Thorn: Stats and history

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on March 7, 2012:

In an odd rush of events, last weekend I attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, where I took part in a panel with Bill James, John Dewan, Dean Oliver, and John Walsh. After one day back at home, I departed for Phoenix to attend the NINE Spring Training Conference, a baseball history and culture affair I have addressed previously, but this time I am a noncombatant, with no obligation other than fun. I will stay out here to March 15, when I will attend the SABR Analytics Conference, a new and promising venture at which I’ll be part of a “how sabermetrics began” panel with Dick Cramer, Gary Gillette, and Sean Forman.

Bill James was the not the first to think about baseball in sabermetric terms, though he coined the term and is the godfather of the burgeoning movement, now prevalent in all individual and team sports. When MIT held its first conference five years ago, two hundred people attended. Last year the attendance topped a thousand, barely. This year it exceeded 2200. Bill must have been unimaginably gratified to see the fruits of his labors. I was, too, a little. I tweeted from the conference, “Feeling like Rip Van Winkle to be here and see how huge sports analysis has become since Pete Palmer and I partnered 30 years ago.”


Let me share with you with some portions of the opening chapter of The Hidden Game of Baseball, published in 1984. I was asked at the conference whether I would wish to see it reprinted. “No,” I replied, not in any revised or updated fashion. It is a historical marker, a period piece that reflects where we were then in our thinking.” The book is now prized among collectors and retains an honored place among today’s sports analysts. Here goes.

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Originally published: March 7, 2012. Last Updated: March 7, 2012.