Friday, November 2, 2007

Bill James Ranks the Top 50 Young Stars

Bill James being Bill James, which means a lot of sophisticated and rigorous analysis, communicated with ease, clarity, and a dash of humor. Here's some of the latter:

21. C. C. Sabathia, Cleveland lefty (26). I have to tell you, as a baseball fan, I absolutely adore C. C. Sabathia. I always have. I've compared all these players to somebody else. It is sacrilege to compare C. C. Sabathia to any other pitcher. He is totally unique. For one thing, although listed weights of baseball players are so bogus that it's hard to see the point of listing them, C. C. has to be the heaviest player in major league history. He's huge -- 6'7"and has an aircraft carrier frame supporting large piles of necessary and unnecessary flesh, all of this adorned with comic little ears that stick out from his face as if the Lord couldn't find a flat place to put them. He has a unique delivery, hanging his massive leg in the air in seeming defiance of both gravity and nature, yet he is balanced and graceful. He projects a sort of genial warrior calm on the mound. He was an outstanding pitcher when he reached the majors in 2001 and has gotten steadily better, cutting his walks from 95 in 180 innings to 37 in 241 innings. He's 26 now, like Peavy, and his age is pushing him downward on this list; he is less of a young talent, and more of a mature product. But I don't think I've ever missed a C. C. Sabathia start in Kansas City when I was near KC or in Boston since I've been in Boston, and I hope he pitches forever.

Update: Hmmm, maybe the analysis -- and my initial reading of the column -- was not so rigorous after all. The BTF Primates (Furtado -- are they/we still allowed to call ourselves that?) have their knives out, and they identify a number of omissions, oddities, and outright lunacy with James' list (e.g. where's Pujols? Where's Zambrano? Why is Russell Martin so damn low?).

For my part, I plead James fanboy (and say what you want about the analysis, he's still fun to read). I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for James to clarify or recant any of this -- he's got bigger fish to fry working for the Red Sox -- but, yeah, upon reflection, the list, she is strange.