Though the term “sabermetrics” has only been around since the early 1980s, the practice of using statistics to gain a winning edge in baseball goes back almost two centuries. As the tools of sabermetrics continue to advance, teams like the New York Yankees and Mets are becoming more adept at using analytical tools to dissect the science of winning.
Beyond the Box Score: A Brief History of Sabermetrics
Just as the origins of baseball are difficult to pin down, so too is the start of sabermetrics. The term itself was coined in 1980 by renowned baseball analyst Bill James. Named in honor of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) of which James is a member, he called sabermetrics “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.” However, that’s not where the story begins. From simple scorekeeping to the more complex statistics that define the game today, statistics have long been important in baseball.
Let’s take a closer look at key milestones in the making of sabermetrics.
Sabermetrics in Action
Now that we know what sabermetrics is and how it came to be, we can demonstrate baseball analytics in action with a side-by-side comparison of two players.
Tools of the Trade: Software that Plays Hardball
Sabermetrics is made possible in part because every baseball game generates a ton of recorded data. But how is it processed? “Sabermetricians,” as experts of sabermetrics are sometimes known, use a variety of tools to record games and glean insight from this data. These tools can be as simple as formulas used to derive statistics and as complex as high-definition cameras coupled with recognition software to analyze plays.
Each sabermetric tool has its uses and drawbacks, but some are more commonly used than others. Here are a few of the tools you’ll find in the modern sabermetrician’s toolbox:
The rise of sabermetrics has revolutionized not only how managers and coaches make decisions on the field, but also in how teams hire talent for front office positions. Historically, jobs such as general managers and assistants were reserved for former players. Thanks to sabermetrics, these front office positions have now opened up to those able to analyze sabermetrics data and help implement those insights in operations and scouting departments. Unsurprisingly, the industry is piquing the interest of many. In 2013, undergraduate students at Syracuse University’s Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics formed the Baseball Statistics & Sabermetrics Club. And when EdX first launched a free sabermetrics 101 course, more than 13,000 people signed up in 2014. The interest in the business analysis of baseball continues to evolve.
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