this book is about, and how to use the book, this section is right there for you at the beginning.  So you have this sense that the writers of the book are going a little overboard to make sure you can follow all the different stats and analyst you are going to find inside.  Now this guide is a large size than the Bill James handbook using 8-1/2 inches wide by 11 inches long but it is only 277 pages. 

After discussing the fundamentals, it goes through an explanation how to interpret all the new statistical views for Batters, Pitchers and Prospects, giving examples of how to view these stats and what they mean.  I see this guide has more of an emphasis on the prospects which no matter what type of league you play in, you always have to keep up with the new players coming up.  Now since Rotisserie Baseball is probably the most popular fantasy baseball being played, there is a section called Gaming which offers so insights how to be better players working with MLB stats. 

The next two sections in the book deal with Abstracts, Statistical and Gaming.  I didn't have time to go over these sections as I didn't see a value linked to my league draft but what I can say, is it is like in Bill James handbook, where Baseball HQ is look at different statistics linked to the game and helping the reader to see what this all means. Mostly likely these sections will be of value to players of other Fantasy Gamers.

The next two sections which show all in one shot (which I like better than how Bill James did it where they separate the 2015 projections from the stats on how the players did in previous yearrs in MLB) all the major hitters and pitchers that played in 2014 and then at the bottom is included their projection for 2015.  First you see the hitters and then the pitchers are next. Again, as in the Bill James book you see a ton of other statistical view about the Hitters and Pitchers that you never heard of before. This is why the Abbreviation section is so important so you can learn what these new stats are - there are more new type of stats for each hitter and pitcher than the ones we are all familiar with but its all very detailed.  I also found it very helpful that each player also has a summary about the skill sets. About 500 batters are shown in this section and 450 pitchers.

The following sections are interesting and I have never seen this type of information anywhere else. Injuries - there is a whole section which shows from 2014-2010, every player who ever had an injury. Now if you are watching Spring Training, it is incredible how many players now are becoming injured. Plus how many times in your league did you draft this great player who you thought would be there for years for your team only to be repeatedly injured (shades of Tulo!).  So the table given in this section is very valuable!.  Next, how would you like to know how kids in the minor are doing as if they were playing in the majors?  Baseball Forecaster has a very extensive section on hitters (first) and then pitchers who were in the minor leagues in 2013 or 2014 and then has some magic to convert there stats to how they would perform if they were playing in the majors.  I also used this section too when drafting for my league team.

I went ahead of myself, before what is called the Equivalents section, as described above, Baseball HQ goes over the new young prospects coming up in the Minors and ranks them and also talks about Japanese players who might eventually be playing in the Majors as well one day.  Next is another key section called "Leader Boards", where all the key players who are expected to play in 2015 are ranked as to their capabilities for the 2015 season which is another view of 2015 projections.  Again there are so stats here that players were evaluated which I didn't follow, new views that Baseball HQ came up with for hitters and pitchers that if you really studied it could give you additional insights what to expect in 2015.  The guide finishes with what it calls a Universal Draft Grid that ranks which players are Elite down to Fridge (hitters and pitchers together).  And then assuming you were going to build a new team from scratch, in a draft league ranks the players, who would be picked first, second and so on. This view of a draft looked a little like the drafts we see done in the Strat Tournament Player's Club which is discussed in the interview with Jim Gary.

So in conclusion, if I could have both "Baseball Forecaster" with the "Bill James Handbook" I think a fantasy or strat gm working with the 2014 fantasy cards would have some major advantages to know who all the players are, what they are capable of doing and what to expect of their performance in 2015.  Its clear that "Baseball Forecaster" is more for fantasy players as this book doesn't really look at all the permutations of MLB statistics as Bill James does.  I could see more with the BJ Handbook that Major League teams would find his book a bit more appealing because they are in the business to win.  But "Baseball Forecaster" does make it a bit easier for the Fantasy gamer to follow all of the stats and has some interesting new sections that will improve your game too.  So I was very happy with the "Forecaster" and definitely was able to use this guide to help me in the planning of my new team in my draft league.  You can't go wrong in getting a copy of this book or to become a member of the on-line system of Baseball information that Baseball HQ offers all year round.  You just get more of a feeling from Baseball HQ that behind the scenes running their services are gamers like you and me who want to help others.

To order this excellent book you can find it at:

"Ron Shandler's 2015 Baseball Forecaster"

(we couldn't get a discount for our members, but Baseball HQ did share
 about our newsletter with their members and it is a very good guide.)




Support the Cause

If you are enjoying the content and information our newsletter shares with you, why not support us with your helpful donation for our minor expenses and time?

Contained inside this exciting issue of Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter:
(to view the various interviews, articles, columns and special sections click on the links {underlined} and
this will take you to the appropriate webpage)


  REPORT, "BILLY SAMPLE CHALLENGE", Ex-Major Leaguer Billy Sample accepts our challenge to play Bryan Swank, one of our members in a best of 3 games series in SOM as Billy takes the 1983 Texas Rangers, a team he was a member of, verses Bryan's 1983 Red Sox. Read the full report, which comes in three parts and also watch the video recorded by Mark Wasserman.

  INTERVIEW with JIM CALLIS, Senior Writers  MLBPipeline.com (MLB.com), as Jim discusses his feeling about key young players who will be a factor in the 2015 MLB Season.

  INTERVIEW with RAY MURPHY, General Manager of Administration at BaseballHQ

  INTERVIEW with SEAN RILEY, Strat Tournament Player's Club 2015 World's Champion

  INTERVIEW with JIM GARY, Council Member of the Strat Tournament Player's Club, West Region

  SOM BASEBALL WORLD NEWS with WOLFMAN SHAPIRO, editor of "The Ultimate Strat Newsletter" discusses the latest Baseball products offer by the Strat-o-matic Game Company, Recommendations of on-line Projection Systems for the performance of Major League Baseball Players in the upcoming season, a summary of the recent new Videos Ultimate Strat has released on their Youtube Video Challenge and what is "The Bruce Foster Challenge" that is underway.

  RECOMMEND ON-LINE SOM RESOURCES -- On-line Strat-o-matic and Baseball related websites
that offer amazing information, special tools and products to improve your game play that we strongly recommend. In most cases, we have had personal contact with these sources who agree with the principle to work together and help promote each other.

  BOOKS TO DIE FOR and Become a BASEBALL GURU -- This page is specifically about special books we are finding that either will expand your insights about the game of Baseball, help you in the creation of your current league teams or with your replays and learn more about the Strat-o-matic Baseball Game and Game Company's history.  We have a special arrangement with Acta Sports, who is a publisher of a number of great baseball books (including Bill James Handbooks) to offer for our members a 10% discount. We will continue to add more books to this page in the future as we uncover other gems our members should know about.


Contact Us for Questions or Submissions

Wolfman Shapiro
co-Founder/Editor, the Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter

email: wolfman@ultimatestratbaseball.com
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twitter: @StratBaseball4U

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