Granillo: How a color-spectrum theory explains our understanding of baseball statistics

From SABR member Larry Granillo at Baseball Nation on May 23, 2013:

It’s a truth that has been around for nearly as long as the game itself that baseball loves its statistics. Batting average, RBI, ERA, etc. have been a part of the game since before Ty Cobb, Cy Young, or Babe Ruth. And yet, if you plopped any of these legends into today’s world and asked them to check out the leader boards on FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t understand half of what they saw. Like everything else, our understanding of a ballplayer’s performance has greatly evolved through the decades.

But how far along are we in that evolution? Is there any more to learn? Believe it or not, a theory involving language and all the colors in the rainbow might give us an answer …

According to a theory initially put forth in 1969 by anthropologist Brent Berlin and linguist Paul Kay, the first words for describing color in any language are for white and black. That is, every culture on earth, no matter how primitive, can distinguish between the light and dark sides of the color spectrum. As the culture and language evolves, we begin to see evidence that citizens can break down the color spectrum into more discrete chunks. After white and black, languages develop a word for the color red.

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Originally published: May 23, 2013. Last Updated: May 23, 2013.