Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Walk Like a Sabermetrician: Sabermetric Generations

I belong to the Larvell Blanks generation and
I can take it or leave it each time

These three generations are not defined strictly by age, but rather by when you came of age as a saberperson (or how, but the when and the how elements are very closely related). My three groups are:

1. Pioneers—This is by far the most restrictive group, as it only includes those who actually did pioneering sabermetric research (whether they called it by that name or not). Earnshaw Cook, George Lindsey, Pete Palmer, Bill James, and the like are the pioneers.

2. Second Wave—These are the folks who came to sabermetrics largely through the work of the pioneers—reading the Baseball Abstract or The Hidden Game or various SABR publications or The Diamond Appraised, and the like. They may or may not have gone on to become researchers themselves; they may just be consumers of research. It is also possible that their own inquisitiveness led them to sabermetrics without a firm push from Bill James or another pioneer, but they still came onto the scene after the work of the pioneers had been published. Many, many people fall into this group, and even listing a few would be foolish. I consider myself in this group although I also share a few traits with the third group, as I explained before.

3. Internet generation—These are people who have come to sabermetrics in the last 10-15 years and may have done so without ever reading the work of the pioneers. Their interest in sabermetrics is young enough to have been fueled by reading the work of second wavers (or of course their own inquisitiveness). A typical path to sabermetrics for a member of the Internet generation would have been to read Rob Neyer. From there, they sought out BP or Bill James.

Repoz Posted: August 28, 2012 at 10:50 AM | 44 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Greg K Posted: August 28, 2012 at 11:24 AM (#4220069)
Hmm, I think I fit in some sort of fuzzy area between 2 and 3.

I'm probably too young for group 2 proper, but I did come to sabermetrics through Bill James' Abstracts and Baseball Books. Only I read them in the late 90s early 00s. So I guess I fit under the "came into sabermetrics through someone like Rob Neyer" category. Except substitute Rob Neyer for "my dad's old boxes of books".
   2. TomH Posted: August 28, 2012 at 11:33 AM (#4220082)
I'm a 2nd wave. Played Strat-O-Matic in the 70s, and discovered walks were underappreciated, much of what appeared as pitching was really defense, park effects were real, and pitcher ERAs can vary even when hit rates are stable. Bill James said it all out loud in a cogent way.
   3. BDC Posted: August 28, 2012 at 12:10 PM (#4220115)
Definitely a second-wave consumer. But since I played SI Baseball instead of Strat, I was hampered in appreciating the ability to walk. SI assigned almost all walks to the pitcher, even if the batter was Ted Williams. But the discrepancy worried me even then, because Ted Williams wasn't nearly as valuable in that game as he should have been …
   4. mex4173 Posted: August 28, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4220165)
Wave 3, but Fire Joe Morgan instead of Rob Neyer.
   5. Perry Posted: August 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4220185)
Definitely a 2. Bought the first mass-produced Abstract in '82 or '83 or whenever it was, bought The Hidden Game in hardback, etc. (Also had a 2-day interview at James's house to become his first full-time assistant, but lost out to a guy named Jim Baker. But that's another story.)
   6. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4220186)
Early wave three, definitely through Neyer back in the late 90s.
   7. PreservedFish Posted: August 28, 2012 at 02:04 PM (#4220248)
Like Greg, 2/3. James was my intro, from the library in grade school in the early and mid-90s, although Neyer and BP and discussing it all on the net were what made me nuts.
   8. fra paolo Posted: August 28, 2012 at 02:11 PM (#4220253)
I am wave 2, although late wave 2. I bought the first abstract I ever saw, which was the 1987 edition, from the late great London sports book-shop, Sportspages, across the street from Foyles, when Foyles was still arranged like a badly-run secondhand bookshop, and was won over straightaway. Once James 'broke the wand', I carried on with the Brock Hanke-edited Baseball Abstract and Sabermetrics, until I couldn't find them anymore. At that point I entered a sabermetric Dark Ages until 2001.
   9. Balkroth Posted: August 28, 2012 at 02:34 PM (#4220281)
I read the title as "Sabermetric Generator" and thought it was going to be one of the random phrase generator things with a bunch of saber terms in there.
   10. Steve Treder Posted: August 28, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4220290)
I'm a 2nd wave. Played Strat-O-Matic in the 70s, and discovered walks were underappreciated, much of what appeared as pitching was really defense, park effects were real, and pitcher ERAs can vary even when hit rates are stable. Bill James said it all out loud in a cogent way.

