Thursday, November 14, 2002

This is only interesting if you already knew what "sabermetrics" was before now. In case you're still reading and didn't know, it's an arcane statistical discipline devoted to measuring the true ability of baseball players. Sabermetricians will tell you about the Defensive Spectrum, which is SS-2B-CF-3B-RF-LF-1B, the more difficult defensive positions being on the left, and how players often move right but rarely left when they change position. They'll explain why such well-known and oft-cited statistics as Batting Average and Runs Batted In are not nearly as important as such obscure stats as Slugging Percentage and On-Base Percentage. They'll tell you that stolen bases are overrated, walks are underrated, double plays are way underrated, sacrifice bunting is ineffective unless the guy at bat just can't hit at all, and that home runs really are just as big as they look. The high mucky-muck of sabermetrics is Bill James, who has been insistently writing on the subject since the Seventies and has finally, within the last few years, been getting some deserved attention. First Billy Beane, Oakland's general manager, began relying on sabermetrics as one of his factors when he made decisions--and Beane has had remarkable success with an Oakland club that has been playing well above what its relative budget would predict. Now Bill James himself has been hired as an adviser by underachieving Boston. The story is here in an article by Rob Neyer, a sportswriter who has worked with James and who uses sabermetrics as the source of his own columns. Looks like Bill gave Rob the scoop.

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