McDonnell: The Analytics Revolution in Baseball

From SABR member Wayne McDonnell Jr. at on July 17, 2012:

For generations, baseball cards have always been a staple in the childhood of sports fans. … Fast forward to the present and we are in the midst of a statistical revolution that is being led by a dedicated group of baseball scholars who thoroughly dissect and study every infinitesimal aspect of the game. Through groundbreaking research and collaboration, sabermetrics or as some like to call it analytics, has challenged conventional wisdom and has become a phenomenon throughout baseball. Unfortunately, it has also infuriated traditionalists who feel the integrity of the game and the human element has been compromised by a new generation of intellectuals who rely heavily on complicated calculations instead of the naked eye when evaluating talent.

At times, baseball analytics conjures up feelings of inadequacy even for people who intimately know the game. On occasion, the disciples of Bill James have theoretically insulated and detached themselves from the average baseball fans and this has led to a perception of arrogance. In some instances, perception has become reality and an unfair judgment has been made on a group of people who simply love the game of baseball and want to thoroughly understand its innermost workings. In a way, sabermetricians are searching for a buried treasure or the meaning of life when it comes to baseball. They are on a pursuit for knowledge and are using statistics to navigate their way to enlightenment. Fortunately, the Society for American Baseball Research (S.A.B.R.) and its leadership are making great strides in providing a fertile environment where people can become educated and involved with baseball analytics. Most importantly, S.A.B.R. is creating opportunities for people to find their own niche in this expanding environment. Besides aggressively reconnecting with its origins, S.A.B.R. is also welcoming a new generation of decision makers and enthusiasts.

This past March, S.A.B.R. held its first Analytics Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference was presented by Bloomberg Sports and Major League Baseball. Over the course of three days during spring training, hundreds of conference attendees listened to thought provoking panel discussions on topics such as Pitch f/x and Hit f/x, value strategies when building a major league roster and the changing face of baseball data. Conference attendees also had the good fortune of listening to owners, executives and general managers from several ball clubs training in Arizona talk about the importance of analytics in their daily decision making.

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Learn more: For more information on the SABR Analytics Conference — March 7-9 in Phoenix, Arizona — visit

Originally published: July 17, 2012. Last Updated: July 17, 2012.