Doolittle: Life as a player for the Oakland ‘Mathletics’

From Oakland A’s pitcher Sean Doolittle at on August 12, 2014:

Baseball is a game of numbers, and we at the Oakland Athletics keep track of everything. From the number of hits in a given number of at-bats to the number of runs allowed to the number of stolen bases, there are numbers for evaluating every aspect of the game.

As far back as 1964, when Earnshaw Cook published the book “Percentage Baseball,” baseball statisticians have been providing us ways to get as deep into those numbers as possible to determine just how valuable a player might be. In 1971, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) was formed in Cooperstown, New York, and lent both its acronym and advanced mathematical functions to analyze the game. Bill James, the pioneer of sabermetrics, defined them as a way to provide an objective view of baseball.

Sabermetrics finally let us enjoy baseball the way it was meant to be enjoyed: with a TI-89 graphing calculator.

Many of you are familiar with the movie “Moneyball,” which chronicles the Athletics’ use of sabermetrics to successfully assemble a winning team on a decidedly small-market budget. By thinking outside the box and favoring players’ on-base percentages over their batting averages, those A’s were able to build a productive lineup of affordable players en route to a 20-game win streak and a division title.

Since then, the use of sabermetrics has continued to change the way players are evaluated. Metrics such as OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) and wOBA (weighted on-base average) provide a much more comprehensive and accurate evaluation of a hitter’s overall productivity than, say, batting average. Meanwhile, the wRC (weighted runs created) and wRAA (weighted runs above average) categories help quantify a player’s total offensive value to his team in the form of runs created over the course of a season.

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Originally published: August 12, 2014. Last Updated: August 12, 2014.