As the father of modern statistical baseball analysis, Bill James' grasp of the game's numbers has engendered Rotisserie leagues - fantasy baseball teams managed by fans.

In his observations, Mr. James shows that there is only a five-percentage point difference in outcomes between a "normal" batting order and perhaps a more eccentric one. Making out the batting order can be a complex task, as nine players out of a roster of 25 can be sent up to bat in 741 billion different ways. Also, you can take any reasonable batting orders for any team, put them on a computer and play a hundred seasons, and you'll find they score just as many runs one way as they do another.

Managerial effectiveness is decided by how many different lineups a manager uses, how often he platoons hitters, how many times he goes to the bullpen, intentionally walks a hitter, puts in a pinch hitter or runner or a defensive substitute, or attempts a stolen base, a pitch-out, a hit and run or a sacrifice bunt. As further noted by him, some managerial capability, lies outside of a measurable terrain as 18 or the best managers of all time were alcoholics.

Never losing sight of baseball's rich past, Bill James sees Joe McCarthy - a name most Americans usually associate with a maligning senator - as the greatest manager in baseball history, with accomplishments that include nine of the 14 highest scoring teams in this century; the highest winning percentage of managers who guided more than 1,000 games (.615); tied for winning the most World Series (seven); the first manager to divide his pitching staff into starters and relievers. Mr. James regards Bobby Cox as the best present day manager.



Source: The Wall Street Journal Bookshelf, August 1, 1997 pg. A12