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This article was published in Spring 2018 Baseball Research Journal
A note from the editor of the Baseball Research Journal.I was at a spring training game in Florida this year when I struck up a conversation with a stranger in the stands, as one usually does. He was passingly familiar with SABR and I told him I was the editor of the Baseball Research Journal. “Oh,” he said, “is that one about stats or about history?” He seemed surprised when I said “both.” I’m not sure why the idea persists that there is a divide between stats and history, other than the prevalent human reflex to categorize things into polar opposites, even when no opposition exists. Did any developmental psychologist ever truly debate “nature versus nurture?” All scientific evidence about what makes us who we are points to important contributions on both sides of the ledger.
But that reflex to divide things into opposing sides persists. Whether the behavior is innate or learned, there is something satisfying to our brains about it. Perhaps that’s part of why two-sided games are so interesting to us. We create two artificial opponents — maybe even rivals — and watch them compete. Major league baseball accepts no ties: each game must have a winner.
In real life, though, outside the artificial confines of fair versus foul, history and stats are not in opposition any more than letters and numbers are rivals. Both are needed for understanding and learning. Stats are not the enemy of poetic pursuits. When a player or team makes an assault on the record books, those books are not filled with the prose of Homer or Shakespeare, but with numbers. I have never heard a critic of analytics claim that a baseball game’s score being counted in discrete runs and declaring the winner based on quantity “takes away the human element,” so why should counting any other element of the game? After all, although it’s the final score that matters, it’s how it was achieved that is the story. Every number is a creation of history in action.
So whether you are all about the journey or the destination — or, more likely, you enjoy both — I hope you’ll enjoy this issue of the Baseball Research Journal. As usual, these SABR researchers take us to places near and far, to times recent and distant, and look at names, numbers, people, teams, players, incidents, rules, terminology, and more. Nearly every piece has some measure of both stats and history in varying amounts, a variety that hopefully means there’s something for everyone here.
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CECILIA M. TAN is SABR’s Publications Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.