Tag Archives: sabermetrics
The eighth Baseball Analyst, dated October 1983, is quite strong. It featured six analytical pieces and a delightful “letter to the editor” by Dallas Adams commenting on Issue 7 (more favorably than I did, by the way). And this is the issue that Bill James launched Project Scoresheet, which eventually wrought a revolution in baseball analysis. All in all, it’s a difficult issue to fault.
The seventh Baseball Analyst, dated August, 1983, has to be called a disappointment. Not only was there no outstanding piece of research in this edition, what did appear can mostly be characterized as either uninteresting or as rehashes of issues already discussed in earlier editions. It happens that the seventh issue was the first edited by Jim Baker, but it’s certainly not his fault that the submissions were so weak. This issue, as do many, begins with a plea for more material. Young Jim was perhaps too polite to ask for better material.
The tenth Baseball Research Journal, published late in 1981, is perhaps a step down from the previous edition, largely because it doesn’t contain any classic research essays. What it does contain is mostly solid research, well presented, on a wide variety of topics.
This is the strongest Baseball Research Journal edition yet. It features one of the classic works of sabermetric analysis, some excellent biographical portraits, a look at minor league umpiring practice in 1900, a glimpse at the 1880 opening of the original Polo Grounds, some analysis of why Fulton County Stadium was a launching pad, and an interview with Joe Oeschger about the longest major league game and other memories. Authors included Stew Thornley, Seymour Siwoff(!), David Smith, Ted DiTullio, and Richard Cramer. This issue has, of course, some variations in quality, but there’s really nothing you could fairly characterize as filler in this edition.
Bill James Presents The Great American Baseball Stat Book (1988) edited by Don Zminda and Project Scoresheet
This was the first time I saw Brock Hanke’s name in print. The same is true of several of the book’s other contributors: John Benson, Sherri Nichols, Stuart Shea, and Sean Lahman come quickly to mind. (Tom Tippett was there, too, as the project’s programmer.) Just bringing these folks (and Pankin, in the previous edition) into my life is plenty of justification for the effort.
So why read the book? I can think of two reasons. You might want to mine the book for its equations; people have certainly done that, and found value. Or, like me, you might just want to read everything sabermetric. Unless you fall into those categories, you really don’t want to go there.
The issue features two excellent sabermetric pieces. Pete Palmer’s essay concerned park effects in the American League, and is as good an introduction to the topic as I’ve ever seen. Pete’s later projects gained some sophistication, but this effort touches nearly all the basic issues. And Irv Matus, who apparently counted pitches for all the Mets’ games in 1976, authored an excellent examination of the impact of pitch counts on pitcher performance. I doubt this was the first time such an effort had been made, but if anyone published such a well-thought-through analysis before Matus I’ve not seen it.
Pete Palmer extends the Jim Reuter essay, on park factor calculations, from the previous issue of the Analyst. Palmer’s first extension demonstrates that Reuter’s method works better if the calculations are based on innings rather than games, and shows how to make the necessary adjustments. He also suggests a further, individual-player, version of the factor which he doesn’t fully describe. The second extension begins with the observation that a team’s offensive “park effect” is partly the product of not facing the local pitching staff; he adds adjustments to allow for that. James’ editorial comment takes issue with some of Palmer’s assumptions, pointing out that James and Palmer differ on the implicit meaning of context as applied to calculating park effects.
O’Brien’s contribution is a quick-n-dirty examination of the relative importance of hitting and pitching when a team’s record improves or regresses by .031 (5 games). He concludes that teams whose records improve might show improvement at either offense or defense (or both). While collapsing teams have generally similar numbers, it appears more likely that the cause is a decline in offensive production. He goes on to examine ballpark effects. (O’Brien’s getting better at writing up his studies, which is good.)
The team essays are, as in the 1987 edition, focused on the teams; most, frankly, are pretty dull. The Twins essay did a fine job of dissecting their success, though, and a followup essay skewered the notion that the Twinkies were unusually dependent on two pitchers. The Oakland chapter is largely devoted to trying to understand LaRussa’s quirks, which turned out to be an ongoing sabermetric theme. The excellent Cards essay triggered a second excellent essay which used Herzog as an excuse to examine the field manager’s job. And the Astros essay is one of the finest analyses of a team’s season anyone’s written.