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Book Review: Bill James Handbook 2013

This annual compendium of baseball numbers made an unusual choice of cover subject.

The cover of this book is a mystery. Chipper Jones? Sure, Jones is retiring and on his way to the Hall of Fame in five years or so. But Jones has never been among the most popular of players, and you'd have thought that if ACTA Sports wanted to sell books, they'd have put Mike Trout -- whose photo is on the back cover -- on the front. Trout -- popular, young, plays in the Los Angeles market -- seems like a no-brainer.

The explanation given by Ben Jedlovec in the introduction makes some sense, I guess:

We broke from our traditional photo selection this year to pay homage to an all-time great. Having grown up in the South in the 1990's, I know there's an entire generation of young men and women, baseball fans and non-fans alike, who appreciated what Chipper Jones brought to baseball. And in this day and age, it's increasingly rare for a player to retire a sure-fire Hall of Famer with nary a hint of suspicion around him.

(Boldface emphasis in blockquote added by me)

"Suspicion", I suspect, must refer to the steroid use rampant in Jones' generation; the Hall fallout from that is still to come. And then there's this:

Chipper Jones and his wife Sharon have separated, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

This would be a second divorce for Jones, who went through a very public split with his first wife Karin, beginning in 1998, after he had admitted to an extramarital affair and having a son out of wedlock. Jones, 40, has four sons, and it appears his intent is to handle this situation privately.

I guess Jones' personal life should be his personal life; on the field, he did conduct himself in general with class, and was always an excellent player. I still don't think I would have put him on the cover; it appears Jedlovec simply wanted to honor a childhood hero. There are worse reasons, I suppose.

Oh, you want to know about the book. It has the usual career stats for all active players, plus lists of 2012 rankings in many statistical categories, both traditional and advanced.

And projections for 2013. Bill James wrote a poem about his 2012 projections which manages to rhyme something with "Asdrubal", which is a feat in itself. I was most interested in projections for Cubs starting pitchers for next year, since that was one of the team's biggest failings (at least after trading two of them away at the deadline). Here are the Handbook's 2013 projections for Cubs starters:

Scott Baker: 28 games, 26 starts, 168 IP, 3.86 ERA, 9-10
Matt Garza: 31 games, 31 starts, 198 IP, 3.68 ERA, 11-11
Jeff Samardzija: 30 games, 30 starts, 193 IP, 3.78 ERA, 10-11
Travis Wood: 31 games 31 starts, 196 IP, 3.90 ERA, 10-12

Well, that's not great, but it's not awful, either. Add this guy to those four:

Brandon McCarthy: 28 games, 28 starts, 182 IP, 3.46 ERA, 11-9

You'd basically have a .500 club there, which would be a significant improvement. Then there's your closer, if he's not traded:

Carlos Marmol: 63 games, 62 IP, 43 H, 46 BB, 80 K, 32 saves, 3.63

High ERA and walk total, but we'd take the 32 saves. In any case, the Cubs, if these projections come to pass, would have at least a decent rotation. Of course, Baker might not do that, coming off TJ surgery, and the Cubs might sign or trade for another starting pitcher. Maybe this one:

Shaun Marcum: 32 games, 32 starts, 196 IP, 3.63 ERA, 12-10

Right in line with the others. I won't spoil everything by giving you all the hitter projections, but I particularly liked this one:

Anthony Rizzo: 604 AB, 40 doubles, 33 HR, 109 RBI, .283/.346/.517

Yeah. Love it. Go get this book. (Maybe you can lay it face down on your desk so you can look at Trout instead of Jones.