Thursday, April 17, 2003
Brandishing the SABRs
Chris takes a look at baseball’s Freemasons.
The Society for American Baseball Research, or as it is often called, SABR, is the organization for, oddly enough, individuals researching baseball. It really is much more than that: it is an organization for learning about others’ research and an opportunity to provide peer review on a wide variety of topics.
SABR was formed in Cooperstown in 1971 by 16 men who thought such an organization should exist ’ one to help people produce and publish baseball research (Okay, that’s mostly clipped from the inside cover of one of the publications). While baseball may not have been born in Cooperstown, SABR was. Now the organization covers the globe and has well over 6000 members.
While the term "sabermetrics" is derived from SABR, statistical analysis is far from SABR’s sole, or even primary, focus. SABR has committees and publications on nearly every aspect of baseball: Asian Baseball, Ballparks, Records (both kinds), Europe, Bibliography, Biographical, Business (chaired by Doug Pappas), Collegiate, Deadball Era, Latin America, Minors, Negro Leagues, 19th Century, Science, Scouts, Spring Training, Women, Umpires and Rules, and a few other categories.
SABR was recently highlighted in a Rob Neyer column regarding Bill Ford. That’s the type of thing that most SABRen are involved with ’ researching the history. This is done by poring over old newspapers and publications on weeekends at your local library, or better, at the Hall of Fame’s library. SABRen found Ted Williams’ extra walks in 1941, Hack Wilson’s extra RBI in 1930 and discovered that Ty Cobb only had 4,189 hits. Of course, Ty could have gotten two more, if he wanted to.
Statistical analysis is a part of SABR ’ and a very good part. I recently received a publication called "The Best of By The Numbers". The authors included Pete Palmer, Ron Shandler, Tom Ruane, Bill James, Rob Wood, Paul DePodesta, Mat Olkin, Rob Neyer, Jayson Stark and several other fantastic writers that some of you may or may not be familiar with from USENET ’ Harold Brooks and Clifford Blau being two of my favorite. The SABR-L mailing list, available only to SABR members, contains regular contributions from (among others) Bill James, Clay Davenport, and Mike Emeigh. Well-known writers like Keith Woolner are members of the organization.
SABR has two other publications for articles: "The National Pastime" (TNP) and "The Baseball Research Journal" (BRJ). These two publications generally include some statistical analysis and historical articles, some biographical and some nostalgic. Dayn Perry had a piece on Pedro’s 2000 season published in the 2001 issue of BRJ. I haven’t received my 2002 BRJ, but Baseball Primer contributors Eric Enders, Vörös McCracken and Rob Wood are all thanked for their assistance in the 2002 TNP Editor’s Note.
SABR has a huge convention every year. I have yet to attend, but I’m told the convention consists of non-stop baseball talk. I snuck in plans to attend this year’s convention in Denver (July 10-13) when my wife wasn’t listening the other day. Maybe this will teach her not to nod in agreement while pretending to listen. The convention has presentations and discussion panels on all topics ’ Mike Emeigh’s recent series of articles grew out of his presentation at SABR 32 in Boston last summer. The convention is always scheduled around the local team’s playing schedule. This season will have Barry Bonds and the Giants in Coors Field followed by the Dodgers coming to town. This year’s card has Goose Gossage, Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, Leonard Koppett, Bill James presenting new original research with Rob Neyer, Gary Gillette, Andrew Zimbalist, and Tom Tippett. There will be Dr. Robert Adair and Baseball Prospectus’ Rany Jazaryli on baseball at altitude. There is a giant trivia contest. And, if one so chooses, one can carouse all night arguing baseball with the likes of these guys and regular attendees like Sean Forman, Jim Furtado, Mike Emeigh and who knows who else. If you can’t make a national convention, chances are that there is a regional chapter of SABR that will be meeting near you; SABR has regional chapters in the US, Canada, and around the glove.
If you come to Baseball Primer to talk and listen to baseball talk, the convention is just the place to go, or so I’m told. Hopefully, I’ll know in a few months.
There are so many smaller benefits, like small articles similar to those posted here, books published by SABR, the SABR Bulletin, the SABR directory, the local chapter meetings, the mailing list and the members’ website that make it a great resource.
To find out more and possibly join, visit www.sabr.org.