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Good article on the Red Sox and SABRmetrics


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Some highlights:


Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner have hired some of the best analytical minds in the business and have spared little effort in acquiring sophisticated scouting software, computerized video analysis and business intelligence tools for mining the stacks of statistics at their disposal. The goal: Identify the best talent available, get it before their rivals do, and then figure out just how long to keep it before it stops producing.



It's human capital management on steroids.


Baseball is a business where employee performance can be measured down to every swing, step or throw taken. Baselines are easy to establish, not just in chalk, but on every facet of the athlete's physical characteristics, such as height, weight and medical condition, to minutely defined activities, including arm strength, hitting discipline and mental errors. If there's not an available statistic, one is created, through ratings.


Today, every season of every player's career, from school play onward, is minutely chronicled. The Red Sox even require players in their farm system to keep a log of their every at-bat.


If every single team adopted this management strategy with equal skill, the [low revenue]teams would forever be stuck in the cellar," says Roger Noll, a Stanford University professor and respected authority on the economics of baseball. Because wealthy teams, like the Yankees, can always simply buy the best talent.


Instead, innovative means of statistically identifying the winning characteristics of "human capital" are the only way companies can get the players who will overcome financial constraints. "The same premise applies in business, but the effects are much more amplified in sports,'' says Noll.


Avid baseball fans already know this: Low-budget teams such as the Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics and Florida Marlins?who beat the Yankees in last year's World Series? already have applied this premise to last deep into the playoffs.


Sabermetrics is the mathematical analysis of player batting and pitching performances. Baseball is a sport already brimming with statistics, yet Sabermetrics?the term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research, a community of baseball enthusiasts?is a departure from traditional player metrics such as runs batted in (RBI) and batting average.


RBI is a faulty gauge of talent, Sabermetricians say, because it is heavily dependent on where a player sits in the batting order. And batting average, they say, does not take into account how adept a hitter is at working a pitcher and drawing walks?a walk gets a player to first base just as well as a hit.



Instead, Sabermetricians have come up with measures that more accurately reflect a player's value toward achieving a win, such as "runs created." This statistic counts the number of times a batter gets on base, be it by walk or hit, and factors in an added value for the power of a hit, be it a single or a home run. The purpose is to determine what the batter does at the plate to create an opportunity for his team to score a run.


Beane, one of the best-known practitioners of Sabermetrics, has used baseball analytics to consistently field one of the best teams in baseball on one of the smallest payrolls?$50 million in 2003, the eighth lowest in the league and far below the Yankees' $150 million payroll.


The A's just missed making the playoffs in 1999 but have been there every year since. They've done it at an average cost per win of only $388,000 over that five-year period, the best in the league. The Yankees have been to the playoffs every year during that stretch, but at a cost of $1.23 million per win.

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And batting average, they say, does not take into account how adept a hitter is at working a pitcher and drawing walks?a walk gets a player to first base just as well as a hit.


Batting average is very important and from the "intelligent baseball minds" is becoming vastly underrated. Hits move ahead runners. A man on first can be on third. A man on second can score. Making contact brings sac outs and ect. However, SABR totally ignores this.


Look at giambi last year. He had a great OBP, no doubt, but his 141 Ks (?) and .250 ba meant a MILLION runners were left on base. Not coincidently, high obp with not so high average leads to a high amount of LOB. This means less runs are scored, and this is bad.


I would take Tony Gwynn over A nowerday John Olerud or Nick Johnson any day of the week. Why? Tony made contact. He moved runners. He didn't strike out. Put him in the middle of guys with high OBP, and yuou are moving men to third base and scoring them, even on outs. This is how baseball works.


OBP is by far the most important stat, but I'm afraid that many of us are totally ignoring that batting average is very important.

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