Tag Archives: sabermetrics

S-A-B-E-R-M-E-T-R-I-C-S, Sabermetrics

Deadspin has video of a wonderful scene from this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. Here’s a recap.

Emma Ciereszynski: Hi.

Judge: Hi. “Sabermetrics”.

E.C.: Sabermetrics. Can I please have the definition?

Judge: The statistical analysis of baseball data.

E.C.: May I please have the language of origin?

Judge: It’s from an English acronym, plus a Greek-derived English part.

E.C.: Sabermetrics. S-A-B-E-R-M-E-T-R-I-C-S. Sabermetrics.

[Exeunt, to wild applause]

Can we agree that the matter is now settled once and for all? To the average person, there isn’t a more credible arbiter of spelling than the national spelling bee. I generally don’t care about the “correctness” of speech or spelling, but there is literally not one reason to British-ize the word sabermetrics.

So, to Tango and his Tangettes: please, I beg you, listen to reason.

What Is Stupidity? And Which Writers Flaunt It?

Looking to make a quick buck, Bradley Woodrum finally asks the question that we’ve all skipped over, “What is sabermetrics?” Wait, actually, that question has been asked lots of times before. There are whole manifestos dedicated to answering it. As far as short answers go, it’s hard to top Bill James’s: “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.”

Woodrum–without bothering to mention James, the creator of the term sabermetrics–gives us this, instead:

f(\text{Sabermetrics}) = \text{statistics} + \text{scouting} + \text{business} + \varepsilon

where \varepsilon is “anything yet-known or missed by myself.”

I can’t wrap my head around the idea that sabermetrics is equal parts statistics, scouting, and business with a dash of anything else. It’s just so stupid. You realize Woodrum got paid for writing this, right? By his logic, nearly any thinking related to baseball counts as sabermetrics. Who’s to say this random tweet I just found (“Hopefully the #Dodgers get a new owner soon. Mccourt sux ass”) isn’t sabermetric? It does pertain to the business of baseball, after all.

Also, Woodrum needs to refresh himself on how functions work. Sabermetrics isn’t an input for statistics, scouting, business, and anything else; it’s the other way around, sort of.

Woodrum then turns his attention to categorizing each Major League front office by the number of “branches” of sabermetrics they… use? Is use the correct word here? The whole idea of branches of sabermetrics, plus separating teams by these branches, is so stupid it’s making my brain melt. Nevertheless, I’ll stick with use.

Every team uses at least one branch, though only the Dodgers use one measly branch. That makes sense, though, since McCourt “sux ass.” The rest of the league is pretty evenly split between two, two-to-three, and three branches of sabermetrics, though Woodrum doesn’t explain how he made these distinctions or even what branches each team uses. He doesn’t explain what exactly using two-to-three branches means, either.

Ultimately, the problem with this article stems from Woodrum’s writerliness. Without writerliness, there cannot be good writing. That’s just a fact of life. And as I can tell, writerliness can be broken down into three components: creativity, perseverance, and persuasion and other as-yet unknown elements of writing.

So, let’s use this three-component breakdown to redefine FanGraph’s list of authors. If we look at the authors and analyze where their articles seem to come from, whether they’re coming from just creativity and persuasion or all three components, we get this:

3 Component Writers

  • Dave Cameron
  • Carson Cistulli
  • David Appelman
  • Paul Swydan
  • Matt Klaassen
  • Tommy Rancel*
  • Noah Isaacs
  • Josh Weinstock
  • Ryan Martin
  • Jonah Keri
  • Patrick Newman
  • Mitchel Lichtman
  • Pizza Cutter
  • Maury Brown
  • Seth Samuels
  • R.J. Anderson
  • Dayn Perry
  • Brian Cartwright
  • Sean Smith
  • Dave Studeman

2-to-3 Component Writers

  • Mike Newman
  • Wendy Thurm
  • Chris Cwik
  • David Laurila
  • Ryan Campbell
  • Matthew Carruth
  • Jeff Zimmerman*
  • Josh Goldman
  • tangotiger
  • Michael Lee
  • Erik Manning
  • Graham MacAree

2 Component Writers

  • Alex Remington
  • Jack Moore
  • Eno Sarris
  • Mike Axisa
  • Marc Hulet
  • Jim Breen
  • Jesse Wolfersberger
  • Dave Allen
  • Jason Roberts*
  • Reed MacPhail
  • Joe Pawlikowski
  • David Golebiewski
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith
  • Joshua Maciel
  • Bryan Smith*
  • Pat Andriola
  • Steve Sommer
  • Sky Kalkman

1 Component Writers

  • Steve Slowinski
  • Matt Swartz
  • Eric Seidman
  • Albert Lyu
  • Brandon Warne**
  • Lucas Apostoleris
  • Zach Sanders
  • Frankie Piliere
  • Niv Shah

0 Component Writers

  • Bradley Woodrum

* I’m especially unsure about these authors.

** Given Warne’s empathy problems, he is the only writer who appears to be without common sense. This may have changed recently.

I would like to reiterate that these are merely my perceptions (coupled with a poll of anonymous Major League scouts). If you are one of these authors and I have gotten your placement wrong, please feel free to alert me to the oversight. Naturally, I weigh an actual writer’s perspectives more heavily. Can I have my money now?

SABR and SABER

Penning an entire post complaining about the spelling of one word makes me as much of a target as the SABR I mock regularly for their silly arguments, but this issue really gets to me. It’s been on my mind for a few weeks now and I couldn’t hold back any longer. At least I’m self-aware about it, right?

In the his introduction to the 1980 Baseball Abstract, Bill James wrote,

A year ago I wrote in this letter that what I do does not have a name and cannot be explained in a sentence or two. Well, now I have given it a name: Sabermetrics, the first part to honor the acronym of the Society for American Baseball Research, the second part to indicate measurement. Sabermetrics is the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records.

I don’t need to tell you how sabermetrics has taken hold since then. Basketball analysts dubbed their field APBRmetrics as a tribute, for instance. But over the past few months, I’ve seen a frightening growth in the use of a bastardization of the term. People now use sabremetrics and I have no idea why.

There’s a valid argument to be made that the word should have been sabremetrics from the start–it’s SABR nor SABER, after all–but that ship has sailed. We have thirty years of precedent now. And I’ve yet to see anyone actually argue for the use of sabremetrics on such prescriptivist grounds.

In fact, I haven’t seen anyone make any case whatsoever for why anyone should use sabremetrics over sabermetrics. Which makes its pernicious spread that much more mystifying. The best explanation I’ve come up with for its spread is that Tangotiger started using it. As recently as the beginning of November, he was using sabermetrics. Nowadays? You get the point.

I also hate another Tango-approved coinage threatening to replace a perfectly-good term with history on its side, that being saberist instead of sabermetrician. At least in that case, saberist is shorter and possibly easier to type. It’s still ridiculous to use; don’t get me wrong. And if saberist is a pointless word even with a (feeble) argument in its favor, why would anyone ever use sabremetrics?

By the way, someone tell me how I’m supposed to pronounce sabremetrics. “say-bruh-meh-tricks”? “say-bree-meh-tricks”? It certainly isn’t “say-bur-meh-tricks”, unless we’re all British now. In which case, someone point me to some good cricket SABR blogs for me to mock.

As far as I can tell, the only thing sabremetrics has going for it is the blessing of SABR God-King Tangotiger. And that’s just not enough for me. History, common sense, and the fact that baseball is American and not British all tell me to use sabermetrics. And you should too. There’s no need to replace a term that’s worked just fine for so long.