Me too, nearly exactly (I started playing Strat in the '60s).
   11. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: August 28, 2012 at 02:58 PM (#4220307)
The 1986 and 1987 Abstracts (as well as the first Historical) were certainly the main books that got me interested in this. And then Micro League Baseball on the Commodore 64 as well.
   12. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: August 28, 2012 at 03:05 PM (#4220320)
As I said there (comment not approved yet), I don't think the division between the second and third wave is in quite the right place. There's a definite divide in source of original sabermetric knowledge between the usenet era and the blog era - probably every sabermetric writer from usenet read at least one of the abstracts. Moneyball would probably be a better dividing line.
   13. Danny Posted: August 28, 2012 at 03:05 PM (#4220321)
A typical path to sabermetrics for a member of the Internet generation would have been to read Rob Neyer. From there, they sought out BP or Bill James.

The distinction between Neyer and BP is interesting.

I'd like to think of myself as somewhere between 2 and 3, though I'm probably just on the early edge of the third wave. I get annoyed with people who throw around the advanced metrics without understanding them or their nuances, but I'm sure that's what the second wavers thought of me when I started posting here in 2001.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: August 28, 2012 at 03:09 PM (#4220330)
My interest started with the early Abstracts. It may end with this thread.

(I'm just as likely to go meta as the next guy, but this one kind of creeps me out for some reason I can't put my finger on).

   15. Bitter Mouse Posted: August 28, 2012 at 03:28 PM (#4220351)
I was wave 2, sort of. I knew Gary Huckabay growing up (we were best freinds for years and years) and so knew about Prospectus early (and Neyer et al), but before even that I ran across a copy of the Diamond Appraised, bought it on a whim and loved it. Other interests took precedence though I admit.
   16. AROM Posted: August 28, 2012 at 03:35 PM (#4220362)
And then Micro League Baseball on the Commodore 64 as well.


Did you ever have an error where the game stops working, all the players run off the field and into the LF stands, and the only thing you could do was reboot?

Microleague was the game that allowed me to move beyond pencil and paper, and expand the league from 4 teams to 12.
   17. AROM Posted: August 28, 2012 at 03:39 PM (#4220367)
I'm the definition of wave 2, no need to parse definitions. My intro was the summer of 1984, through both the Hidden Game and Baseball Abstract.
   18. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 28, 2012 at 03:56 PM (#4220395)
all the players run off the field and into the LF stands

were they all Cyber-Jeters?
   19. Moeball Posted: August 28, 2012 at 04:15 PM (#4220426)
I have had Abstracts, Hidden Game and Diamond Appraised on my bookshelf for years. The best part was when I first saw them in a bookstore (remember those?)- the excitement I felt browsing through each one, knowing I was reading something profound and that I was going to take it home and read it cover to cover! I haven't felt that way about anything in years. I still go back and read them now and then - D.A. also got me reading Christy Mathewson's "Pitching in a Pinch", too, so that was an added bonus.

I'm a 2. Tried to be a 1 - submitted a research article to John Thorn when he was taking submissions post "Hidden Game" - but was sadly rejected. Guess I'm not cutting edge enough. Interesting, though - my research at the time (mid-'80s) was on positioning of fielders and impact on fielding statistics, something that is in reality affecting the game much more today than it was then, especially with all the shifts being used now.

Got introduced to Strat in the '60s by my older brother who started playing in '65, I think. For all its flaws, it did do a good job of pointing out undervalued guys like Jimmy Wynn and Bob Allison. Announcers would say these guys had poor batting averages and therefore weren't very good hitters, but whenever I played them in Strat games they would kill the opposition because their cards were full of WALKS and HOMERUNS. I'd never heard of OBP or SLG or OPS at the time but I was certainly picking up an awareness that there was a lot more to scoring runs than BA. Used to really tick off my friends, too - "Oh, c'mon, there must be something wrong with that card - that guy's only a .240 hitter, how come he always kills my team? You're just lucky rolling those dice."

   20. DL from MN Posted: August 28, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4220434)
Wave 2. Requested and received Total Baseball for Xmas when I was a kid. Didn't find out about Bill James until much later.

Do Earl Weaver and Branch Rickey count as pioneers or are we only looking at baseball outsiders?
   21. Rob_Wood Posted: August 28, 2012 at 04:27 PM (#4220438)
I echo what TomH and Steve Treder said above. Definite 2nd generation. Played a lot of Strat-O-Matic in the 1960s.

