By Father Gabe Costa
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In many senses, Bill James is responsible for popularizing sabermetrics, “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.”
His yearly editions of “The Bill James Baseball Abstract” introduced legions of fans to his work a generation ago.
Numbers — the X’s and O’s — have always been part and parcel of the National Pastime, going back to such ancient figures as Alexander Cartwright and “Father” Chadwick. Indeed, in their classic book, “The Hidden Game of Baseball,” John Thorn and Pete Palmer point out that “Baseball may be loved without statistics, but it cannot be understood without them.”
Accumulations, assessments, averages, comparisons, listings and rankings have practically been with us from when the first pitch was thrown to the first batter on that first diamond. Over the years these metrics have evolved and developed in many places: on fields, in dugouts, in clubhouses, in press boxes and in executive offices.
And then there was “Moneyball.”
Professional research facilities have also had their finger in the sabermetrics pie for more than a half century. For example, the professional journal, “Operations Research,” has had a number of articles written using high-powered mathematics. Three such examples are as follows:
- G. R. Lindsey, “Statistical Data Useful for the Operation of a Baseball Team”, Volume 7, Number 2, March-April 1959
- G. R. Lindsey, “An Investigation of Strategies in Baseball”, Volume 11, Number 4, July-August 1963
- T. Cover and C. Keilers, “An Offensive Earned-Run Average for Baseball”, Volume 25, Number 5, September-October 1977
Finally, sabermetrics in the classroom began at Seton Hall University in 1988. The time had come a quarter of a century ago, and many other institutions of higher learning now offer similar courses.
For the next few months, students taking my sabermetrics class will be submitting blogs for By The Numbers, covering a multitude of topics.
I hope you enjoy their efforts.
How much do you value sabermetrics? Are you more of a traditionalist when it comes to baseball statistics? Let us know in the comments section below…