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Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. Sabermetricians collect and summarize the relevant data from this in-game activity to answer specific questions. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research, founded in 1971. The term sabermetrics was coined by Bill James, who is one of its pioneers and is often considered its most prominent advocate and public face.[1]

General principles[edit]

The Sabermetric Manifesto by David Grabiner (1994)[2] begins:

Bill James defined sabermetrics as "the search for objective knowledge about baseball." Thus, sabermetrics attempts to answer objective questions about baseball, such as "which player on the Red Sox contributed the most to the team's offense?" or "How many home runs will Ken Griffey hit next year?" It cannot deal with the subjective judgments which are also important to the game, such as "Who is your favorite player?" or "That was a great game."

It may, however, attempt to settle questions, such as, "Was Willie Mays faster than Mickey Mantle?" by establishing several possible parameters for examining speed in objective studies (how many triples did each man hit, how many bases each man stole, how many times he was caught stealing) and then reaching a tentative conclusion on the basis of these individual studies.

Sabermetricians frequently question traditional measures of baseball skill. For instance, they doubt that batting average is as useful as conventional wisdom says it is because team batting average provides a relatively poor fit for team runs scored.[3] Sabermetric reasoning would say that runs win ballgames, and that a good measure of a player's worth is his ability to help his team score more runs than the opposing team. This may imply that the traditional RBI (runs batted in) is an effective metric; however, sabermetricians also reject RBI, for a number of reasons. Rather, sabermetric measures are usually phrased in terms of either runs or team wins. For example, a player might be described as being worth 54 offensive runs more than a replacement-level player at the same position over the course of a full season, as the sabermetric statistic VORP can indicate.

Early history[edit]

Henry Chadwick, a sportswriter in New York, developed the boxscore in 1858.[4] This was the first way statisticians were able to describe the sport of baseball.[4] The creation of the boxscore has given baseball statisticians a summary of the individual and team performances for a given game.[5]

Sabermetrics research began in the middle of the 20th century. Earnshaw Cook was one of the earliest researchers that contributed to this idea. Cook gathered the majority of his research into his 1964 book, Percentage Baseball. The book was the first of its kind to gain national media attention,[6] although it was widely criticized and not accepted by most baseball organizations. The idea of advanced baseball statistics did not become prominent in the baseball community until Bill James began writing his annual Baseball Abstracts in 1977.[7][8]

Bill James believed that people misunderstood how the game of baseball was played, claiming that it is actually defined by the conditions under which the sport is played.[4] Sabermetricians, sometimes considered baseball statisticians, began trying to replace the longtime favorite statistic known as the batting average.[3][9] It has been claimed that team batting average provides a relatively poor fit for team runs scored.[3] Sabermetric reasoning would say that runs win ballgames, and that a good measure of a player's worth is his ability to help his team score more runs than the opposing team.

Before Bill James was able to bring the concept of sabermetrics to known topic, Davey Johnson used an IBM System/360 at team owner Jerold Hoffberger's brewery to write a FORTRAN baseball computer simulation while playing for the Baltimore Orioles in the early 1970s. He unsuccessfully used his results in an attempt to propose the idea that he should bat second in the lineup to his manager Earl Weaver. He wrote IBM BASIC programs to help him manage the Tidewater Tides, and after becoming manager of the New York Mets in 1984, he arranged for a team employee to write a dBASE II application to compile and store advanced metrics on team statistics.[10] Craig R. Wright was another employee in Major League Baseball, working with the Texas Rangers in the early 1980s. During his time with the Rangers, he became known as the first front office employee in MLB history to work under the title Sabermetrician.[11][12]

The Oakland Athletics began to use a more quantitative approach to baseball by focusing on sabermetric principles in the 1990s. This initially began with Sandy Alderson as the former general manager of the team when he used the principles toward obtaining relatively undervalued players.[1] His ideas were continued when Billy Beane took over as general manager in 1997, a job he held until 2015, and hired his assistant Paul DePodesta.[9] His approaches to baseball soon gained national recognition when Michael Lewis published Moneyball: the art of winning an unfair game in 2003 to detail Beane's use of Sabermetrics. In 2011, a film based on Lewis' book also called Moneyball was released to further provide insight into the techniques use in the Oakland Athletic's front office.


Notable proponents[edit]

