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Thursday, March 27, 2008

I really don't like "sabermetrics"

Dave Studeman posted his first column of the season today. Let's all take a moment to do a happy dance. :) Tom Tango has called his Studeman's "10 Things I Didn't Know Last Week" column the "Best Column in Sports," and I think he's right. Studeman always has insightful comments on baseball news and research from around the web, and does some excellent work in his own right. He's a fantastic communicator and a tremendous asset to our community.

The first thing that Dave talks about in this new column is the identity and meaning of the term "sabermetrics." I think he's right that it's about the search for truth...or, as I like to put it, understanding. Bill James once defined it as "the search for objective knowledge about baseball," which I think is a great definition. That search involves both process (the context with which we search), and the products (our findings). I have no disagreement with anything in Dave's article.

However, I do have a beef with the use of the term "sabermetrics." We talked about this a bit in the comments of this post, but I think it's a terrible, counterproductive term that should be flat-out dropped. Here is my comment about this in response to Studeman's article, posted on ballhype:
While I know this is probably a minority opinion, I really dislike--almost despise--the term "sabermetrics." Maybe it's just because I didn't grow up with Bill James. But that term has always sounded both pompous and half-baked to me--like we're trying to claim some kind of grand authority or officiality by coming up with an official-sounding name for what we do.

I think at least part of the backlash against "sabermetrics" has as much to do with that name as anything else. I've occasionally interacted with a local reporter in Cincinnati for some stat-inspired articles on the Reds over the past year, and one thing I've tried to stress (as have the other folks like me who have contributed to these articles) is to try to avoid calling us sabermetricians. I don't want to give people that as a reason for ignoring some of the ideas we advocate.

I'd much prefer it if everyone just called what we do what it is--baseball research. There's nothing really special about it...we're just searching for better understanding of how the game works. -j
Anyway, there you have it.