Author Bill James Discusses How His Analysis of Statistics Broke the Baseball Mold
Secaucus, N.J., September 13, 2011 – From awarding a player a base hit to the rise of sabermetrics, the evolution of statistics in Major League Baseball is the focus of Behind the Seams: The Stat Story, a special produced for MLB Network by MLB Productions, premiering Sunday, September 18 at 10:00 p.m. ET.
Behind the Seams: The Stat Story will feature statisticians and experts, including Elias Sports Bureau’s Steve Hirdt, MLB’s official historian John Thorn, Baseball-Reference.com’s Sean Forman, Sports Illustrated’s Joe Sheehan, Fangraphs.com contributor Jonah Keri, New York Times writer Alan Schwarz, Rotisserie League Baseball creator Dan Okrent and SB Nation’s Rob Neyer discussing the history of baseball statistics, highlighted by the formation of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
The hour-long documentary will feature current general managers, managers and players, including Sandy Alderson, Billy Beane, Tony La Russa and Jered Weaver explaining how in-depth statistical research have influenced their decisions in baseball today and the growth of fantasy baseball, and Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Tony Gwynn, Tommy Lasorda and Earl Weaver describe the advantages and disadvantages to using statistics during games. Plus, author Bill James, the Boston Red Sox senior adviser on baseball operations, tells his story from being a security guard in Kansas to the leading pioneer of a statistical revolution that culminated with the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez winning the 2010 A.L. Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record.
Quotes from Behind the Seams: The Stat Story include:
Hall of Famer Lou Brock: The point about statistics – and I was a math major – is that we can make those things work any way we want them to work, but can a player deliver in the clutch? I don’t think computers can gather that and produce that for a manager.
Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn: As a former baseball player, I can’t tell how you many times people came up to me and said, “You know what man, you’re a good hitter, but you don’t steal enough bases.”
Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda: Today, they manage with statistics. You can’t do it. Statistics are lies. Believe me, they’re lies.
Author Bill James: When you go to a game, the team that wins is the team that has a better number on the scoreboard at the end of the game, and that central fact makes all the other numbers really important.
MLB Official Historian John Thorn: What Bill James was saying was the old adage, “Things are not what they seem.” Being a .300 hitter if you only draw 20 walks in 600 plate appearances may not be such a good thing.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Pitcher Jered Weaver: When you’re doing good, all the fantasy players say, “Hey, I’m so glad I picked you up.” But if you’re not doing so good they start talking about who they want to trade you for. [Fantasy players say,] “I’m getting ready to trade you if you keep this up.”