George William James (born October 5, 1949) is an American baseball writer, historian, and statistician whose work has been widely influential. Since 1977, James has written more than two dozen books devoted to baseball history and statistics. His approach, which he termed sabermetrics in reference to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), scientifically analyzes and studies baseball, often through the use of statistical data, in an attempt to determine why teams win and lose.
James in 2010
George William James
October 5, 1949
Holton, Kansas, U.S.
James was born in Holton, Kansas; his mother died in 1954 when he was five. His father was a janitor and a handyman. After four years at the University of Kansas residing at Stephenson Scholarship hall, James joined the Army in 1971. He was the last person in Kansas to be sent to fight in the Vietnam War, although he never saw action there. Instead, he spent two years stationed in South Korea, during which time he wrote to KU about taking his final class. He was told he actually had met all his graduation requirements, so he returned to Lawrence in 1973 with degrees in English and economics. He also finished an Education degree in 1975, likewise from the University of Kansas.
An aspiring writer and obsessive fan, James began writing baseball articles after leaving the United States Army in his mid-twenties. Many of his first baseball writings came while he was doing night shifts as a security guard at the Stokely-Van Camp's pork and beans cannery. Unlike most writers, his pieces did not recount games in epic terms or offer insights gleaned from interviews with players. A typical James piece posed a question (e.g., "Which pitchers and catchers allow runners to steal the most bases?"), and then presented data and analysis written in a lively, insightful, and witty style that offered an answer.
Editors considered James's pieces so unusual that few believed them suitable for their readers. In an effort to reach a wider audience, James began self-publishing an annual book titled The Bill James Baseball Abstract beginning in 1977. The first edition, titled 1977 Baseball Abstract: Featuring 18 categories of statistical information that you just can't find anywhere else, presented 68 pages of in-depth statistics compiled from James's study of box scores from the preceding season and was offered for sale through a small advertisement in The Sporting News. Seventy-five people purchased the booklet. The 1978 edition, subtitled The 2nd annual edition of baseball's most informative and imaginative review, sold 250 copies. Beginning in 1979, James wrote an annual preview of the baseball season for Esquire, and continued to do so through 1984.
The first three editions of the Baseball Abstract garnered respect for James's work, including a very favorable review by Daniel Okrent in Sports Illustrated. New annual editions added essays on teams and players. By 1982 sales had increased tenfold, and a media conglomerate agreed to publish and distribute future editions.
While writers had published books about baseball statistics before (most notably Earnshaw Cook's Percentage Baseball, in the 1960s), few had ever reached a mass audience. Attempts to imitate James's work spawned a flood of books and articles that continues to this day.
In 1988, James ceased writing the Abstract, citing workload-related burnout and concern about the volume of statistics on the market. He has continued to publish hardcover books about baseball history, which have sold well and received admiring reviews. These books include three editions of The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (1985, 1988, 2001, the last entitled The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.)
James has also written several series of new annuals:
In 2008, James launched Bill James Online. Subscribers can read James's new, original writing and interact with one another —- as well as with James —- in a question-and-answer format. The web site also offers new "profiles" of teams and players full of facts and statistics that hope to one day map what James has termed "the lost island of baseball statistics."
In an essay published in the 1984 Abstract, James vented his frustration about Major League Baseball's refusal to publish play-by-play accounts of every game. James proposed the creation of Project Scoresheet, a network of fans that would work together to collect and distribute this information.
While the resulting non-profit organization never functioned smoothly, it worked well enough to collect accounts of every game from 1984 through 1991. James's publisher agreed to distribute two annuals of essays and data – the 1987 and 1988 editions of Bill James Presents The Great American Baseball Statbook (though only the first of these featured writing by James).
The organization was eventually disbanded, but many of its members went on to form for-profit companies with similar goals and structure. STATS, Inc., the company James joined, provided data and analysis to every major media outlet before being acquired by Fox Sports in 2001.
