Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Saber-Series: The History

A young twenty something year old fresh out of the Army and working the graveyard shifts at  Stokely-Van Camp's pork and beans cannery decided to use this time to begin writing about one of the true loves in his Bill James grew up an avid fan and writer and so when he returned home from South Korea and began working overnight he decided that it was the perfect opportunity to express his love for the game on paper. But there was something different about James, he was an avid fan of the game but like so many others he didn't care about the usual hoot and hollering of player interviews and clubhouse atmospheres. James was concerned with what was happening on the field and in his writings he would often like to pose questions such as  "Which pitchers and catchers allow runners to steal the most bases?" James would then follow this question up with an analysis to determine the answers and he would present it in his own witty way. Few took him seriously at the time and many editors feared that a general audience wouldn't understand or even care about what James had to offer. This didn't stop James because in 1977 he self published his first book, The Bill James Abstract.
The Bill James Abstract of 1977 contained 80 pages of James' own analysis, he compiled his data from hundreds of box scores from the previous year and these in depth statistics were the bulk of the book. The abstracts eventually picked up steam and every year fans waited for their copy to come in the mail during spring so that they could read up on their favorite players and teams. James was successful at this for quite a few years but after writing twelve of his abstracts, James discontinued the publication in 1988 citing a burnout related to his workload. James went onto write a few historical abstracts entitled "The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract" and also wrote a few other annuals with the most prominent being "The Bill James Handbook" which he began writing in 2003 and continues to this day. James who is considered to be the god-father of sabermetrics had no intention of slowing down and his work thrust advanced statistics into the mainstream creating a culture that not even MLB teams could ignore. Billy Beane, Oakland A's GM began applying advanced statistical analysis to his team beginning in the 90's. But as I said, James had no intention of leaving the game and in 2003 John Henry, new owner of the Boston Red Sox hired James.
The hiring of Bill James by the Boston Red Sox signaled a shift in the sails for Major League Baseball, teams, owners, and executives were slowly but surely beginning to see the advantages of using sabermetrics. Although not everybody was happy and Red Sox manager at the time Grady Little criticized James idea of ousting a traditional closer and using several marginally talented relievers to finish a game. James has always been very tight lipped about his involvement with the Red Sox front office but it is believed that James has gained much more respect and guiding input as the years progressed. In fact, James is often given credit for the Bo Sox first World Series win in 86 years (2004.) Since then the Red Sox have won two World Series and as of 2013 James is still employed by the team. 

James innovations with the game of baseball have been nearly unparalleled. He is credited with the creation of several notable stats used in sabermetrics today such as Runs Created, Range Factor, Win Shares, Defensive Efficiency Rating, etc. (all of which I will explain in future articles). His work clearly continues to resonate throughout the game and we owe him at least as devoted fans to better understand the fundamentals of the science.

Now I could go on for several dozen pages about the history of sabermetrics, its founders, its work, but what I am trying to accomplish here is give the average/above average fan a base of knowledge on sabermetrics. Bill James who like I said is often considered the god father of the science is a crucial part of that history and that is why I wanted to give you his background. Below I will list some URL's to James' work and if you have any other questions reagrding the history of the science or more about it's early days please feel free to ask. As for now this is all I am going to talk about it's history because I want to begin explaining the actual science.Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next edition of Saber-Series coming out later this week!


  1. Tommy Culkin :....What you are doing with the Sabremetrics great. Thank you.
    I could never understand it. Never had the time. It was like Japanese to me.

    You, so far, you have come out of the gate...slowly. That works for me.
    I have reread your 2 / 3, and 2 / 5 postings, twice. I even have a yellow legal pad out.
    Very much looking forward to your continuing course.
    Now is the time. Thank you.

    The one problem here at TGP, is that there is such a large/ steady stream of threads / articles posted
    all day. That is great, but it creates a problem.
    While you are putting up your Sabremetrics ' class ' the AM.
    By evening, your work (efforts) are so far down the conveyor of posts, that the evening guys will
    never see it. Gone forever...... Unless someone wonders into it.
    That is a shame. That is something that must be addressed.
    You have me as a student. But there should be a whole bunch more.
    Take care.

    1. Patrick,
      I completely understand your concern and I knew this would arise. My hope for now is that the following will grow enough so that people will search for it. I will contact Daniel and see if he will maybe put out some promotional tweets on the series. I know my posts are spread out but thats the nature of the beast, thanks for the support! Till next time- TC

    2. Part one of the actual fun stuff comes out tommorow morning, stay tuned!

    3. ROCKET REED...aka : Ken Reed.
      You should sign up for this Sabremetrics course. You could be the next 'Ballpark'.
      Leave that fishing shack, on Lake Erie, and put your name on this list.
      Lets get up to speed.

    4. T. Culkin....will be in class...Thursday.
      I hope the Rocket....Ken, is sitting next to me.
      Thanks again.

    5. Class begins 10 AM see you there, spread the word!

  2. BaaaaHumbug! to you guys...I am so smart I don't need it! Very stupid remark...hay what!

    So, I'll try and be there to day if possible, it's not that I don't want you can see the time stamp...I was still working and now to hit the sack! 0600 comes way to fast, between this project and the snow, I have been going sense 0400 yesterday!

  3. I will def try to send out some tweets to promote it. It gets auto posted once but I will try to get another couple out during the course of the day.

  4. Patrick...I was late to the class but I read part of it and will finish later!

    Do you have the software named "Dragon"? I now have two new computers with that system on it. They are hooked-up to a satellite, anyhow I thank the gods for it because it takes me forever to type. I wish they were mine they are big suckers, just using them for a project I have been told to work on.


Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)