Dabbled in my own baseball research (remember the very first baseball encyclopedia?). Then became more "serious" when I found Bill James's early Baseball Abstracts.
   22. Ron J2 Posted: August 28, 2012 at 06:04 PM (#4220570)
#21 My "research" (starting around 1970) consisted of writing OPS into my copy of the Mac. (No I'm not claiming to have invented it. For one thing I didn't understand the significance. For another, I never told anybody about it) And for strat purposes I came up with total bases + bb*.75 (no idea how well that actually works. The notion of testing my ideas didn't occur to me until I encountered James)

Did not know it until recently, but my dad worked for George Lindsey when he was doing his research. Also did know it until recently -- George Lindsey was awarded the Order of Canada. Sadly, not for his work on baseball. The citation reads (in part) “...he has a world-wide reputation as an authority on deterrence policy, arms control, nuclear weapons policy, naval welfare and strategic analysis...he has published extensively and is a sought-after speaker among defence scientists both in Canada and in NATO." (Nabbed from a great article here )

From the article: A “what if?” contrarian, a huge intellect, and a practical joker, Lindsey was an obsessive puzzler of problems both grand and mundane–from verification of weapons of mass destruction, to figuring out the fastest route from home to work, to devising ingenious ways to persuade squirrels to leap for food from suspended feeders.
   23. AndrewJ Posted: August 28, 2012 at 08:42 PM (#4220716)
I'm absolutely 2nd generation. I remember reading Dan Okrent's SI profile of Bill James in 1981 when I was in 7th grade, read my first Abstract in '82, bought my first Abstract in '83, joined SABR and got The Hidden Game of Baseball in '84.

You could make a case that some of the absolutely earliest statisticians, like F.C. Lane and Ernest Lanigan, deserve their own, pre-Pioneer category.
   24. JJ1986 Posted: August 28, 2012 at 08:50 PM (#4220719)
I started doing my own work in the mid late-90s. Really simple stuff like figuring out what weight to give OBP v. SLG to generate a run estimator and maybe some park factors. I would enter the numbers from the newspaper into a computer. Pitching stats were just ER or R over average. I first realized there was more out there from playing fantasy sports and then reading Neyer on ESPN. I remember waiting for James New Historical Abstract to come out, so it must have been about 1999 or 2000 that I first paid attention. I guess that makes me very early 3rd generation.
   25. VoodooR Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:15 PM (#4220732)
So would rec.sport.baseball and the like in the mid-90s be the very beginning of the 3rd wave or is it too early (clearly pre-Neyer) to be in that era?
   26. zenbitz Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:18 PM (#4220735)
1990-1991 rec.sport.baseball. Was it called the internet then? Still, got to be a 3 in spirit.
   27. JJ1986 Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:20 PM (#4220736)
I think there should be a 4th generation for people like the Fangraphs commentators who don't actually understand sabermetrics.
   28. Leroy Kincaid Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:21 PM (#4220738)
Someone gave me Total Baseball about 20 years ago and it changed my life! Well, not really. But it's probably the most important baseball book for me.
   29. Dan Szymborski Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4220740)
I was wave 2, sort of. I knew Gary Huckabay growing up (we were best freinds for years and years) and so knew about Prospectus early (and Neyer et al), but before even that I ran across a copy of the Diamond Appraised, bought it on a whim and loved it. Other interests took precedence though I admit.

Wait, were you a usenet guy?
   30. Repoz Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:34 PM (#4220751)
2nd generationer...Played "Challenge the Yankees" in early/mid 60's, graduated to Strat-O-Matic through the 60's/70's, turned on to sabermetrics from Allen Barra/George Ignatin in the Village Voice ~ Bill James stat articles in Baseball Magazine....late 70's/early 80's. And on to the Abstracts.
   31. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:46 PM (#4220758)
I'm the definition of wave 2, no need to parse definitions.


Ditto. We were playing Ethan Allen's All-Star baseball in the mid-60s (didn't have enough money for Strat, although my parents did buy me an APBA game in 1970 and I bought it for myself every year thereafter once I started working). My mom liked to tell a story about my learning to read about age 3 and wowing the older neighbor children by reciting baseball statistics from the paper - that one might even be true :)

-- MWE
   32. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:49 PM (#4220759)
Wave 2: Got first abstract in '84, saved for months to buy Total Baseball, and did my own (incredibly basic - looking at defense from box scores, working on mock MLEs, etc...) stuff in the intervening years before hopping on (mainly as a lurker) rsb in the early '90s.

Incidentally, my parents got me Ethan Allen baseball as well... in the late-80s. I was like 'really? this is the best game they could come up with?' (manufacturer, not my parents - they didn't know anything about baseball)
   33. GregD Posted: August 28, 2012 at 09:53 PM (#4220760)
APBA--Bill James 1983 in a mall bookstore--dipped out of things after the Reds slid from relevance--came back to it with this site
   34. madvillain Posted: August 28, 2012 at 10:31 PM (#4220781)
I'm 3rd all the way, got into FJM, Gleeman, Tango, DIPS and Voros, BPRO and the SBNATION blogs all around 2005-06 when I had just graduated college.

