Bill James knows his baseball.
He also knows his popular crime.
Lawrence resident James, who grew up living through both the sports and crime stories in the newspaper, has written numerous books on the former, revolutionizing statistics in a pastime full of them. He spoke to a crowd at the Lawrence Public Library on Tuesday evening about his new book on the latter subject.
Filled with stories of interesting, true crimes from around the country, many involving murder, “Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence” focuses on the criminal events that have helped drive the media business.
“It’s the odd that becomes famous,” James said. “The ones that are planned and plotted. The reason we are fascinated is they bring forward a part of human nature.”
Dale and Reva Nimz, who have followed James’ work for years, attended the event Tuesday to see how the author and statistician might have worked his methods into a new genre.
“There are so many experts who only want to hear themselves,” Dale said. “He’s just very humane. It’s like a personal conversation.”
James is the first to admit he’s no expert on crime, though he’s still able to make interesting observations. He said in his research and readings he’s discovered that in some sense, crimes seem to be more threatening when the situations and people are unknown to the reader.
After reading some pieces from his book, James fielded questions from the audience. He discussed his opinion of the prison system and the current crime rate. James discussed how he selected the interesting but less mainstream crimes for his work. He also talked about the task of keeping baseball jargon out of the new book.
James, who admits writing a book can be a draining process, said he enjoyed writing “Popular Crime.”
His statistical skills and writing have opened doors to new people, places and experiences. James, who works with the Boston Red Sox, has two World Series Rings with the team. He’s also made a guest appearance as a character on “The Simpsons.” But of all the doors James has opened with his insights, there’s one that stands out above the rest.
“I have a key to Fenway Park,” James said. “It’s hard to beat that.”