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Best of Howard Schwartz

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Baseball Prospectus; Who's Who Helpful References

21 March 2007

Sure it's what you'd call "a stretch" to imagine any book can prepare you for what's to come in the 2007 baseball season. But as some famous philosopher (probably from the Bronx) once said: "It can't hurt." With that thought firmly implanted in your subconscious, here are two books to update you on which teams have improved, which players are (hopefully) about to upgrade their numbers and what to watch for this season:

Baseball Prospectus edited by Christina Kahrl and Steven Goldman (602 pages, paperbound, $19.95) examines 1,600 players and their teams for upgrades and downslides. Was the team smart in the off-season, with trades or free agent acquisitions and were the minor leagues kind to them? For example, you can examine the Detroit Tigers' rebuilding process, year by year. You can see how the general manager smartly acquired players, how staying healthy made a big difference in performance and where Gary Sheffield fits in for 2007. Best young prospects get proper attention, as do performance predictions with a look at who's about to get the spotlight and who's hanging on for one final season with a big salary package.

There are several vital (one might say controversial) essays in this book including one titled Playing Naked: The Non-Impact of Baseball's Amphetamines Ban. Simply, the piece looks at player ability to adapt to long road trips, day-night switches and higher use of coffee and power drinks. Was the original problem overstated and will the fact players always seek and edge, legal or illegal be a factor in 2007?

Another interesting area focuses on pitch counts. This examines a pitcher workload since 1998, looks at pitch count trends and provides a formula for estimating pitches in an appearance. It comes to some conclusions about how pitch counts affect back to back performance.

The nicely indexed book compares which teams are oldest and youngest based on roster ages in each league, and overall, it should give readers or bettors a fine analytical look ahead.

Another book which falls into a variety of categories is titled Who's Who in Baseball (352 pages, paperbound, $9.95). Now in its 92nd year, it contains lifetime records of more than 750 players, plus photos and it's annually a very hot item.

Unique for its simplicity and accuracy, it helps the reader find a player's career numbers from earliest minor league play to, if he should be so lucky, the World Series, with year-by-year figures and a summary of lifetime performance. Also listed are the player's trades, free agency history, injuries, awards, nicknames, real name and birth dates.

The book is 5x8 in size so it'll fit into a jacket pocket or automobile glove compartment. It always makes a nice gift for a young fan, player, bartender (who may have to settle an argument or bar bet); sportscaster or sports talk show host. On occasion, individuals have purchased a dozen or more copies as gifts to young players in the Caribbean. In any case, it's priced right, does the job and should even help a sharp-eyed fantasy league player make some smart choices.

Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com