SABR 41: Research Presentations for Saturday, July 9

Here are detailed summaries for the research presentations to be delivered at the SABR 41 convention on Saturday, July 9.

Related: Thursday research presentations, Friday research presentations

For a complete schedule of SABR 41 events, click here. For registration, hotel and all other information, click here to go back to the SABR 41 home page.


Saturday, July 9

9:30-9:55 a.m., Catalina Room

RP21: Did No Lights at Wrigley Hurt the Cubs?, by Mark Pankin

Many fans and some former players believe that the Cubs were hurt by playing all day games at home until 1988. Taking advantage of the now 22 full seasons of data available for Cubs' home night games, Pankin presents an analysis of various aspects of Cubs' won-lost records before and after the lights came on at Wrigley. He will address whether the supposed disadvantage varies by poor Cubs teams such as those in the 1950s and first half of the 1960s as compared the strong teams in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Mark Pankin <> has a Ph.D. in Math earned at the University of Illinois, Chicago and lives in Arlington, Virginia, where he is a registered investment advisor. During his last two summers in graduate school, his apartment was five blocks from Wrigley Field, long before there were lights, and he often joined the “bleacher bums” for $1 a ticket in those days. Wrigley was the fourth or fifth park in which he saw a major league game, and the count has now reached 49. Although he is a dedicated Tigers fan, one of his proudest possessions is his “NO DH” license plate.

9:30-9:55 a.m., Pacific Room

RP22: In Search of the Greatest Game Ever Played in Dixie, by John Simpson

The 1908 Nashville Vols had a storybook season. After finishing in the Southern Association basement the year before, the club overcame a slow start to a chance for the pennant in the final series of the year. Their meteoric rise through the standings fired an enthusiastic show of support throughout the city, and a beyond-capacity crowd at Sulphur Dell watched their bid for the championship on the season’s last day. Using sources like Nashville’s three dailies and the national weeklies, Simpson details that storied season. Was it truly Dixie’s greatest game? Well, who are we to argue with Grantland Rice?

John Simpson <> taught American history for 34 years, and also coached baseball at Kelso High School in Washington for 15 years. He earned his Ph.D. in American History from the University of Oregon. The author of three books on Tennessee/Nashville in the Civil War and postwar years, and one on Nashville baseball in the Deadball Era, he is currently researching his next book, The Original Clown Prince of Baseball; The Mischievous Hub Perdue in the Early Southern Association and National League.

10-10:25 a.m., Catalina Room

RP23: Examining Home Field Advantage, by Phil Birnbaum

The home team usually wins about 54 percent of its games in major league baseball. In the recent book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played And Games Are Won, the authors, Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim, argue that they have discovered that biased referees are the primary cause of home-field advantage in sports. Birnbaum comes to a tentative statistical and sabermetric understanding of the extent to which umpires affect home-field advantage in baseball.

Phil Birnbaum <> is the editor of "By the Numbers," SABR's Statistical Analysis Committee newsletter. He blogs at, and links to his research studies can be found at, his website.

10-10:25 a.m., Pacific Room

RP24: Induction Day at Cooperstown: A History of the Baseball Hall of Fame Ceremony, by Dennis Corcoran

Corcoran discusses research that led to his book, Induction Day at Cooperstown: A History of the Baseball Hall of Fame Ceremony. He provides a detailed history of the induction ceremony and how it has developed since the inaugural quintet of HOFers in 1939. He also touches upon the grassroots efforts that, at least in part, led to the election of as many as 39 inductees.

Dennis Corcoran <>, a SABR member since 2002, is a retired teacher and historian living in Westchester County, New York. He has been researching his book on Cooperstown for six years. Although SABR 41 is his seventh convention, it's the first time he's presented a research study.

10:30-10:55 a.m., Catalina Room

RP25: Are Umpires Really Harder on Rookies? Historical Background and Analysis Results, by Patrick Kilgo, Jeff Switchenko, Hillary Superak, Paul Weiss, Lisa Elon, Brian Schmotzer, Lance Waller

Sportscasters, writers and players regularly espouse the belief that home plate umpires will give close calls around the edges of the strike zone to veteran pitchers when facing rookie batters. Similarly, many believe that the same preferential treatment is given to veteran batters against rookie pitchers. Kilgo and colleagues explore this issue both historically and analytically. They provide colorful anecdotes about its beginnings and how the myth of this relationship between rookies and umpires developed. Analytically, they use the Pitch F/X system and statistical regression modeling to test the hypothesis that rookies (pitchers or batters) have a harder time getting calls to go their way.

Pat Kilgo <> is on the faculty in the Biostatistics Department at the Emory University School of Public Health in Atlanta, where he teaches graduate methods courses and performs cardiothoracic surgery clinical research. His baseball interests are varied, though most of his effort goes into book collecting and a serious Braves devotion. He shares his life with his wife Michelle and four children. Jeff Switchenko is currently a Ph.D student in Biostatistics at Emory. In 2006, he received a BA in Mathematics with a minor in Chemistry from Bowdoin College. Born and raised in Boston, Jeff is a lifelong Red Sox fan, and grew up idolizing the likes of John Valentin, Troy O'Leary, and Brian Daubach. Hillary Superak, Paul Weiss, Lisa Elon, Brian Schmotzer, and Lance Waller are Kilgo's colleagues at Emory.

