Your introduction to the Hardball Times Annual

The Hardball Times Annual 2011 has been put to bed, which means that it’s been sent to the printer and will start shipping soon. I’m pretty excited about this year’s book, and I’ll be posting about it for the next couple of weeks. To whet your appetite, here is the introduction I wrote:

This is the seventh time we’ve published a baseball annual, and each one has included something special. Our very first Annual, way back in 2004, included a new idea from Robert Dudek: measuring the “hang time” of each batted ball to determine what its likely outcome would be. Six years later, we now have a baseball statistics company, Baseball Info Solutions, collecting that information and reporting about it in these pages.

In fact, this year’s Annual has a special section devoted to the current and future state of fielding stats, including commentary from well-known baseball writers Rob Neyer and Dave Cameron and fielding studies from well-known statisticians John Dewan, Ben Jedlovec and Greg Rybarczyk. We even show you what the graphical future of fielding analysis could look like, courtesy of Sportvision, the same folks who post those graphical strike zones on your TV. Whether you’re a stat nerd or just someone who enjoys watching a game at the ballpark, you will be intrigued by what you see.

Even if you aren’t, there’s plenty more to read. We begin with our review of the 2010 season, organized by division. Unfortunately, we rushed to get our book to the printer before the postseason was over (the sooner to get it to you, after all), so you’ll have to download our postseason coverage from the Internet. I’ll give you the instructions for that in a minute.

After the 2010 season section, you’ll find lots of general baseball commentary, written by staff and friends of the Hardball Times. One of our friends is Craig Wright, who has written a 15-page magnum opus on the handling of pitchers and pitch counts. 20 years ago, Craig was one of the very first people to study this issue in depth, and he still has plenty to say about the subject.

Another good friend of THT (that’s short for The Hardball Times) is Larry Granillo, of wezen-ball.com, who took the time to watch video of every 2010 home run to measure how long it took each batter to circle the bases. There’s also the aforementioned Greg Rybarczyk, who also watched video of each home run to measure its distance, speed off the bat and other physical properties of the ball. Two guys, watching the same thing with stopwatches in hand, for two entirely different reasons. There is room in the Hardball Times Annual for virtually every kind of baseball nut.

Our book contains baseball history and baseball analysis, too. You may have heard of PITCHf/x, Sportvision’s remarkable system that collects intricate detail of every pitch. Well, we have several people who specialize in PITCHf/x studies, such as Jeremy Greenhouse. Jeremy has devised a system for measuring the location and “stuff” of all major league pitchers.We even have a contribution from our good friend “Oliver,” the system behind THT Forecasts. Oliver has generously donated leaderboard projections for the 2011 season. You can access updated projections all year long by signing up for THT Forecasts at our website.

There’s more, of course, and I’ve just insulted many good friends by not naming them in this intro. But keep in mind that commentary and articles are only half the book. We’ve also got 2010 statistics for you to pore over. Many of the stats are standard fare, but we’ve also included our patented “batted ball” stats. These aren’t available anywhere on the Internet and you can glean insights about players you won’t discover other places.

Tuck has drawn baseball ‘toons for the book and Brandon Isleib has planted his aggravating yet wildly entertaining trivia quizzes throughout. Yes, the Hardball Times Annual is a veritable cornucopia of baseball bliss.

Oops. I always tell myself to start thanking people early, and I never do. But let me say that Baseball Info Solutions and ACTA Sports are tremendous partners. Thank you, Andrew Yankech, Damon Lichtenwalner and John Dewan. Greg, Ben, Mary and Donna too.

Fangraphs is a fantastic website and a lifelong friend of ours. Thank you, David Appelman, for your support and the stats. A big thanks, too, to Tom Tango, who has always been a huge supporter of ours. If you haven’t read The Book, read it as soon as you’re done with the Annual.

The Hardball Times website posts new content virtually every day of the year. Thanks to all of the THT writers, past, present and future, for making it go. And the biggest thanks goes to our editors—particularly our new chief editor Joe Distelheim—but also to Bryan Tsao, Jeremiah Oshan and Carolina Bolado Hale for their huge help with the Annual.

Doh! I knew I’d run out of room. Those download instructions are in the back of the book.

You can order the Hardball Times Annual from ACTA Sports or Amazon. Using these links will help us financially.

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