Archive for the ‘Bill James’ Category
But these are legitimate ones, I swear. I just realized that I forgot to mention that last week was Spring Break for UCSB, which is why I didn’t write a post. I’m still caught up in fellowship application hell, but after tomorrow I should be in the clear. I’d write some more now, but today is my birthday, so I’m going to go ahead and postpone my commentary on Bill James’ appearance on 60 minutes last night. I’ve got some presents to open, and I think that’s going to involve me not working on my dissertation. But if you haven’t seen the interview yet, go ahead and watch it, so that we can discuss is later this week.
I don’t have any real progress work wise to report to you. Like last week, I’ve been busy mostly with fellowship applications and what not. I am also running into the familiar problem of not getting any responses to my interview requests. As usual, I keep sending off missives into cyberspace I’m starting to get a little worried, especially with the writers because I think they’re going to be key in my analysis.
In any case, I’ve been organizing some of my thoughts and looking through the transcripts and reading, and I’ve come up with somewhat of an issue concerning Bill James. For those of you who don’t know, Bill James probably one of the most important people in the history of sabermetrics. He is generally credited with popularizing sabermetrics with the publications of his baseball abstracts. His name comes up more than any other name both in my reading and in my interviews. This, in and of itself, is not surprising. And I’m sure I could write a lot about how Bill james has influenced sabermetrics through the tone of his writing as he did through his actual research matter.
The issue that I’m struggling about is how to write about an individual in the context of a sociological research project. Like I said, clearly, he is an important figure…actually the important figure in sabermetrics, Read the rest of this entry »
Bill James has become an almost mythical figure in the world of Sabermetrics and this article reads like many of the stories that have been written about him before. It chronicles his rise from lone wolf crunching numbers at his job as a security guard for a bean factory to his rise as the singular influence that started the modern Sabermetric movement. To be honest, this particular article will be one of many that I will use as reference when talking about the social history of Sabermetrics as it relates to individuals, so I won’t rehash that kind of stuff here. Instead, I’ll just concentrate on a few new James’ quotes that are instructive for my project. On the ability for Sabermetrics to successfully predict baseball outcomes, he says:
I find this quote interesting because I think the popular notion that Sabermetricians (and by proxy, science) can reduce things to perfect numbers that do a perfect job of predicting and analyzing. James’ quote is self-contradictory if you think about it. On the one hand, he acknowledges that there is a certain random component to winning a division, something that is beyond the control of us mere mortals. He even extends it to people’s everyday lives and reasons that this uncertainty makes us skittish. On the other hand, he is reinforcing the idea that science does indeed hold the answer, that uncertainty can be accounted for, at least to an extent, and that will make, as he says, “the system” do what it is supposed to do.
I ran across an interesting story from one of my favorite sports blogs, Deadspin, about MLB suing a company for using official statistics in their fantasy leagues. The story appeared in yesterday’s USA Today. You can also access the text of the story here.
Basically, MLB contends that the statistics that players produce belong to MLB and they have a right to charge licensing fees to anyone who wants to use them to make money. The attorney for CBC, the company that MLB is suing, contends that player statistics are common knowledge. From the article:
In a previous post, I about how the Sabermetric movement can be seen as a reappropration of a cultural product in a way that is more useful to the consumer of the cultural product. This would seem to be the case here. However, MLB actually does provide the cultural product of fantasy baseball to fans. The major fantasy outlets, such as Yahoo or ESPN pay lots of money to MLB for the rights to use players’ names and statistics in their leagues.
Two pieces, one in the NYT Magazine in their annual sports issue, and one in the “First Person” Column in the today’s LA Times, center around two Sabermetric related items, Baseball Sims, which I wrote about in a previous post, and Retrosheet. The links are to the articles on the newspapers’ websites, but if over time the links become outdated you can read the NYT article here and the LA Times article here.
The articles present two views of Sabermetrics that are different, yet united by a common thread, that I think are relevant to my work. The NYT piece, written by well known writer, Neal Pollack, revolves around Pollack’s involvement in a Baseball Sim league. Meant to be a humorous piece, the first sentence really sets the tone.