Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Book Review: Pro Football Prospectus 2005


Pro Football Prospectus 2005: Statistics, Analysis, and Insight for the Information Age by Aaron Schatz and the Staff of FootballOutsiders.com
As I wipe the drool from the previous book I read off my face, it's replaced almost as quickly as football drool. Baseball is so damn boring that statistics are the only thing interesting about it, but thankfully it's tailor-made for such statistical obsession, since almost everything that happens out there can be broken down into a discrete statistic. Football, by contrast, is like a constantly moving chessboard; there are lots of discrete actions, few of which can be, let alone are, broken down into the same sort of basic statistic that is the building block of baseball sabermetrics. This doesn't mean, though, that you can't learn anything from football statistics, and FootballOutsiders.com is about the best place to learn about what you can and cannot easily figure out. In terms of independent football analysis, this is about as good as it gets, and this book is their 2005 season preview. It has a lot of great information, with fairly in-depth write-ups of all teams and fantasy-players. Two complaints, neither deal-breaking: (1) player profiles for fantasy positions, i.e. QB, TE, WR, and RB, are in the position sections, separated from the team sections that have commentary on the rest of the guys on the 53-man roster. If you're like me and not a fantasy player, but instead trying to get a good feel for how a team's offensive might perform and thus how good a team would be overall, this is distracting. (2) Typos, typos, typos. Yes, coming from my lazy, half-cocked blog posts, this is like the pot calling the kettle black, but from me, you get what you pay for. From annoying things like "Matt Hassalback" on the cover to misidentifying Steve McNair's wife as a nurse rather than a nurse's aide or the score of the Titans-Packers game from 2004 (but getting it right another place), these are nigglinig and annoying errors. They don't get to the core value of the book, but they do detract from the overall reading experience.

The reason for the introduction, though, is that perhaps 40% of the book is taken up with individual fantasy profiles of people at the aforementioned positions. This is great if you're a serious fantasy football player, since projections are primarily for individual player statistics. As a football fan, though, you skim this information, since much of it is not particularly relevant. Still, I've read enough of it, and the rest of the book in enough detail, to believe that it merits inclusion in the 50 Book Challenge.* The same is not true, however, of the 2005 NFL Record & Fact Book. This book is literally a football junkie's dream, crammed full of statistical information... 2004 box scores and statistics, offesason rosters, historical data, all-time team v. team records. I could write a blog post a day on this, both independently and applying it to the current season, and not run out of material. Yes, my name is Tom, and I'm a football addict.

*-At a site I used to post at, there was this thing called the "50 Book Challenge" wherein you challenged yourself to read 50 books in a year and post a review of each. Since I was already in the habit of doing that, I decided to play along. This review is being re-published almost completely unedited from when it was first written, so make of it what you will.

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