SABR 46: Smith, Kinlaw win 2016 presentation awards

David W. Smith has won the 2016 Doug Pappas Award for the best oral research presentation and Francis Kinlaw has won the USA Today Sports Weekly Award for the best poster presentation at SABR 46 in Miami.

Smith, the founder and president of Retrosheet, won the Pappas Award for his presentation, “The Myth of the Closer,” which he delivered Friday during SABR 46 at the Hyatt Regency Miami. He is a recipient of the Bob Davids Award and Henry Chadwick Award, and he previously won the Doug Pappas Award in 2001 for his presentation on the 1951 NL pennant race.

Smith’s abstract is posted below:

No one questions that relief pitcher usage has changed immensely in recent decades. If we are to believe managers and coaches, and (more importantly) the baseball media, today’s rigidly defined progression has contributed mightily to winning. A number of researchers have sought to determine whether the evidence bears out this anecdotal belief. None, until now, have unleashed the full power of Retrosheet’s database. Examining the last 95 years of game data, Dave Smith shows that the probability of victory when leading by 1-3 runs in the ninth inning has been remarkably constant the whole time, whether the starter goes the distance or the manager deploys a fresh “assigned role” reliever every inning from the sixth or seventh on, or any pattern in between.

Click here to read Smith’s award-winning paper, “The Myth of the Closer” (PDF).

The Doug Pappas Award — originally established as the USA Today Sports Weekly Award in 1992 and renamed in 2004 to honor the late baseball researcher — includes a $250 cash prize with a matching amount donated to SABR.

Kinlaw, of Greensboro, North Carolina, won the USA Today Sports Weekly Award for his poster presentation, “The Line Drive that Changed Baseball’s History!” His poster presentation pertaining to Score was a long-delayed sequel to his oral presentation on a similar topic at SABR 27 in Louisville.

His abstract is posted below:

One of the most traumatic incidents in the history of the major leagues occurred on May 7, 1957, when a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald of the New York Yankees struck Herb Score of the Cleveland Indians in the right eye. This vicious smash instantly deprived the Cleveland franchise of baseball’s most exciting young pitcher and affected the competitive balance of the American League for years. Kinlaw notes Score’s exceptional potential prior to his injury while demonstrating the degree to which fulfillment of his extraordinary promise would have affected the Indians franchise and all of professional baseball. Plausible front-office maneuvers which might have occurred if Score had remained healthy, as well as differences in outcomes of pennant races that might have resulted from those transactions, are also explored.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo of Francis Kinlaw’s poster presentation.

The USA Today Sports Weekly Award — first presented in 1990 as the John W. Cox Award — includes a $125 cash prize with a matching donation to SABR.

Honorable mentions for the oral presentation were:

  • Dirk Lammers, “No-Hitters Gone Global: Even Johnny Vander Meer Draws Company with the Breakdown of Borders”
  • Thom Henninger, “The Bay of Pigs and the Cultural Isolation of 1960s Cuban Players”
  • Ronnie Socash, “The Hidden Value of Competitive Balance Picks in the MLB Draft”

Honorable mentions for the poster presentations were:

  • Joy Benjamin, “The 2004 Japanese Professional Baseball Collective Bargaining Negotiations: A Qualitative Case Study”
  • Charles H. Martin, “The Reserve Clause and Employee Non-Compete Agreements: Will the Infamous Relic of Baseball’s Past Make a Comeback in Your Future?”

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Originally published: July 30, 2016. Last Updated: July 27, 2020.