Among the statistical innovations attributable to James are:
Although James may be best known as an inventor of statistical tools, he has often written on the limitations of statistics and urged humility concerning their place amid other kinds of information about baseball. To James, context is paramount: he was among the first to emphasize the importance of adjusting traditional statistics for park factors and to stress the role of luck in a pitcher's win-loss record. Many of his statistical innovations are arguably less important than the underlying ideas. When he introduced the notion of secondary average, it was as a vehicle for the then-counterintuitive concept that batting average represents only a fraction of a player's offensive contribution. (The runs-created statistic plays a similar role vis-à-vis the traditional RBI.) Some of his contributions to the language of baseball, like the idea of the "defensive spectrum", border on being entirely non-statistical.
Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane began applying sabermetric principles to running his low-budget team in the early 2000s, to notable effect, as chronicled in Michael Lewis' book Moneyball.
One point of controversy was in handling the relief pitching of the Red Sox. James had previously published analysis of the use of the closer in baseball, and had concluded that the traditional use of the closer both overrated the abilities of that individual, and used him in suboptimal circumstances. He wrote that it is "far better to use your relief ace when the score is tied, even if that is the seventh inning, than in the ninth inning with a lead of two or more runs." The Red Sox in 2003 staffed their bullpen with several marginally talented relievers. Red Sox manager Grady Little was never fully comfortable with the setup, and designated unofficial closers and reshuffled roles after a bad outing. When Boston lost a number of games due to bullpen failures, Little reverted to a traditional closer approach and moved Byung-hyun Kim from being a starting pitcher to a closer. The Red Sox did not follow James' idea of a bullpen with no closer, but with consistent overall talent that would allow the responsibilities to be shared. Red Sox reliever Alan Embree thought the plan could have worked if the bullpen had not suffered injuries. During the 2004 regular season Keith Foulke was used primarily as a closer in the conventional model; however, Foulke's usage in the 2004 postseason was along the lines of a relief ace with multiple inning appearances at pivotal times of the game. Houston Astros manager Phil Garner also employed a relief ace model with his use of Brad Lidge in the 2004 postseason.
As of 2014, James is still employed by the Red Sox, having published several new sabermetric books during his tenure (see #Bibliography below). Indeed, although James is typically tight-lipped about his activities on behalf of the Red Sox, he is credited with advocating some of the moves that led to the team's first World Series championship in 86 years, including the signing of non-tendered free agent David Ortiz, the trade for Mark Bellhorn, and the team's increased emphasis on on-base percentage.
After the Red Sox suffered through a disastrous 2012 season, Henry stated that James had fallen "out of favor [in the front office] over the last few years for reasons I really don't understand. We've gotten him more involved recently in the central process and that will help greatly."
Steven Soderbergh's planned film adaptation of Moneyball would have featured an animated version of James as a "host". This script was discarded when director Bennett Miller and writer Aaron Sorkin succeeded Soderbergh on the project. Ultimately, the film as produced mentions James several times. His unlikely bio is briefly recapped, and Billy Beane is depicted telling John Henry that Henry's hiring of James is the reason Beane is interested in the Red Sox general manager job.
In his Baseball Book 1990, James heavily criticized the methodology of the Dowd Report, which was an investigation (commissioned by baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti) on the gambling activities of Pete Rose. James reproached commissioner Giamatti and his successor, Fay Vincent, for their acceptance of the Dowd Report as the final word on Rose's gambling. (James' attitude on the matter surprised many fans, especially after the writer had been deeply critical of Rose in the past, especially what James considered to be Rose's selfish pursuit of Ty Cobb's all-time record for base hits.)
James expanded his defense of Rose in his 2001 book The New Historical Baseball Abstract, with a detailed explanation of why he found the case against Rose flimsy. James wrote "I would characterize the evidence that Rose bet on baseball as...well, not quite non-existent. It is extremely weak." This countered the popular opinion that the case against Rose was a slam dunk, and several critics claimed that James misstated some of the evidence in his defense of Rose. Derek Zumsteg of Baseball Prospectus wrote an exhaustive review of the case James made and concluded: "James' defense of Rose is filled with oversights, errors in judgment, failures in research, and is a great disservice to the many people who have looked to him for a balanced and fair take on this complicated and important issue."
