## October 2, 2018

### Batting Success Tied To Launch Angle ... In 1885

A base ball should be struck at the angle of twenty-three degrees in order to send it to the greatest possible distance. If you can't strike it in twenty three degrees give it a boost in ten, five, or even one, but be sure to bat it in some degree.

Caldwell (Kansas) Advance, May 28, 1885
(From John Thorn, "The Changing Game")

This is not a new or isolated case.

What Bill James referred to as "Range Factor" in the 1980s was actually used more than 100 years earlier. As Thorn wrote, in 2012:
The fielding stats of 1876 were combined to form an average, the "percentage of chances accepted," or fielding percentage. A "missing link" variant, devised by Al Wright in 1875, was to ... divide putouts plus assists by games to get "fielding average." These averages took no account of errors. (Does Wright's "fielding average" look familiar? You may have recognized it as Bill James's Range Factor! Everything old is new again.)
Thorn notes that the biggest problems with batting average were known (by some people, anyway) 150 years ago:
First of all, the batting average makes no distinction between the single, the double, the triple, and the home run, treating all as the same unit — a base hit ... This objection was met in the 1860s with Total Bases Per Game.
The National League adopted "Reached First Base" (what we know as on-base percentage) in 1879, but discarded it the following year.

FenFan said...

I've tried to argue with some of my friends (ineffectively) that on-base percentage and slugging percentage tell us more about a player's offensive ability than batting average, but the response is always the same: "Batting average is simple: the number of hits divided by the number of at-bats." To which I respond that it's more complicated than that, but then they just launch into how WAR makes no sense.

[eye roll]

allan said...

The next time you owe one of them, say, \$10, pay them back with 40 pennies. When they balk, tell them you finally have seen the light regarding batting average and you agree with them that coins are coins and that you believe, as they do, that pennies and quarters - like singles and home runs - should count exactly the same.

If you are talking about OBP and SLG, why would they bring up WAR?

"Batting average is simple: the number of hits divided by the number of at-bats."

"Slugging average is simple: the number of total bases divided by the number of at-bats."

"'Slugging percentage' has been around since the 1870s. It might be time for you to join the modern game."

FenFan said...

If you are talking about OBP and SLG, why would they bring up WAR?

Well, my point is that to avoid any further discussion that might shift their paradigm, they pick a random "new age" statistic that frightens them. Essentially, they turn into Murray Chass.

allan said...

they turn into Murray Chass

Oh, he's that New York blogger, right?

Is he still blogging?

...

...

...

YES!

He is!

...

And he's still an a-hole.

And a blogger.

With his own blog.