10:30-10:55 a.m., Pacific Room

RP26: Andy Cohen: A Manager’s Manager, by Dick Rosen

Peter Miller’s recent documentary, “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story” created new interest in Andy Cohen, who had been recruited into baseball largely because of his ethnicity. While much has been written about Cohen’s short stint with the Giants, Cohen’s life tells a story that extends from the Deadball Era all the way to the 1980s through his protégés like Earl Weaver. Although deprived of a longer career with the Giants because of injury and the death of his mentor, John McGraw, Cohen, as Rosen shows, made himself an important asset to the game both as a player and a manager.

Dick Rosen <> is a history professor at Drexel University, and also Vice Chair and Historian of the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society ( His love of baseball history began when he was eight years old and could recite the starting lineup (and batting averages) of the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. He became an ardent fan of both the Athletics and the Phillies, and has remained loyal to Philadelphia baseball ever since. He has taught courses in baseball history at Drexel and has lectured on baseball topics throughout Pennsylvania, including an appearance on local public television, for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. He is completing a biography of Andy Cohen. His book, The Philadelphia Phillies (with Seamus Kearney), was recently published by Arcadia Press.

11-11:25 a.m., Catalina Room

RP27: Starting Pitching Staffs and Pitching Rotations, by David W. Smith

Following in the footsteps of Peter Morris, who examined the use of starting pitchers in the earliest days of MLB, Dave Smith digs into the Retrosheet repository to look at patterns in starters in the 20th (and 21st?) century. Differentiating between the conceptual frameworks of “rotation” (a repeating sequence of pitchers) and “staff” (the set of pitchers who take the bulk of a club’s starts), he offers a comprehensive and surprising — and undoubtedly entertaining — report of his observations and conclusions.

David W. Smith <> joined SABR in 1977 and has made research presentations at 16 national SABR conventions and many more at regional meetings. In 2001 at SABR 31 in Milwaukee, he won the USA Today Sports Weekly Award for his presentation on the 1951 NL pennant race. In 2005, he received SABR's highest honor, the Bob Davids Award. He is a past co-chair of the Statistical Analysis Committee and the recipient of the first SABR Special Achievement award. He is also the founder and President of Retrosheet, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the collection, computerization and free distribution of play by play accounts of Major League games.

11-11:25 a.m., Pacific Room

RP28: The Fred Haney Stories, by Jim Gordon

Fred Haney, the first general manager of the Los Angeles Angels, had a 65-year baseball career that included every aspect of the game. He was a player, coach, World Series-winning manager, scout, broadcaster and innovator. What is less known is that Haney was one of baseball’s great storytellers. Gordon relates a collection of Haney’s stories, ranging from the early 1920s to the mid-1960s. Many of these interesting tales are not readily available and they have never been compiled.

Jim Gordon <> is a retired aerospace engineer who now spends much of his time attending baseball games and researching Los Angeles-area baseball history. He is a member of the Ballparks Committee, the BioProject Committee, and the new Games and Simulations Committee, as well as managing the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers in the Great American Fantasy League. He has written biographies of Wrigley Field, Los Angeles and of Fred Haney for the BioProject. He is now working on a book-length biography of Haney.

11:30-11:55 a.m., Catalina Room

RP29: A Starting Pitcher Rating System, by Vince Gennaro

Over the last decade, new metrics have been established in an attempt to better measure pitching performance. While much of the previous research has been focused on isolating pitching performance from defensive performance, Gennaro’s Starting Pitcher Rating system (SPR) attempts to go beyond that objective. The goal of SPR is to quantify a starting pitcher's ability to efficiently prevent runs. He will discuss how his approach explicitly values a pitcher for consistently pitching deeper into games; incorporates a pitcher's groundball rate into his value; and includes upstream components such as swing and miss rates and the percentage of balls thrown in the strike zone.

Vince Gennaro <> is the author of Diamond Dollars: The Economics of Winning in Baseball and a consultant to MLB teams. In his business career, he served as CEO of a public company, led a billion dollar division of PepsiCo, and was an owner of a women's pro basketball team. His business of baseball analyses have been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and he has written for The Hardball Times and Yahoo! Sports. A frequent guest on CNBC, he teaches in the Graduate Sports Business Management programs at Columbia University and Manhattanville College. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago and lives in Purchase, New York, with his wife and daughter.

11:30-11:55 a.m., Pacific Room

RP30: Baseball’s Greatest Postseason Series, by Eric Weiss

The title is singular — the single greatest postseason series. It was a battle between the biggest of rivals, the game’s dynasty against an underdog, with star players sprinkled through both rosters. The lordly dynasty zoomed to a 3-0 lead, only to see the scrappy underdogs fight back to win the next four games and the series. It was not the 2004 ALCS. Eric Weiss presents the case for awarding this appellation to the Chicago City Series of 1912. To support his contention, he marshals newspaper accounts, primary and secondary sources, and even game programs while exploring both the games themselves and the overall context of baseball in 1912. 

Eric Weiss <> is a practicing attorney and unapologetic Yankees fan living 13 miles north of Yankee Stadium in Scarsdale, Westchester County, New York.