Lindbergh: The last bastion of old-school stats

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on March 17, 2017:

In 2006, the most popular statistical category in Yahoo fantasy baseball was runs batted in, which was used in 99.50 percent of Yahoo leagues. By then, RBIs had been a staple of rotisserie baseball’s original eight categories for more than 25 years, and the early stirrings of the sabermetric movement couldn’t dislodge it from the fantasy firmament overnight.

2006 wasn’t the dark ages, sabermetrically speaking — Moneyball had been a best seller for years, Theo Epstein’s (and Bill James’s) Red Sox had won the World Series, and Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon had just started running the (Devil) Rays. Baseball Prospectus had just turned 10, and FanGraphs had debuted (albeit barely). Still, those weren’t quite enlightened times. Anti-stat sportscaster Joe Morgan was still active, as was the blog about him. MIT Sloan hadn’t yet held its first, sparsely attended sports analytics conference. Many MLB teams were still years away from hiring their first full-time quant.

In the intervening decade, RBIs’ reputation eroded. Baseball embraced advanced analytics, both in front offices and in the larger cultural conversation. It became common knowledge that runs batted in were a poor measure of player performance, dependent as they are on timing, quality of teammates, and lineup position, among other factors. Naturally, RBIs’ Yahoo usage rate dropped — all the way down to 99.31 percent.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: March 17, 2017. Last Updated: March 17, 2017.