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This article was published in the Fall 2016 Baseball Research Journal
A note from the editor of the BRJ.I truly enjoyed SABR’s annual convention this year in Miami. I suppose that goes without saying: baseball is one of my favorite things, and baseball research is one of my favorite things about baseball. But something about the mix of topics and experiences jelled into a delicious melange of molecular gastronomy. The Marlins were fantastic hosts. Barry Bonds, Don Mattingly, Andre Dawson, and Tony Perez all spoke to us in a special at-the-ballpark session, and Jeff Conine, Juan Pierre, and Jack McKeon regaled us in a session at the hotel.
But the real stars of the convention for me are the researchers who present their passions. Where else would I learn the role Coca-Cola played in strengthening the fledgling MLB players union (Mark Armour), or the history of defensive metrics (Chris Dial), or hear definitive proof that closers don’t have the impact on win totals that teams seem to think they do (David Smith)? Where else could I learn about the 1905 Waseda University Japanese good will tour of the West Coast (Rob Fitts) one minute and the Marginal Revenue Product of what pitchers are actually worth (Shane Piesek, who calculates that the average impact of strikeout to walk ratio on team revenue is $37,114.50) the next.
Well, actually, there’s one other place that such diverse baseball-related knowledge is marshalled and it’s here in the pages of the Baseball Research Journal. I feel like the kid who gets to open her Christmas presents early because I get to read all the articles before anyone else. The process starts with a query. Sometimes the researcher will email to ask if I think their topic is too “small” or “obscure” for the BRJ. The answer is usually “absolutely not.” The so-called “obscure” topics are often the most fascinating, and the most painstakingly researched. I call them rabbit holes, and the researcher who dives down them pulls us, Alice-like, right into Wonderland with them. In this issue we get a deep dive on the life of Violet Popovich, the show girl who famously shot Billy Jurges of the Chicago Cubs, the offseason trap shooting career of Chief Bender, and a light shined on a baseball league that has nearly been forgotten by history, the International Girls Baseball League.
Sometimes a researcher goes down a rabbit hole and after their article is published, they keep going: Bryan Soderholm-Difatte published a paper previously demonstrating that George Stallings employed platooning with the 1914 “Miracle” Braves. He’s back this time with a look at 1913, and while he was working on the paper, play by play information for 1912 and 1911 became available. The result is the meaty, delicious conclusion that pinpoints 1913 as the beginning of platooning as we know it. Another researcher who has been going down a rabbit hole is Tom Thress in his pursuit of the ultimate baseball statistic, Player Won-Lost records. He presents here a follow-up to his previous paper on the topic.
And that’s just a fraction of what’s in this issue. Hopefully every SABR member will find plenty of articles to interest them. If you don’t, perhaps it’s time to consider writing an article on the topic that is your favorite rabbit hole? If the subject intersects baseball in any way and is meticulously researched, send me a query. Each article submitted goes through our peer review process, with some articles going through multiple revisions before they are ready for prime time. If you’re ready to put your work up for evaluation in front of other SABR members, send your queries to PubDir@sabr.org. No rabbit hole is too obscure.
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CECILIA M. TAN is SABR’s Publications Editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.