Nusbaum: Beisbol Prospectus in Cuba

From Eric Nusbaum at Sports Illustrated on April 6, 2014, with mention of SABR member Bill James:

Sabermetrics—the advanced, computerized and occasionally counterintuitive analysis of baseball statistics—is beginning to take hold in Cuba. Television and radio commentators on the island are introducing new stats such as BABIP and WAR to their broadcasts. And like their American counterparts, many Cuban fans were introduced to sabermetrics by the film version of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball.

But information remains hard to come by in Cuba, and slow to spread. Serie Nacional teams don’t have massive budgets or unlimited front-office resources. Fans are not equipped with computers and access to the Internet. And although major league teams view Cuba as a talent pipeline, Cuba itself is not hung up on the American conception of baseball. Players who play beautifully and rise to grand occasions are called guapo, or handsome, brave. In Cuba baseball is like art or love or faith—meant to be felt as much as understood.

To the 17 full-fledged members of the GIIB [Independent Group for Baseball Investigation], the feeling and understanding of baseball are inseparable from one another. They’re intellectuals, empiricists, the kind of guys who believe that the best way to express your love of something is to spend years studying and arguing about it. They talk about sabermetrics in the context of classic economists: “Marx’s economic theories are basically sabermetrics,” says [Alejandro] Aldama. “It’s the elimination of subjectivity.” But before they organized into a formal group, they were just buddies—philosophers, engineers, computer scientists centered around the University of Havana—with a shared passion for baseball.


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Originally published: April 6, 2014. Last Updated: April 6, 2014.