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Monday, March 09, 2015

There’s nothing new in preferring the old

F.C. Lane was a baseball writer who in 1907 founded Baseball Magazine and dedicated himself to challenging conventional wisdom about the game. Besides publishing traditional baseball stories and interviews with players of the day, he delved deep into statistical analysis at a time when the lack of computers made such a pursuit fiendishly difficult.

In 1916, Lane published an article headlined, “Why the System of Batting Averages Should Be Changed.” The article can (and should) be read in its entirety here. In it, Lane became the first person to use the analogy comparing hits to coins, saying that as dimes are worth more than nickels, so too should doubles be worth more than singles. As he points out, anyone who proposed a financial system that counted all coins equally “would deserve to be examined as to his mental condition” so why should baseball count all hits equally? Over a period of years, Lane proposed a system that, as FanGraphs noted in 2011, is astonishingly similar to weighted on-base average. Lane predated linear weights by determining that a triple was worth 0.90 of a run and a home run worth 1.16 runs and so on, all with a pencil and paper. He also felt that walks were “the orphan child” of statistics and that their exclusion from batting average was another mark against that particular stat. Lane was clearly ahead of his time, and the amount of manual math he must have had to do boggles the mind.

However, a certain Cincinnati sportswriter wasn’t having it. William Phelon was a generation older than Lane and the baseball editor of the Cincinnati Times-Star (a newspaper that went out of business in 1958). While conceding the point that batting average was far from perfect, Shwarz quotes him writing in reference to Lane’s work, “’The present system is about as good as any, and it seems really impossible’ to do any better.” He was critical of Lane’s ideas as being too complicated, and, as Joe Posnanski points out, he was probably the first newspaper writer to invent a straw man stat as a means to mock the idea he was trying to discredit, a ploy that would become commonplace a century later.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 09, 2015 at 11:19 AM | 56 comment(s)
  Beats: stats

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baseball America: From The BA Archives: The Great Debate

Wow! The one that sorta started it all…the 10-year adversary of the legendary stats-vs-scouts roundtable discussion at Baseball America!

Ten years ago, Alan Schwarz spoke with Eddie Bane, Gary Hughes, Gary Huckabay and Voros McCracken to discuss the risks of high school pitchers, the use of minor league statistics, plate discipline as a tool and much more. BA takes a dive into the archives to present it here.

Repoz Posted: January 31, 2015 at 12:31 PM | 14 comment(s)
  Beats: stats

 

 

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