  • Big Cat: Co-host of acclaimed Barstool Sports podcast, Pardon My Take alongside PFT Commenter. Podcast not affiliated with ESPN.
  • Theo Epstein: President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. He was hired as GM of the Red Sox after owner John Henry hired sabermetrician Bill James.[13][14]
  • Stephen Jay Gould: proposed that the disappearance of .400 batting average is actually a sign of general improvement in batting.[15][16]
  • Brian Kenny: a studio host for MLB Network that represents the saber-metrical side of baseball in most discussions had with other more traditional analysts.
  • Christina Kahrl: Co-founder of Baseball Prospectus and current ESPN columnist, Kahrl puts an emphasis on advanced baseball analytics.
  • Sean Lahman: Created a database of baseball statistics from existing sources and in the mid-1990s made it available for free download on the Internet, providing access to statistical data in electronic form for the first time.
  • Voros McCracken: Developed a system called Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS) to evaluate a pitcher based purely on his ability.
  • Rob Neyer: Senior writer at and national baseball editor of SBNation and former assistant to Bill James, he has worked to popularize sabermetrics since the mid-1980s. Neyer has authored or co-authored several books about baseball, and his journalistic writing focuses on sabermetric methods for looking at baseball players' and teams' performance.[17]
  • Joe Posnanski: A popular baseball writer and a proponent of sabermetrics.
  • Nate Silver: Writer and former managing partner of Baseball Prospectus, inventor of PECOTA. Later applied sabermetric statistical models to the study of politics, particularly elections, and published the results on his blog FiveThirtyEight (later affiliated with The New York Times and ESPN).
  • David Smith: Founded Retrosheet in 1989, with the objective of computerizing the box score of every major league baseball game ever played, in order to more accurately collect and compare the statistics of the game.
  • Tom Tango: Runs the Tango on Baseball sabermetrics website. In particular, he has worked in the area of defense independent pitching statistics.
  • Keith Woolner: Creator of VORP, or Value over Replacement Player, is a former writer for sabermetric group/website Baseball Prospectus. He was hired in 2007 by the Cleveland Indians as their Manager of Baseball Research & Analytics.


  • Baseball Prospectus is an annual publication and web site[18] produced by a group of sabermetricians who originally met over the Internet. Several Baseball Prospectus authors have invented or improved upon widely relied upon sabermetric measures and techniques. The website publishes analytical articles as well as advanced statistics and projections for individuals and teams. This group also publishes other books that use and seek to popularize sabermetric techniques, including Baseball Between the Numbers[19] and It Ain't Over 'til It's Over.[20]
  • The Hardball Times is a website as well as an annual volume that evaluates the preceding major league season and presents original research articles on various sabermetric topics. The website also publishes original research on baseball.
  • FanGraphs is a website that publishes advanced baseball statistics as well as graphics that evaluate and track the performance of players and teams. The site also favors the analysis of play-by-play data and PITCHf/x. It draws on some of the advanced baseball metrics developed by well-known sabermetricians such as Tom Tango and Mitchel Lichtman.
  • Beyond the Boxscore is a part of SB Nation and specializes in sabermetric analysis and research. It has also launched the careers of many successful sabermetricians.
  • SABR is the Society for American Baseball Research, founded in 1971, and the root of the term sabermetrics. Statistical study, however, is only a small component of SABR members' research, which also focuses on diverse issues including ballparks, the Negro Leagues, rules changes, and the desegregation of baseball as a mirror of American culture.
  • Fielding Bible Awards are voted on by a panel of sabermetically inclined writers to recognize the best defensive player for each fielding position. It provides an alternative to the Gold Glove Awards, the traditional measurement of fielding excellence.
  • Baseball Think Factory is a web forum that includes extensive coverage of and commentary on baseball, usually from the perspective of sabermetrics.

Popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lewis, Michael M. (2003). Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-05765-8. 
  2. ^ Grabiner, David J. "The Sabermetric Manifesto". The Baseball Archive. 
  3. ^ a b c Jarvis, J. (2003-09-29). "A Survey of Baseball Player Performance Evaluation Measures". Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  4. ^ a b c Puerzer, Richard J. (Fall 2002). "From Scientific Baseball to Sabermetrics: Professional Baseball as a Reflection of Engineering and Management in Society". NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture. 11: 34–48 – via Project Muse. 
  5. ^ "". 
  6. ^ Albert, James; Jay M. Bennett (2001). Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game. Springer. pp. 170–171. ISBN 0-387-98816-5. 
  7. ^ "Bill James, Beyond Baseball". Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg. PBS. June 28, 2005. Retrieved November 2, 2007. 
  8. ^ Ackman, D. (May 20, 2007). "Sultan of Stats". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 2, 2007. 
  9. ^ a b Kipen, D. (June 1, 2003). "Billy Beane's brand-new ballgame". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 2, 2007. 
  10. ^ Porter, Martin (1984-05-29). "The PC Goes to Bat". PC Magazine. p. 209. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  11. ^ RotoJunkie - Roto 101 - Sabermetric Glossary (powered by evoArticles)
  12. ^
  13. ^ Neyer, Rob (November 5, 2002). "Red Sox hire James in advisory capacity". Retrieved March 7, 2009. 
  14. ^ Shanahan, M. (May 23, 2005). Retrieved November 2, 2007 His numbers are in the ballpark The Boston Globe
  15. ^ Gould, Stephen Jay (2003). "Why No One Hits .400 Anymore". Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 151–172. ISBN 0-393-05755-0. 
  16. ^ Agonistas, Dan (4 August 2004). "Where have the .400 hitters gone?". Retrieved 30 August 2016. ... The discussion revolved around an essay that Gould wrote for Discover magazine in 1986 and that was reprinted both in his 1996 book Full House and in Triumph and Tragedy under the title "Why No One Hits .400 Anymore" ... 
  17. ^ Jaffe, C. (October 22, 2007). "Rob Neyer Interview". The Hardball Times. Retrieved November 2, 2007. 
  18. ^ "Baseball Prospectus". Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  19. ^ Baseball Between the Numbers. 2006. ISBN 0-465-00596-9. 
  20. ^ Goldman, Steven (2007). It Ain't Over 'til It's Over. ISBN 0-465-00285-4. 

External links[edit]