In 2004, Rose admitted publicly that he had bet on baseball and confirmed the Dowd Report was correct. James remained steadfast, continuing to insist that the evidence available to Dowd at the time was insufficient to reach the conclusion that it did.
On November 4, 2011, Jerry Sandusky was indicted for committing sex crimes against young boys, which brought the Penn State child sex abuse scandal to national attention. On December 11, 2011, James published an article called "The Trial of Penn State", depicting an imaginary trial in which Penn State defended itself against charges of "acting rashly and irresponsibly in the matter of Joe Paterno, in such a manner that [they] defamed, libeled and slandered Paterno, unfairly demolishing his reputation."
On July 12, 2012, the Freeh report was released, charging Paterno and three other University officials with covering up reports of sexual assaults and enabling the attacker to prey on other children for more than a decade, often in Penn State facilities. Soon afterwards, during an interview on ESPN radio, James claimed that the Freeh report's characterizations of Paterno as a powerful figure were wrong, and that it wasn't Paterno's responsibility to report allegations of child molestation to the police. "[Paterno] had very few allies. He was isolated and he was not nearly as powerful as people imagine him to have been." When asked if he knew anyone who had showered with a boy they were not related to, James said it was a common practice when he was growing up. "That was actually quite common in the town I grew up in. That was quite common in America 40 years ago."
The July 2012 interview comments were widely criticized. Rob Neyer wrote in defense of James. James' employer, the Boston Red Sox, issued a statement disavowing the comments James made and saying that he has been asked not to make further public comments on the matter.
James has written two true crime books, Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence (2011) and The Man from the Train (2017), the latter with his daughter Rachel McCarthy James. In The Man From the Train, published in 2017, the Jameses attempt to link scores of murders of entire families in early 20th century America to a single perpetrator. Those murders include the Villisca axe murders. The Jameses propose a solution to the murders based on the signature elements these killings share in common with each other.
Cleveland Indians third-year man Franklin Gutierrez won the 2008 Fielding Bible Award for right field in an announcement made November 1, 2008, in The Bill James Handbook 2009.
Voted on by a 10-person panel that includes Bill James, Peter Gammons, Joe Posnanski, Rob Neyer, and John Dewan as well as the entire video scouting team at Baseball Info Solutions, the award sets out to recognize the best defensive player at each position, regardless of league.
The $100,000 infield was the infield of the Philadelphia Athletics in the early 1910s. The $100,000 infield consisted of first baseman Stuffy McInnis, second baseman Eddie Collins, shortstop Jack Barry and third baseman Frank Baker. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the nickname reflects "the purported combined market value of the foursome," which is equivalent to about $2.7 million in 2018.
Baseball historian Bill James rated the 1914 edition of the $100,000 infield the greatest infield of all time, and also ranked the 1912 and 1913 editions in the top five all time. The $100,000 infield helped the Athletics win four American League championships in five years—1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914—and win the World Series in 1910, 1911 and 1913. The group was broken up after losing the 1914 World Series as a result of the financial pressures resulting from the emergence of the Federal League. Two members—Collins and Baker—have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.1913 Philadelphia Athletics season
The 1913 Philadelphia Athletics season involved the A's finishing first in the American League with a record of 96 wins and 57 losses. The team then defeated the New York Giants in the 1913 World Series, 4 games to 1.
In 2001, baseball historian Bill James ranked the 1913 incarnation of the Athletics' famous "$100,000 infield" as the best of all time in major league history (first baseman Stuffy McInnis, second baseman Eddie Collins, third baseman Frank "Home Run" Baker, shortstop Jack Barry).Bill Gaither (gospel singer)
William James Gaither (born March 28, 1936) is an American singer and songwriter of Southern gospel and Contemporary Christian music. He has written numerous popular Christian songs with his wife Gloria; he is also known for performing as part of the Bill Gaither Trio and the Gaither Vocal Band (GVB). In the 1990s, his career gained a resurgence (as well as the careers of other southern gospel artists), as popularity grew for the Gaither Homecoming series.Bill James (pitcher, born 1892)
William Lawrence "Seattle Bill" James (March 12, 1892 – March 10, 1971) was a Major League Baseball pitcher. He was given a nickname to differentiate him from his contemporary, "Big" Bill James.
