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"Baseball fans love numbers. They love to swirl them around their mouths like Bordeaux wine." - Pat Conroy

"Baseball fans pay more attention to numbers than CPAs." - Jim Murray

Sabermetrics is the study of baseball using statistics. The term is attributed to Bill James, the field's most celebrated author, and is derived from the acronym "SABR", for the Society for American Baseball Research.

James, who parlayed his fame into a special advisory role with the Boston Red Sox, is only the most notable (and perhaps prolific) in a long list of people who have published sabermetric works of significance. James began publishing his annual Baseball Abstract books in the mid-1970s.

"I don't understand. All of a sudden, it's not just BA and Runs Scored, it's OBA. And what is it with O P S ?" - Harold Reynolds in 2004

Statistics had been part of the game since Henry Chadwick had invented basic statistical concepts in the middle of the 19th century, but until the advent of modern sabermetrics there had been relatively little serious study. As the decades went by, the game had changed enough that the original statistical concepts gradually grew less and less suitable to adequately describe the game.

In 2004, Alan Schwarz published The Numbers Game, which recounts in some detail not only the historical interaction between baseball and its statistics, but the stories of many of the people who were integral to the collection, analysis, and dissemination of those statistics.

Other prominent authors in the field of sabermetrics include George Lindsey, Earnshaw Cook, Dick Cramer, Pete Palmer, and Jim Albert.

The 2003 publication of Michael Lewis's bestseller, Moneyball, which chronicled the Oakland A's and their iconoclastic and sabermetrically-inclined general manager, Billy Beane, brought the influence of sabermetrics in major league front offices to the masses. Reaction to the book was both intensely positive and negative, but there can be little doubt that as a result, more major league front offices incorporated statistics (or the advice of statistical analysts) into their decision-making process.

Notable sabermetric topics include the Pythagorean Theorem (of winning percentage), Linear Weights, and Expected Run Tables.

Two of Beane's former assistants with the A's, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, worked as General Managers, themselves (of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively). Theo Epstein of the Boston Red Sox, who was hired after Beane turned down the job, is also known to espouse sabermetric principles. Other clubs that were pionners in hiring statistically-inclined personne include the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Arizona Diamondbacks, but by the mid 2010s, every major league team had an analytics department conducting proprietary sabermetric studies, and other sports were following suit.

"Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything." - Toby Harrah

"Baseball fans are junkies, and their heroin is the statistic." - Robert Wieder

Further Reading[edit]

  • Benjamin Baumer and Andrew Zimbalist: The Sabermetric Revolution: Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8122-4572-1
  • Anthony Castrovince: A Fan's Guide to Baseball Analytics: Why WAR, WHIP, wOBA, and Other Advanced Sabermetrics Are Essential to Understanding Modern Baseball, Sports Publishing, New York, NY, 2020. ISBN 978-1683583448
  • Gabriel B. Costa, Michael R. Huber and John T. Saccoman: Understanding Sabermetrics: An Introduction to the Science of Baseball Statistics, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7864-3388-9
  • Gabriel B. Costa, Michael R. Huber and John T. Saccoman: Practicing Sabermetrics: Putting the Science of Baseball Statistics to Work, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7864-4177-8
  • Gabriel B. Costa, Michael R. Huber and John T. Saccoman: Reasoning with Sabermetrics: Applying Statistical Science to Baseball's Tough Questions, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7864-6071-7
  • David P. Gerard: Baseball GPA: A New Statistical Approach to Performance and Strategy, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7864-7256-7
  • Jimmy Golen (Associated Press): "Stats pioneer Bill James: Don’t blame us for boring baseball",, April 9, 2021. [1]
  • Peter B. Gregg: "The Struggle to Define 'Valuable': Tradition vs. Sabermetrics in the 2012 AL MVP Race", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 46, Number 2 (Fall 2017), pp. 116-124.
  • Bill James: Solid Fool's Gold: Detours on the Way to Conventional Wisdom, ACTA Sports, Chicago, IL, 2011.
  • Brian Kenny: Ahead of the Curve: Inside the Baseball Revolution, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2016. ISBN 978-1-5011-0633-0
  • Keith Law: Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, HarperCollins, New York, NY, 2017. ISBN 978-0062490223
  • Christopher J. Phillips: Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know about Baseball, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2019. ISBN 9780691180212
  • Richard Schell: "SABR, Baseball Statistics, and Computing", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 40, Number 2 (Fall 2011), pp. 44-50.
  • Frederick E. Taylor: The Runmakers: A New Way to Rate Baseball Players, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 2011.
  • John Thorn and Pete Palmer: The Hidden Game of Baseball, Doubleday, New York, NY, 1984. ISBN 038518283X