Why Haven't Sabermetrics Gone Mainstream?
April 2, 2009 16 Comments
In response to a previous Pizza Cutter post, Tom Tango wrote the following, which was directed at the people on the fringes of baseball analysis: “The world is big enough for all of us. Join us if you want. Just don’t stand in our way.”
While those posts are unrelated to this one, that statement got me thinking. My dad and I are both big Yankee fans, and as such we constantly talk about roster decisions, free agents, trades, etc. I’m obviously a numbers guy, and while my dad will hear my arguments, that’s still not his forte. When I say that player X will help the team a given amount, that number has virtually no meaning to him.
While the kind of people who read this blog probably constantly think about player value in real terms, it’s a topic that doesn’t seem to come up in the minds of most people. A manager will tell you that player X will help the team win and fans collectively think, “He’s probably right.” And the manager, more often than not, is correct. But when he says that the player will help the team win, how many people think to themselves, “How much?”
We are the kind of people who think “How much?” This is no great strength of ours and no great weakness of the general population. I think it is simply an attribute–whether it is positive or negative is not for me to decide.
In thinking about this issue, I decided for myself that one of the main reasons the general population thinks differently than the “sabermetric community” is fantasy baseball. Everyone has a team, some people have 3 or 4. And most of these leagues are the standard 5×5 variety where the stats of importance are RBI, runs, batting average, wins, etc. As Patriot (LINK) will tell you, these stats have no meaningful units that can be converted to runs (don’t tell me that runs = runs, you know what I mean).
My dad plays fantasy baseball. To him, value is measured in those ten categories, because when he is “playing GM” then those are the only things that matter. Here is my main point: Outside of increased awareness of projection systems, fantasy baseball is holding back the proliferation of sabermetrics. Why should anyone think about OBP when it has literally zero fantasy value in most leagues?
Maybe Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver are the culprits, I don’t know (Lord knows it sure ain’t this guy). Or it could be the negative sentiment towards Moneyball held by so many close to the game that’s holding us back. What do you guys think?