The Braves purchased James in 1912 from the Seattle Giants of the Northwestern League. In 1914, James was an integral member of the Braves team that went from last place to first place in two months, becoming the first team to win a pennant after being in last place on the Fourth of July. In his only full season, James posted a record of 26 wins against 7 losses. The Braves then went on to defeat Connie Mack's heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series. James was 2–0 in the World Series as the Braves recorded the first sweep in Series history.
During World War I, James was an instructor at bomb-throwing for the US Army. He pitched in the minor leagues until 1925.Bill James (rower)
John William James is a former New Zealand rower.
At the 1950 British Empire Games he won the gold medal as part of the men's coxed four.Bill Murray
William James Murray (born September 21, 1950) is an American actor, comedian, and writer. He first gained exposure on Saturday Night Live, a series of performances that earned him his first Emmy Award, and later starred in comedy films—including Meatballs (1979), Caddyshack (1980), Stripes (1981), Tootsie (1982), Ghostbusters (1984), Scrooged (1988), Ghostbusters II (1989), What About Bob? (1991), and Groundhog Day (1993). He also co-directed Quick Change (1990).
Murray garnered additional critical acclaim later in his career, starring in Lost in Translation (2003), which earned him a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and for frequently collaborating with director Wes Anderson. He also received Golden Globe nominations for his roles in Ghostbusters, Rushmore (1998), Hyde Park on Hudson (2012), St. Vincent (2014), and the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge (2014), for which he later won his second Primetime Emmy Award.
Murray received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2016. His comedy is known for its deadpan delivery.Ernie Lombardi
Ernesto Natali Lombardi (April 6, 1908 – September 26, 1977), was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a catcher for the Brooklyn Robins, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, and New York Giants during a career that spanned 17 years, from 1931 through 1947. He had several nicknames, including "Schnozz", "Lumbago", "Bocci", "The Cyrano of the Iron Mask" and "Lom". He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.
Baseball writer Bill James called Lombardi "the slowest man to ever play major league baseball well." The fact that he was so slow spoke to what an outstanding hitter he was. Lombardi was an All-Star for seven seasons, he hit over .300 for ten seasons and finished his major league career with a .306 batting average despite infields playing very deep for the sloth-like baserunner. He is listed at 6'3" and 230 lbs, but he probably approached 300 lbs towards the end of his career. He was also known as a gentle giant, and this made him hugely popular among Cincinnati fans.Game score
Game Score is a metric devised by Bill James to determine the strength of a pitcher in any particular baseball game.
To determine a starting pitcher's game score:
Start with 50 points.
Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
Add one point for each strikeout.
Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
Subtract one point for each walk.Honus Wagner
Johannes Peter "Honus" Wagner (; February 24, 1874 – December 6, 1955), sometimes referred to as "Hans" Wagner, was an American baseball shortstop who played 21 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1897 to 1917, almost entirely for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner won his eighth (and final) batting title in 1911, a National League record that remains unbroken to this day, and matched only once, in 1997, by Tony Gwynn. He also led the league in slugging six times and stolen bases five times. Wagner was nicknamed "The Flying Dutchman" due to his superb speed and German heritage. This nickname was a nod to the popular folk-tale made into a famous opera by another Wagner.
In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Wagner as one of the first five members. He received the second-highest vote total, behind Ty Cobb and tied with Babe Ruth.
Although Cobb is frequently cited as the greatest player of the dead-ball era, some contemporaries regarded Wagner as the better all-around player, and most baseball historians consider Wagner to be the greatest shortstop ever. Cobb himself called Wagner "maybe the greatest star ever to take the diamond." Honus Wagner is also the featured player of one of the rarest and the most valuable baseball cards in existence.Power–speed number
Power–speed number or power/speed number (PSN) is a sabermetrics baseball statistic developed by baseball author and analyst Bill James which combines a player's home run and stolen base numbers into one number.
