Archive for November, 2011

Was wOBA Actually Invented Nearly 100 Years Ago?

With apologies to Michael Lewis, what if everything you thought you knew about baseball was wrong? As our collective understanding of advanced statistical analysis in baseball grows exponentially with each passing day, we are now among a generation of baseball fans that has done more critical thinking about and retained more esoteric knowledge of the game than our parents could ever have dreamed of. Anyone who has seen MLB Network’s show on the evolution of statistics would think that between Henry Chadwick’s invention of the box score and Branch Rickey’s hiring of Alan Roth as a statistician, baseball fans in the 20th century consumed baseball metrics in only the most rudimentary of ways — via the dreaded batting average, home runs and RBI triumvirate.

However, what if I told you that one of the most advanced analytical discoveries — one that sabermetricians hold near and dear to their hearts — was actually discovered before Babe Ruth ever played a game?

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A Cinderella Story?

Searching for and appreciating the “Cinderella” team is a pervasive feature of American sports. Our love of the Cinderella might come from some uniquely American fascination with heroes rising from nothing, or from a basic human desire to recognize and value unexpected outcomes. Whatever the cause, we pay special attention to moments (the Miracle on Ice; the 1966 Texas Western basketball squad; the 1955 Dodgers or 1969 Miracle Mets or 2004 Boston Red Sox) where teams seemingly overachieved or overcame great adversity to come out champions.

Generally, there are three ways of thinking about Cinderellas:
1. A team winning after a long period of failure.
2. An objectively untalented team winning despite their flaws.
3. A team succeeding despite having the odds stacked against them, such as a talented team overcoming objectively more talented opponents.

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