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.

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8 responses to “SABR and SABER

  1. I’m fairly certain that Don Malcolm has been using “sabremetrics” for years, so it may have originated with him. It would fit; Malcolm’s career devolved from the center of the sabermetric world to its periphery over the last 10-15 years partly because of his penchant for focusing on meaningless crap like this. Sabremetrics ought to have as much staying power as QMAX did, but if Tango swallowed the kool-aid…

    • Don Malcolm needs to return to the SABR universe. I hadn’t even heard of neo-sabermetrics before, I’m ashamed to say.

      • IIRC, Don was the first sabermetric guy to blend politics into his articles. Malcolm’s rather liberal, and his term neosabermetrics was a knockoff of neoconservatism so it was an insult. His feud with the BPro guys goes all the way back to USENET, from what I’ve read. He still comments at BTF, but Don hasn’t written anything in years.

  2. Saberist was coined by Backlasher over at Baseball Think Factory and Tango ran with it. It annoys me a bit that these tastemakers are able to use their power to change the jargon, but only Aaron Gleeman and Dayn Perry have ever linked to Designated Sitter. My writing is at least as good as Carson Cistulli’s, but he’s part of the in crowd while I am not.

    Screwit, I’m going to write a medical procedural now and stop writing about baseball for a bit.

  3. JC Bradbury makes Freakonomic.

    I suppose this make the blood of some folks boil.

  4. I go with sabremetrics simply because there’s no ‘e’ in SABR. I know that’s a crappy reason, but it’s my reason and I’m sticking to it.

  5. Pingback: S-A-B-E-R-M-E-T-R-I-C-S, Sabermetrics | Praiseball Bospectus

  6. It’s not just British spelling. In Canada you put the “r” before the “e”. As in “The Air Canada Centre”. You don’t pronounce that last word “sen-truh” or “sen-tree”. Since Tango is Canadian it makes sense that he would spell it that way and pronounce it “say-bur”.
    I don’t see what the big deal would be if sabremetrics had both a Canadian and American variation. It’s not hard to cope with. At the very least it adds a little lexical… colour.

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