It’s the 2009 Hardball Times Baseball Annual

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We have a little tradition going on here at The Hardball Times. Once a year, we produce a book called The Hardball Times Baseball Annual. We do it for a couple of reasons. One, we miss the good old days of books like the Bill James Abstract, the Big, Bad Baseball Annual and heck, even the Elias Baseball Analyst. These were annual books that featured great writing about baseball—not fantasy baseball, just plain old baseball.

Second, it costs money to run this here website and we don’t make enough from Internet ads to cover our costs. So the Annual helps to keep our creditors at bay. Without it, we’d be knocking on Henry Paulson’s door.

It works pretty well, this combination of artistic striving and greed. In fact, we think this year’s THT Annual is the best ever.

Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve said that every year—but this year it’s empirically better. Why? Well, recently we asked what you liked and didn’t like about previous Annuals. We listened and acted, and this version shows it.

• We boosted the amount of writing in the book, from 32 to 40 awesome articles. That’s a 25 percent increase!
• We recruited even more of the best baseball writers we know. Guys like Rob Neyer, John Dewan, Joe Posnanski, legendary sabermetrician Craig Wright, Don Malcolm (the editor of the Big, Bad Baseball Annual) and many other fine writers all agreed to come on board.
• We revamped the format of our season review, putting more information into graphs and tables and allowing our writers more freedom to comment on each division.
• We better focused our statistics section, dropping the leaderboards and one of the Appendices (though you can still download all the data we’ve provided in the past). This freed up pages for the extra commentary and made the statistics more manageable.

Let me be clear about the THT Annual: it’s an annual publication of great baseball writing. It’s not just a synopsis of the previous year. Yes, the stats are all about the previous year, and we have one section devoted to a recap of the year. But the rest of the book is all about baseball, and the articles reflect the current conditions and understandings of this great game. As the book cover says, the Annual is filled with timeless commentary, great baseball writing and innovative stats.

Let me list some of the highlights for you:

• Joe Posnanski holds forth on the Hall of Fame class of 2013, which could include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling.
• Rob Neyer takes a close look at the spectacular mid-season trades of CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez and compares them to the biggest impact midseason trades of the past.
• Tim Marchman holds forth on the decline of pinstripes in New York this past year, on Wall Street and in the Bronx.
• Craig Wright contributes two terrific articles: one about the aging (or lack thereof) of Honus Wagner, and the other describing the awesomeness of Mike Piazza.
• Don Malcolm inspects the “anomalous superstar,” based on an obscure baseball simulation from the 1970s.
• Mike Fast takes a close look at Cliff Lee‘s phenomenal turnaround, using PITCHf/x data.
• Steve Treder and Matthew Carruth have an in-depth look at the Tampa Bay Rays.
• Corey and Eric Seidman take a good look at the GM who just retired on top of the world, Pat Gillick. Corey and Eric use the “GM in a Box” format introduced by • Brian Gunn in the 2006 Annual.
• Tom Tango applies his WOWY analysis (that’s With Or Without You) to catchers and investigates several interesting aspects of catcher usage.
• Sean Smith surveys the greatest fielders of the Retrosheet Era, including the usual and not-so-usual suspects.
• Phil Birnbaum wonders how players age, and takes a deeper look at the bizarre aging pattern of pitchers.
• Craig Calcaterra reports on the Mitchell Report and professional ethicist Jack Marshall follows with an in-depth essay on ethics in baseball.
• Rich Lederer wonders aloud about the save, its whys and wherefores.
• David Gassko analyzes player size and effectiveness through the baseball ages, and uncovers a surprising conclusion about small players in the Steroid Age.
• John Walsh inspects intentional base on balls—not the player who was walked, but the player who was “dissed.” Which players were brought to bat most often after an intentional walk, and did they extract revenge?
• Roel Torres wonders how one becomes a baseball fan.
• Greg Rybarczyk (of Hit Tracker fame) has a great piece about home runs and ballparks, with a fascinating insight into Dodger Stadium and an early look at Citi Field.
• Anthony Giacalone takes a look back at 1968 and baseball’s youth movement, 40 years later.
• MGL uses his linear weights to outline the most surprising and disappointing teams. And he nominates his own managers of the year and takes an early look at next year’s teams.
• Will Leitch covers the “year in pointlessness,” Richard Barbieri annotates the year in baseball, and I have 10 things I learned during the year.

In the name of space, I’ve left some people out. People like John Dewan, John Brattain, Sal Baxamusa, Colin Wyers, Craig Brown, Brandon Isleib, Derek Carty, Josh Kalk, Brian Borawski and Victor Wang also contributed tremendous articles covering a wide range of subjects. This book is chock full.

A few themes manage to emerge from this random submission of baseball musings. Pete Rose comes up three different times. Sisyphus is mentioned twice. Manny Ramirez’s name is used a lot. Maybe you’ll find other themes when you plunge in.

I’ve already written about this, but our stats will include the usual assortment of stats favorites along with our “patented” batted ball scouting stats. I’m rightly proud of the statistics in the second half of the book, which include a synopsis of top “stat facts” for each team and John Burnson’s Playing Time Constellations. If you bought last year’s book, you know what I’m talking about.

You’ll find The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009 in bookstores, on Amazon and Peter Gammons’ beach chair (inside joke). But please order it from ACTA Sports. We make very little money when you purchase the Annual from other sources—only a purchase from ACTA has a real impact on the piggy bank. If you must purchase it from Amazon, due to shipping costs or whatever, then please at least use this link. We make a bit more money that way.

But however you do it, buy the Annual now and make sure you get it quickly when it ships next week. I promise you won’t regret it. If you’re still not convinced, perhaps this invitation from Joe Posnanski’s essay will do the trick:

So here’s the deal: I won’t mention any of that stuff. But if you want to insert caveats and cautions and scientific research into the article, I certainly approve. I find that the margins are an excellent place for such observations, but please feel free to scribble directly on my words. I would also recommend using a red pen because red ink tends to stand out. Perhaps most of all, I would recommend you purchase this book beforehand.

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