Swartz: The declining share of African-American baseball players

From SABR member Matt Swartz at The Hardball Times on June 12, 2014:

African-Americans make up a smaller share of major league players than they have at any time in the last 50 years. After black players rapidly became part of the major league landscape, 19 percent of players were black as recently as 1981, but today only seven percent are.  Although the increasing share of Latino and other international players accounts for some of this decline, the share of U.S.-born players who are black has fallen very rapidly, as well.

In March, I published a Hardball Times article in which I showed the increasing importance of opportunity and income in making it to The Show. However, I did not have data on the actual race of players, so some of my claims relied on guesswork and inference. Fortunately, Mark Armour has been gracious enough to share a data set that he and Dan Levitt created for their fantastic study documenting the decline of black players, enabling me to look more closely at the link between opportunity and race. These data strengthen the case I made in March about opportunity while also calling into question several other theories about the source of racial trends in baseball.

In March, I produced this table showing the relative share of baseball players’ WAR to births in each region by decade.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/the-declining-share-of-african-american-baseball-players-part-1/

Click here to read part 2 of Matt’s study.

Originally published: June 17, 2014. Last Updated: June 17, 2014.