November 11, 2011

SABR Posts 40 Issues Of Bill James's 1980s Newsletter, "The Baseball Analyst"

1. Baseball Analyst, Bill James's self-published newsletter was one of the first publications with articles on sabermetrics. Thanks to the generosity of Bill James and Phil Birnbaum, SABR has posted PDFs of the entire 40-issue run. At 20 pages each, that's 800 pages of baseball news, thought, and analysis to dive into!

2. Tracing the origin of the bullpen phone.

3. The Baseball Reference blog has been retired, so John Autin, Raphy, and Andy are now posting at High Heat Stats.

4. Fangraphs' Josh Goldman charts the break-even point for stolen bases, depending on the number of outs in the inning.

5. Dave Cameron (also Fangraphs) reviews the MLB Network's new analytical/sabermetric show, which debuted November 7:
On Monday, [host Brian] Kenny proposed what he called a "tournament baseball" model for handling a pitching staff, pointing out how heavily the Rangers and Cardinals used their bullpens in their respective League Championship Series, and how that helped propel them into the World Series. It's a topic we wrote about here during October quite a bit, and it was great to see a national broadcast discuss the relative effectiveness of starters and relievers using relevant data. ...

[Guests Rob Neyer and Peter Gammons] made interesting points on the subject, and helped discuss the issue rationally without getting into some kind of contrived shouting match where one side had to play contrarian.

On Tuesday, the central theme revolved around the wisdom of giving out $100+ million contracts, and Kenny brought Vince Gennaro (president of SABR) onto the set to discuss the risks associated with committing that much money to any one player.
Kenny, in an interview with Beyond the Box Score's Bill Petti:
I just approach each subject in a logical progression of thought. And there isn't one magic number out there. There's just a way of looking at things logically. I try to explain to people, look, if you read Bill James and you've read him through the decades he's not there just doing math formulas, he's asking the right questions. And then you get one answer you dig a little deeper. Once you get that answer, dig even deeper. And then you keep digging. And that's what we do.
Brilliant! This show could be a huge step forward for advanced stats and rigorous analysis. Has anyone seen the show?

6. While in New York recently, I picked up a copy of John Thorn's Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game at the amazing and wonderful Strand bookstore. Thorn is MLB's official historian and at his blog, "Our Game", he has written about professional baseball's first championship game, when the 1871 season "went down to the final day amid improbable and poignant circumstances that will never be equaled". And Craig B. Waff and Larry McCray look at baseball in 1856.

7. Arne Christensen of The Hardball Times talks with the former sportswriter and lead singer of AC-DC Bryan Johnson, who wrote about sabermetrics for Canada's national paper, the Globe and Mail, in the early 1980s. Bill James cites Johnson as discovering the tendency of a team to revert back to the win-loss total one would expect from its ratio of runs scored to runs allowed. Johnson recalled he was
in a constant fight with other writers, columnists, etc., both within my own paper, and versus competitors. You saw, I think, how the Toronto Sun declared Alfredo Griffin the Jays' "MVP" — after I pointed out his atrocious OBP [.248 and a 48 OPS+ in 140 games in 1984], and pretty much demanded that the Jays bring up Tony Fernandez. That was the basic tenor of the times. The response was very negative, very hostile. New ideas seemed quite threatening to baseball writers, for reasons that weren't clear then, or now. ...

I remember, in 1985, arguing with a current ESPN guy (Tim Kurkjian, then a Dallas writer) in the press box in Kansas City, that George Brett deserved the MVP much more than Don Mattingly. But his response was utter dismissal, since Mattingly had far more RBIs.
Johnson now works as a teacher in the Philippines, which is says is "perfect" for an obsessive fan: "The 12-hour time difference means you wake up, make coffee, and watch a ballgame over breakfast. Meanwhile, my computer is on in the background, churning out up-to-date scores."

8. "The History of How We Follow Baseball" (Philip Bump, The Atlantic, October 2011)

9. Fantasy baseball - in the 1880s? Victorian nerds!

1 comment:

laura k said...

8. "The History of How We Follow Baseball" (Philip Bump, The Atlantic, October 2011)

Oooo, niiiiice. Me likey.