Heck, it feels like a long time since then in the world of sabermetrics. I remember when ESPN.com put up the "sabermetric" pitching stats (or one version of them) and thinking "that's a big deal".
   35. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: August 28, 2012 at 10:39 PM (#4220792)
Heck, it feels like a long time since then in the world of sabermetrics. I remember when ESPN.com put up the "sabermetric" pitching stats (or one version of them) and thinking "that's a big deal".

Yeah, it's almost surreal sometimes when you think about different sabermetrics has become.
   36. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 29, 2012 at 12:02 AM (#4220826)
Group 3 all the way. Got caught up in that whole marriage, kid thing from 1989 until BP and Neyer several years back (yeah internet!)
   37. Lassus Posted: August 29, 2012 at 12:29 AM (#4220843)
I started with Neyer in 2000, but that's still gotta be the most recent, newbie wave all the way.
   38. Sunday silence Posted: August 29, 2012 at 01:05 AM (#4220863)
this would be like sitting in on the Sabermetric Hall of Fame Veteran's Committee Meeting in something like 2040.
   39. DJS and the Infinite Sadness Posted: August 29, 2012 at 01:13 AM (#4220869)
this would be like sitting in on the Sabermetric Hall of Fame Veteran's Committee Meeting in something like 2040.

That'll be fun. All the old stories will have minor facts off, like we'll be talking about Felix "The Run Sprite" Heredia, remembering the old Wiki Hernandez, and teasing Mahnken about Campover Lady.
   40. Baldrick Posted: August 29, 2012 at 05:52 AM (#4220897)
Her uncle is the district attorney!
   41. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 29, 2012 at 08:43 AM (#4220942)
that's "Run Fairy"
   42. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 29, 2012 at 11:30 AM (#4221154)
Incidentally, my parents got me Ethan Allen baseball as well... in the late-80s. I was like 'really? this is the best game they could come up with?'


You should remember that it's been around since the 1940s and that it was clearly aimed at young kids.

-- MWE
   43. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: August 29, 2012 at 12:29 PM (#4221250)
I understood - but I was still kind of a young kid too (11?), this was less complicated than the dice games I was making by looking at the backs of cards when I was eight. Didn't stop me from playing it, of course.
   44. Tippecanoe Posted: August 29, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4221289)
Isn't there a phase betweeen the Strat-o-matic obsession and the first mass-produced Abstract where the 2nd Waver attempts to memorize the Macmillan Encyclopedia by keeping a copy on the toilet tank?

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Don Malcolm
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOT - November 2014 College Football thread
(621 - 6:51pm, Nov 28)
Last: AuntBea

NewsblogOTP Politics November 2014: Mets Deny Bias in Ticket Official’s Firing
(5112 - 6:50pm, Nov 28)
Last: Mefisto

NewsblogBoston Red Sox prove (once again) that competitive balance in baseball will never exist | cleveland.com
(47 - 6:40pm, Nov 28)
Last: greenback calls it soccer

NewsblogBaseball's most underrated Hall of Fame candidates. | SportsonEarth.com : Anthony Castrovince Article
(29 - 6:02pm, Nov 28)
Last: Kiko Sakata

NewsblogOT: NBC.news: Valve isn’t making one gaming console, but multiple ‘Steam machines’
(1190 - 5:42pm, Nov 28)
Last: Maxwn

Newsblog[Cricketer NOT baseball player] Phil Hughes dies after “pitch” to the head
(18 - 5:31pm, Nov 28)
Last: Phil Coorey is a T-Shirt Salesman

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-28-2014
(9 - 5:16pm, Nov 28)
Last: Batman

NewsblogSandy Alderson says Mets can move quickly if a shortstop becomes available - NY Daily News
(44 - 5:15pm, Nov 28)
Last: formerly dp

NewsblogJon Lester has plenty of options in addition to Red Sox - Sports - The Boston Globe
(13 - 4:54pm, Nov 28)
Last: SoSHially Unacceptable

NewsblogMarlins seek lefty balance in lineup, on mound | MLB.com
(3 - 4:39pm, Nov 28)
Last: Jim (jimmuscomp)

NewsblogSource: Tomas agrees to six-year deal with D-backs | MLB.com
(28 - 4:38pm, Nov 28)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - November 2014
(1143 - 4:14pm, Nov 28)
Last: PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth)

NewsblogNotable Players Available In The Rule 5 Draft - BaseballAmerica.com
(11 - 2:54pm, Nov 28)
Last: KJOK

Hall of MeritBrian Giles
(57 - 2:42pm, Nov 28)
Last: Bleed the Freak

Hall of Merit2015 Hall of Merit Ballot Discussion
(59 - 2:41pm, Nov 28)
Last: Bleed the Freak

Page rendered in 0.2645 seconds
52 querie(s) executed