The formula is:
(It is the harmonic mean of the two totals.)
Power–speed number is displayed as a number with one digit after the decimal point.
James introduced the power–speed number in his commentary on Bobby Bonds, writing "it is so crafted that a player who does well in both home runs and stolen bases will rate high, and his rating is determined by the balance of the two as well as by the total."Range factor
Range Factor (commonly abbreviated RF) is a baseball statistic developed by Bill James. It is calculated by dividing putouts and assists by the number of innings or games played at a given defense position. The statistic is premised on the notion that the total number of outs in which a player participates is more relevant in evaluating that player's defensive play than the percentage of cleanly handled chances as calculated by the conventional statistic fielding percentage.
However, some positions (especially first baseman) may have substantially more putouts because of a superior infield around them that commits fewer errors and turns many double plays, allowing them to receive credit for more putouts. Also, catchers who have a lot of strikeout pitchers on their team will have a high range factor, because the catcher gets the putout on a strikeout if the batter does not reach base.Rob Neyer
Rob Neyer (born June 22, 1966) is a baseball writer known for his use of statistical analysis or sabermetrics. He started his career working for Bill James and STATS and then joined ESPN.com as a columnist and blogger from 1996 to 2011. He was National Baseball Editor for SB Nation from 2011 to 2014, and Senior Baseball Editor for FoxSports.com in 2015 and '16.Runs created
Runs created (RC) is a baseball statistic invented by Bill James to estimate the number of runs a hitter contributes to his team.Sabermetrics
Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity.
Sabermetricians collect and summarize the relevant data from this in-game activity to answer specific questions. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research, founded in 1971. The term "sabermetrics" was coined by Bill James, who is one of its pioneers and is often considered its most prominent advocate and public face.Secondary average
Secondary average, or SecA, is a baseball statistic that measures the sum of extra bases gained on hits, walks, and stolen bases (less times caught stealing) depicted per at bat. Created by Bill James, it is a sabermetric measurement of hitting performance that seeks to evaluate the number of bases a player gained independent of batting average. Unlike batting average, which is a simple ratio of base hits to at bats, secondary average accounts for power (extra base hits), plate discipline (walks), and speed (stolen bases minus times caught stealing). Secondary averages have a higher variance than batting averages.Speed Score
Speed Score, often simply abbreviated to Spd, is a statistic used in Sabermetric studies to evaluate a baseball player's speed. It was invented by Bill James, and first appeared in the 1987 edition of the Bill James Baseball Abstract.Speed score is on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero being the slowest and ten being the fastest. League average is generally around 4.5.The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract
The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is a reference-type book written by Bill James featuring an overview of professional baseball decade by decade, along with rankings of the top 100 players at each position. The original edition was published in 1985 by Villard Books, updated in paperback in 1988, then followed by The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001. In the 2001 edition, James introduced his win shares system, an attempt to quantify a player's overall contributions to his team, which he used as part of his player ranking system. A revised edition was published in paperback in 2003.Those Memories of You
"Those Memories of You" is a song written by Alan O'Bryant. It was first recorded by Bill & James Monroe in 1978 and later released as a single by Pam Tillis in 1986, whose version peaked at #55 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The song was also recorded by LeAnn Rimes on her second independent album under Nor Va Jak, From My Heart to Yours, released in 1992.
The song was most famously recorded by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris on their 1987 album, Trio. Released in August 1987, it was the album's third single. It reached #5 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in December 1987 and #1 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.Win Shares
Win Shares is a book about baseball written by Bill James and Jim Henzler, published by STATS, Inc. in 2002. The book explains how to apply the concept of sabermetrics to assess the impact of player performance in a combination of several areas, including offensive, defensive, and pitching, to the overall performance of their team. The resulting "Win Share" also takes into account factors such as the era in which the player was active to allow easy comparisons between players from different eras. The book focuses primarily on the many formulae involved in computing the final number of win shares accumulated, as well as presenting lists of players ranked in various ways using the rating.
Win Shares Digital Update, a companion volume of tables and statistics through the 2001 season, was subsequently published in PDF form by STATS, Inc.
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