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.