Dubuque: A hymm for the index stat

From Patrick Dubuque at Baseball Prospectus on December 3, 2018:

We survived without computers. I know this, because I remember the day when my dad hooked up his brand-new Atari 400 computer to the back of our 12-inch Magnavox television, and the perfect blue of the memo pad lit up for the first time. I was born just on the edge of that transitional generation, of learning cursive and balancing checkbooks and just doing math all the time, constant manual arithmetic.

It still amazes me. We learned how to sail ships without computers. We learned how to do calculus. We built towers that didn’t fall down, most of the time. We engineered catapults to knock them down anyway. We built a robust system of philosophy called “utilitarianism,” founded on the principle that the good of an action is evaluated by summing the effects of that action, which is the kind of formula that would make the world’s mainframes crash. The whole foundation of statistics as a field is “here’s math you could easily do but would die of old age first.”


Baseball is fortunate to have escaped the seismic shifts of so many other sports, where the talents and performances of other eras are nearly unrecognizable. (And not just other sports: try to explain the greatness of the movie Duck Soup without adjusting for era.) But they’re still there, and they’re nearly impossible to account for manually, without having to resort to sweeping generalizations like “steroid era” or juiced-ball era” to throw out entire swathes of production.

This is all to say that we should celebrate the index stat, that simple 100-based scale with such a humble aim: just to give context. It’s hard to imagine how we lived without them for so long.

Read the full article here: https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/45393/a-hymn-for-the-index-stat/

Originally published: December 6, 2018. Last Updated: December 6, 2018.