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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Goold: Stats don’t tell the whole story of who Bill James is

From Tony Suck to Roberto Succo…a terrific look at Bill James.

Still prolific, James remains more writer than mathematician, more warm-blooded historian than cold-storage calculator. He’s more outgoing than he was when he coined the term sabermetrics, and he’s written a nonfiction book on crime that is soon to be published. But while he has other interests, that morning round of Ball Park reveals a perception that is true: He has one obsession.

Baseball.

“Every morning when I wake up I always remember dreams, and I always have,” James said. “Seven days out of 10, I remember a dream about baseball. Baseball is central to how my view of the world is organized, and I tend — to my detriment — to see the rest of the world as an extension of the principles that I look for in the study of baseball.

“I don’t think you could take baseball out of it for me at all.”

...“Look at the state of baseball today, how it’s covered and how it’s run. All of that is Bill,” said Rob Neyer, who writes for SB Nation. “Without him, ‘Moneyball’ isn’t published. There aren’t as many websites doing this stuff. Some jobs don’t exist. If it hadn’t been for Bill, it would still be a cult thing. There were other sabermetricians working, but they never reached the audience that Bill reached, and then populated the front offices of baseball a decade later.”

Keith Law, part of that audience who went from Toronto’s front office to now writing for ESPN.com, stated in an e-mail: “James didn’t discover fire, but he invented the match.”

Repoz Posted: February 27, 2011 at 02:08 PM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: books, history, memorabilia, projections, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. clowns to the left of me; STEAGLES to the right Posted: February 27, 2011 at 04:12 PM (#3759068)
I tend — to my detriment — to see the rest of the world as an extension of the principles that I look for in the study of baseball.
that's a very interesting phrase. i've been saying a variant of it about myself for quite a while in relation to the massive amounts of time and money i waste in following a kid's game.
   2. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: February 27, 2011 at 04:45 PM (#3759085)
I tend — to my detriment — to see the rest of the world as an extension of the principles that I look for in the study of baseball.


I've always said you can measure a man or woman's character by how he or she reacts to a 95 MPH cutter.
   3. The District Attorney Posted: February 27, 2011 at 05:10 PM (#3759098)
Probably not much here that folks who follow James don't already know, but, good story.
   4. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: February 27, 2011 at 07:10 PM (#3759152)
At first, that phrase struck me as a bit of an overstatement. But thinking about my own experience, baseball, particularly BTF, taught me to look at the world more systematically. Before I was more prone to using post hoc causal explanations for things, ie the stock market went down today because of the price of tea in China sorta thinking. Baseball and sabremetrics has given me better tools to make sense of the world.

In fact, the focus on process that I think sabremetrics helped instill has enhanced my aesthetic appreciation of baseball by shifting my focus from outcomes to what's actually happening on the field for both teams.
   5. I Fought Vance Law and Vance Law Won Posted: February 28, 2011 at 04:10 PM (#3759543)
I see what they did there with the headline.
   6. villageidiom Posted: February 28, 2011 at 06:21 PM (#3759642)
What I like to think I learned about life through sabermetrics is that (a) people often ascend to positions of high authority or responsibility without knowing how to do the job, and (b) they will make decisions not based on what works best but rather on what exposes their ignorance the least. However, if I'm really honest with myself, I probably learned that one independent of baseball and sabermetrics.
   7. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: February 28, 2011 at 07:16 PM (#3759684)
The one thing I've learned from James and the sabermetric approach to the world is how you can — and should — try to make decisions dispassionately and with as much evidence as possible, and that being dispassionate is often most important when you're dealing with the things you're passionate about.
   8. Greg K Posted: February 28, 2011 at 07:54 PM (#3759717)
I'd say sabermetrics taught me to not take people's word for things if you can look for evidence yourself.

EDIT: Or unless they show you the evidence they're interpreting.

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