The Future of Sabremetrics

I’m sure the SABR Analytics conference would be great fun.

For one, Phoenix in March is baseball heaven, if you can get tickets.

Plus, as this story by Christina Kahrl makes clear, there are lots of smart baseball analysts in one place talking about the game and the analysis of its numbers. But two things struck me about the answers Christina got about sabrementrics, evolution or revolution?

First, that this year’s big story was pitch framing. I don’t know what was presented at the conference, but what I like about much of the pitch framing work I’ve seen is just how teased out it is. Like a detective story or  a bit of counterhistory, the idea has existed for a long time. The PitchF/X numbers don’t obviously lead to framing data, but when churned and cleaned, new information emerges. That’s neat.

The other is more important. A few of the respondents talk about the importance of the PitchF/X data and some mention the BIS fielding data, the importance of which cannot be overestimated. To the extent that data is available and more eyes see it and are inspired to work with it, the more real information is developed.

Which is why MLB’s VP of Stats Cory Schwartz’s statement seems like the most significant in the piece: “I think once we are able to roll out the complete field-tracking system and start to introduce some of that data into public space to whatever extent it might be, I think that will further increase the pace of evolution and perhaps bring about what we would consider revolutionary turning points.”

Emphasis mine. Some of that data, to whatever extent it might be, these qualifiers are going to make a huge difference to the future of the analytic community in the coming years. MLBAM surely recognizes the incredible dynamic force they unleashed by making the PitchF/X data available, something we should not fail to remind them every chance we get.

2 thoughts on “The Future of Sabremetrics”

  1. The problem with advanced stats is we’re moving from an era where the outsidsers had better data, to an era where the insiders have better data. That’s going to slow the pace of advances as there will be groups in their own silos coming up with theories. It’s also bad for fantasy sports as a lot of the best data isn’t going to be available to fans. This is far more a problem in the NBA and possibly other sports.

    • Absolutely Peter. The amazing thing about the sabremetric revolution is that it was started in part by Bill James getting people to collect/create their own baseball stats because the Major Leagues and Elias would not make any of that information available. Even for a price. Which led to various crowdsourcing projects that led to Project Scoresheet and Stats and Baseball Info Solutions. The truly amazing moment, however, was when MLBAM allowed researchers access to PitchF/X for free. Which is why I posted this note today. Pssst, I’m hoping we can all remind MLBAM just how crazy successful that was, and suggest (respectfully) that they should let as much of the new stuff loose as they can. It helps everyone (especially the institution of baseball).

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