Sabermetrics And Computer Advances

fieldofdreamsIt’s interesting to think about how modern computers have changed even the game of baseball through the statistical analysis available to analysts since the advent of computers that are able to crunch the numbers.


“In many ways, professional baseball has been slow to recognize the potential impact of statistical and analytical tools. It was not until 1954 that the formal detailed analysis of baseball through mathematics and statistics was pursued. This was at about the same time that American industry was turning toward using statistical and optimization tools to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. In a 1954 issue of Life magazine, Branch Rickey, then–chairman of the board of the Pittsburgh Pirates, authored an article in which he described the use of some new measures of baseball performance. (23) Although not named as an author, Allan Roth, a statistician, played a large part in developing and reporting the new measures. (24) Among other equally prescient ideas presented in the article, Rickey and Roth rightly devalued batting average and proposed in its place on-base percentage as a better measure of a batter’s performance. This article would serve as the starting point for baseball’s new statistics, those th at sought to recognize a player’s contribution to scoring runs.

……In the twenty-first century, organized baseball seems to finally be embracing much of what has been learned through the mathematical analysis of the game. The advent of the personal computer in the 1980s made the collection, storage, and crunching of the huge quantities of numbers that baseball analysis necessitates much easier. With this ability, researchers outside of professional baseball have made a significant impact on the analysis of the game. These include members of SABR, an organization founded in 1971 and dedicated to the study of baseball history and statistics; John Thorn and Pete Palmer, whose book The Hidden Game of Baseball, published in 1984, took a historical perspective on the evolution of statistics and went one step further with the introduction of linear regression analysis as a method of measuring player performance; and Bill James, who began to self-publish his work on the mathematical analysis of baseball in 1977.

In many respects, Bill James has been to sabermetrics what Taylor or the Gilbreths were to industrial engineering. (28) James took the smattering of statistical research that had been done through the history of the game and, with single-mindedness and graceful writing, turned the analysis of baseball statistics into an accepted science. However, the impact of his work has been mitigated by the glacial speed of change in on-field strategy by the baseball establishment. Much like the slow acceptance of the quality movement in the United States, organized baseball has been shortsighted in assessing the impact of the new science. But, as many baseball observers, such as journalist Rob Neyer, have commented, a new generation of baseball people, especially general managers, who have grown up on the work of Bill James and others will use the new information. (29)

The typical view of organized baseball’s attitude toward the numerical analysis of the game is expressed in Roger Kahn’s novel The Seventh Game, the prolific baseball writer’s only work of fiction. The team on which the story’s protagonist plays is owned by a man “with degrees in engineering and business” who has an affinity for using computer programs to calculate statistics for analyzing strategies for his team. (30) This owner, who is essentially educated as and playing the role of an industrial engineer in his effort to improve his team, is seen as an annoyance and a harm to the game. Although statistics have been used in the analysis of baseball strategy and performance essentially since the birth of baseball, they are often seen as meddlesome in the enjoyment of the game. Although some bemoan the fact that statistics take the magic out of baseball, no one can argue that they are not essential to the game’s history as well as to its analysis and strategy. As baseball innovator Branch Rickey was quoted as saying, “Luck is a residue of design.” (31) It is virtually impossible to thoughtfully design successful baseball strategy without the use of numerical tools.”

Puerzer, Richard J. “From scientific baseball to sabermetrics: professional baseball as a reflection of engineering and management in society.” Nine Fall 2002: 34+.


How do you think that personal computers have changed baseball?  Do you think the changes are good?

In my daily usage of my own computer, even my life has changed.  The way that I make plans, appointments, and even choose what movie to see has changed.  Instead of just picking a movie that sounds good, I see what the statistical breakdown of all reviews presented amount to on sites like Rotten Tomatoes.  It’s interesting to think about what impact computers have had on old time games such as baseball.

The reason I like baseball so much is how it’s a throwback to an earlier era.  It’s such an unlikely game that probably wouldn’t be invented nowadays.  It’s slower pace and (surface) simplicity hearkens back to an era when things were…slower.  I absolutely LOATHE the new video aided review system where teams can challenge a play.  I liked the aspect where an umpire could potentially make a mistake.  With this video review it feels to technical, too video game.

Some Thoughts On Keeping Your Stuff Safe


Not an actual picture of my car getting robbed, but I think the guy probably looked like this…

I had never really been stolen from – until this year.  This year I got nailed; my car was broken into twice.  One time they got my laptop.  Unfortunately I had a lot of sensitive information on my laptop but it was protected by the Windows password.  Now, were they able to hack into my computer and get my personal information?  I’m not sure.  I shudder to think about it.  But they probably just wanted to sell the electronics on Craigslist for money, so I’m hoping they just formatted the drive.

Keeping your personal information safe from identity theft is a real matter.  I hate to think about if those people were real thieves and had the knowledge to really go after my information from what they could find on the laptop.   And unlike my iPad, I didn’t have an option to remotely format my hard drive the next time it connected to the internet.  Then I thought, maybe there IS a program like that floating around out there.  Because that would be rather helpful.  If I’m never getting my laptop back, then I would love to ensure that nobody can get to what is on it.  I searched around a bit, and found that LoJack (the car theft prevention and tracking company) actually produces software to help track and manage stolen laptops!

Another option is to encrypt your data, avoiding the need to remotely erase.

In the meantime I try to keep my laptop backed up to the cloud (so I don’t have to rely on fallible hard disks) and keep my computer free of spyware with programs like Spyhunter 4 from Enigma software (read this Spyhunter 4 review if you’re curious about it).  It’s a pain in the neck, but I’ve learned the benefits of staying on top of backing up your stuff.

Baseball As Life

I grew up playing ball, and I have a deep love for the game.  It brings with it so many warm memories – summertime, fresh cut grass, new chalk lines, sunsets, sunflower seeds.  All the great cliche Americana type things that go into the great sport.  I remember growing up when I was very young – before I even picked up a mitt or a ball – when I would be at my grandmother’s house overnight.  I was a scared young kid, afraid of the nighttime news, and pretty much afraid of everything.  I was afraid to flush the toilet.  Anyway I just remember that I would lay on my grandmother’s couch and watch a game of baseball in the hot summer night – and it would soothe me.  It was so utterly benign and relaxing.  I probably didn’t even realize WHY it was relaxing.  But it was so much more innocent and peaceful than the evening news.  The steady monotone drone of the announcer would soothe me into a sleep, drown out the fears of poisoned water and murders that the evening news had pounded into my brain.  The steady roar of the crowd, the sound of bat on ball coming through the old TV speaker.  Even to this day, if I am distressed, simply watching a ballgame is enough to relax me and bring me back into a sense of peace.

This is just one of the many reasons I love baseball.