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Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

If you're going to catch unexpected winners or price overlays early in the baseball season you'll need an informational edge or some methodology to refine as the season progresses. Four new titles that might offer you some advantage have arrived at Gambler's Book Shop and here's what each has to offer:

The 2005 Scouting Notebook, published by The Sporting News (715 pages, paperbound, $19.95) is an excellent tool for both bettors and fantasy players trying to get a feel for who hits better against lefties or righties; who the best minor league prospects are; who turns it on after the All-Star break or who hits until mid-season, then cools off. The book also analyzes ballparks including categories of how a particular park helps or hinders certain types of offenses and hoe certain stadiums have been re-designed. For example, Dodger Stadium, being just 15 miles from the ocean, has heavy night air, thus balls tend to travel better in day games. Managers are also profiled and a valuable chart for each team informs us how Dodgers starters for example, performed anywhere from three to six days rest and how quickly certain managers are likely to yank starters (quick vs. slow hooks).

The 2005 edition of Who's Who in Baseball (352 pages, paperbound, $9.95) is now in its 90th edition. This handy pocket guide to batting and pitching stats is arranged in alphabetical order, first the batters, then the pitchers with the lifetime and seasonal records of more than 750 players, plus photos. The book lists injuries, trades, birthdates, plus post-season play statistics. It's a handy argument-settler for spelling a player's name correctly or tracing a player's career from the minors on up.

Baseball Prospectus 2005 (566 pages, paperbound, 17.95) is for those who love to plan ahead, isolate an angle, a situation, or a match-up. It can be used by fantasy players looking for a "sleeper" (a player about to break out) or to identify one who is over-rated or on the way down. More than 1,600 players are analyzed, ballpark strengths and weaknesses (whether they favor a team or not) are dissected. There are a variety of interesting essays, including one titled An Analytical Framework for Win Expectancy. Here the impact of starting pitchers and relief support are measured along with lineup strength, and clearly presented for those seeking a unique mathematical approach to predicting winners.

Finally, the 2005 Baseball Guide from Sporting News (608 pages, paperbound, $18.95), a handy resource which reviews the 2004 season, award winners (including Rookie of the Year, MVP, Hall of Famers)). The scores of every game played last season are listed by team, with winning pitcher, who got the save, the team's record at each point in the season and the place the team was in). How many homers were hit at each ballpark by each team and which players hit how many at what park are listed in a special section. The book also contains diagrams of every major league park, where to write to each team, their official web site, ticket information, minor league affiliates and the schedule of each major league team.

(The books mentioned here are available from Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call l-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday Pacific time to order, using only MasterCard, VISA or Discover card (no Amex accepted). You may order through the store web site at and view the store's 1,000 books, videos and computer software. You may also call or write and ask for the free 80-page catalog to be sent to you. The store, founded in 1964 by John and Edna Luckman, is located about two miles from Downtown Las Vegas, and the same distance from where the Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.)