Last week, I played the part of Bill James’ scrivener, rendering into electronic print five haphazardly chosen, but still entirely notable, profiles from the 1993 edition of his Player Ratings Book.
In what follows, I do the same thing for the 1994 edition.
Regard, American literature:
Player: Steve Balboni, Texas
Notable Thing: Things plural, actually. The first is — if I’m reading this correctly — is that Jackie Moore’s real father is Steve Balboni. So that’s one thing. The second is this comment from James: “[I]sn’t an awful first baseman, but strikes out like a Deer and runs like a file cabinet.” That he (i.e. James) resisted appending the words “wocka wocka” to that statement represents an exercise in restraint.
Player: Marvin Freeman, Colorado
Notable Thing: James refers to him as “a 6-foot-7 righthander with intimidating equipment.” Rather intimate, I’d say, so far as analysis goes, but relevant on some level, I’m sure.
Player: Tony Phillips, Detroit
Notable Thing: James doesn’t engage in pure eulogy with much frequency; however, Phillips clearly elicits strong feelings within him, as evidenced here:
I’ve been a a baseball fan for a long time, and this guy is the best utility player I’ve ever seen, by a mile. He doesn’t just play five positions; he plays five positions well, even spectacularly well. I’ve seen him dominate a game from right field, or from second base, or from third base. He’s a switch hitter who hits .300 both ways, walks constantly, runs the bases well and has occasional power. The man is unbelievable.
Player: Rudy Seanez, San Diego
Notable Thing: “Seanez is, roughly speaking, the worst pitching prospect in the history of the world.” That’s how James’ comment — which one might do well to file under “Tell us how you really feel, Bill James” — begins. Here’s the rest:
There is really nothing about his record that would cause a prudent person to suppose that he could pitch in the majors, but he throws hard, so he keeps getting chances. His control record is awful, and he’s been hurt a lot, and he’s never been effective anywhere.
Of course, Seanez did pitch somewhat effectively — eventually — ultimately setting his career high for innings (76.0) in his age-38 season.
Player: Dale Sveum, Oakland
Notable Thing: Entire comment:
What exactly does Dale Sveum have to do to prove that he can’t play major league baseball? How many times does he have to hit under .250 with no power? How many times does he have to hit under .200? (He’s done that three times in four years.) How many defensive positions does he have to fail at? Do you want to try him at pitcher, just give him 150 innings or so to see if he’s any good?
Bonus Thing: Three of James’ favorite players were Geronimo Berroa (line of .288/.359/.485 from 1994 to ’97), Craig Grebeck (who posted WAR of 3.3 and 2.6 in 1991 and ’92, respectively), and Warren Newson (career batting line of .250/.374/.401 in 1193 PA).
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.