This past week has treated us all to sights of baseball’s return thanks to photos of teams taking part in their first days of Spring Training camps in Arizona and Florida.
It also treated me with a traditional ‘baseball is on its way’ sight of my own:
Yes, a copy of the Baseball Prospectus annual taking pride of place on my coffee table, with obligatory pencil for notes right beside it.
This has been a lapsed tradition in recent years. Living circumstances and regular travel meant that the convenience of a version on my Kindle made too much sense to ignore, yet in truth it was a compromise I was never completely happy with. After the initial week or two of reading, I found myself rarely delving into it because delving into an e-book just isn’t the same as flicking through a paper brick.
The whole point of the BP book is that it sits there close to hand when I’m watching or writing about baseball. If a recently promoted prospect is taking the field, or the TV coverage heads to a break with a low-profile reliever heading to the mound, I’ll be reaching for BP to find out more and inevitably reading about other players while I’m there.
My lack of e-book engagement has a bearing on it, but I have felt that the annual has taken a bit of a downturn in recent years in not quite being the essential resource it once was. Comments from regular readers about the 2016 edition were reassuringly positive and my first impressions are that this is a return to form.
The print layout is unquestionably improved from previous editions, with a better quality of paper being used and a nicely designed page that crams plenty of detail in without looking cluttered. Last year’s edition raised complaints about a small typeface and they’ve really focused on improving the layout, by all accounts. You can sample this thanks to the Philadelphia Phillies chapter being made available for free as a pdf.
Humour has always been a part of Baseball Prospectus, which can be difficult to get right as what’s funny to one person can be off-putting to another. The light-hearted asides often strike the right tone for my taste in this edition, although there’s one major exception to this.
The Houston Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa made a big impression in his rookie season in 2015 and is rightly regarded as one of the most exciting young players in the Majors.
Sadly, BP decided that everyone knows Correa is an amazing talent and didn’t bother to try to give any insight about him, instead providing what can only be described as a load of aimless bollocks. It starts with “Correa is a Saturday morning, a cup of coffee and the second chapter of your new favourite book. He’s the 20 dollars you forgot to put in your winter coat ..” and goes on and on in the same vein for 10 whole lines.
It would have been fine starting that way, then saying ‘you get the picture’ and going on to put his rookie season in historical context or suchlike, but you’d expect a bit more from BP than thinking ‘errr, he’s really good isn’t he, let’s just write something silly’.
This is a rare exception among well over 1,000 player comments though, so don’t let that put you off from picking up a copy.
That also goes for the errors that do always creep into the book every year. They’ve got plenty of experience in producing this tome so it’s a bit frustrating (especially for the team themselves, I’m sure) that errors like mixing up charts, such as with the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox here, make their way into the published product. However, BP always hold their hands up to it and try to rectify things by maintaining an Errata list and make Premium subscriber details for affected players free to view. It’s not perfect, but not the end of the world either.
Even with the snags, I can already tell I’m going to enjoy reading through the team essays during Spring Training, consulting the comments and projections as part of my fantasy draft preparations, learning more about some of the best prospects in the Minors, and heaving it from the coffee table countless times during the season to look up a player or two.
You might need to make some logistical allowances for getting the print version, its size and weight don’t make it an ideal travel companion and you’ll need a bloody big letterbox if you don’t make other arrangements to receive it in the post, but I’d definitely recommend making the effort.
Flicking through the print version is so much more satisfying than searching the e-book (the presentation of the tables is a bit his-and-miss that way too), as is avoiding typing comments and instead using a pencil to scribble essential notes down.
Such as writing the word ‘BOLLOCKS!’ next to that maddening Carlos Correa capsule.