Was wOBA Actually Invented Nearly 100 Years Ago?

From SABR member Sam Menzin at FanGraphs on November 11, 2011:

As our collective understanding of advanced statistical analysis in baseball grows exponentially with each passing day, we are now among a generation of baseball fans that has done more critical thinking about and retained more esoteric knowledge of the game than our parents could ever have dreamed of. Anyone who has seen MLB Network’s show on the evolution of statistics would think that between Henry Chadwick’s invention of the box score and Branch Rickey’s hiring of Alan Roth as a statistician, baseball fans in the 20th century consumed baseball metrics in only the most rudimentary of ways — via the dreaded batting average, home runs and RBI triumvirate.

However, what if I told you that one of the most advanced analytical discoveries — one that sabermetricians hold near and dear to their hearts — was actually discovered before Babe Ruth ever played a game?


Returning to the present day, I‘m currently in the midst of writing my college thesis (yes, it’s on baseball), and I recently came across a piece of research that sounded my “wow, everything I thought I knew about baseball is wrong” alarm to claxon-like levels. In the 1915 edition of Baseball Magazine (distributed from 1908-1957), there’s an article written by F.C. Lane that would make even Tom Tango take notice (assuming he isn’t already aware of its existence): “Why the System of Batting Averages Should Be Changed: Statistics Lie at the Foundation of Baseball Popularity — Batting Records Are the Favorite — And Yet Batting Records Are Unnecessarily Inaccurate.”


Read the full article here: http://www.fangraphs.com/community/index.php/was-woba-actually-invented-nearly-100-years-ago/

Related link: Visit SABR’s Research Resources page to read more articles from “Baseball Magazine” via the LA84 Foundation

Originally published: November 14, 2011. Last Updated: November 14, 2011.