March 16, 2010

Review: Maple Street Press Red Sox Annual

Seeing the annual pre-season baseball magazines on the newsstand is a sure sign of spring, but for a serious Red Sox fan, the information offered in them on her favourite team is usually no more than five pages and is presented from a somewhat dull, mainstream perspective.

Maple Street Press and editor Jim Walsh have solved that problem. Now in its fifth season, the MSP Red Sox Annual is an essential part of any Red Sox fan's pre-Opening Day reading list. Written in collaboration with the Sons of Sam Horn -- though mainstream writers like Ian Browne, Adam Kilgore, and Michael Silverman also contribute -- the 2010 annual features 128 pages of Red Sox information -- with no advertising of any kind.

[Note: I purchased the annual in 2006-09, but received this year's edition for free, thanks to Cecilia Tan.]

Walsh's goal is simple -- "provide diehard fans with a variety of insightful viewpoints from people that know the team best". The contributors have a progressive view of the game and its statistics -- something is perhaps best shown in Mark Brown's use of advanced metrics to make the argument that J.D. Drew has been "Earning His Keep":
The resentment towards Drew is hard to pinpoint, but much of it stems from his failure to conform with traditional but outdated statistical expectations for power-hitting corner outfielders. ... He's also been characterized by some as insufficiently aggressive, emotionally detached, and ambivalent towards winning.

But a closer look at Drew's numbers, taken on the whole and in proper context relative to his American league peers, suggests he has not only performed at an elite level, but that he's been worth every penny of that [5/70] contract.
Gordon Edes recently spotlighted Brown's article at ESPN here.

Other highlights (full TOC can be seen here): Art Martone examines how successful Theo Epstein's philosophies have been over the last seven seasons; Chuck Korb crunches the numbers behind the team's defensive overhaul; Steve Mastroyin says the offense should remain at an elite level; Alex Clapp and Dan Brooks analyze Jonathan Papelbon's mechanics and pitch selection through Pitch-f/x data; and Alex Speier and Brandon Magee offer 12 pages on the minor league system.

There are also full-colour pages on each of the expected starters (lineup and rotation), showing spray zones, hit zones, pitch zones, and some statistical splits. Thus, we learn that, in 2009, Dustin Pedroia batted .433 on pitches up and in, Mike Cameron hit .556 off curveballs from lefties, Victor Martinez, when hitting from the left side, had the highest line-drive % of anyone in the lineup, Jon Lester almost never threw a changeup to a left-handed hitter, and Clay Buchholz went to his curveball only 1% of the time when he was behind in the count (and 23% of the time when he was ahead).

[MSP also published annuals for the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies, Dodgers, Mariners, and Twins. They do other sports, too, but who cares!]

If you want to order a copy, go to the main SoSH page first and then click the MSP ad (the board gets bit of coin back as a sort of referral fee). At $12.99, the Annual costs only a little more than a hot dog and beer at Fenway. But it's far more satisfying.

No comments: