The Best Baseball Research of the Past Year

Once again, the Society for American Baseball Research has chosen fifteen (non-ALDLAND) finalists for awards in the areas of contemporary and historical baseball analysis and commentary, and they are holding a public vote to determine the winners.

My latest post at Banished to the Pen highlights each finalist and includes a link to cast your vote.

As a preview, here are my summaries of my two favorite articles of the bunch:   

Jonathan Judge, Harry Pavlidis, and Dan Turkenkopf. “Introducing Deserved Runs Average — And All Its Friends,” Baseball Prospectus, April 29, 2015. If Pavlidis’ work with Dan Brooks on pitch framing was the dominant piece of baseball research in 2014, then Pavlidis, along with Jonathan Judge and Dan Turkenkopf, has done it again. All they aim to do with DRA is provide the definitive replacement for ERA, along with FIP and other DIPS. DRA digs deep in order to “declare how many runs a pitcher truly deserved to give up, and to say so with more confidence than ever before.” In doing so, they build on the pitch-framing work to look not only to what occurred in each individual plate appearance, but also how well the pitcher controls the running game once batters reach base. DRA is as impressive as it is thorough, and while it undoubtedly will, like any new baseball statistic, undergo refinement in the future, it’s a development that seems like it really has the ability to change the landscape of baseball analysis. Broadcasters and analysts might never mention xFIP, UZR, or CSAA, but if anything’s going to follow OBP/OPS into the mainstream, DRA is as good a candidate as we’ve seen.

Meg Rowley, “Post-Moneyball’s Clubability,” Baseball Prospectus, November 4, 2015. Like many people in the business world, the folks running baseball teams tend to hire people they know, people who “speak[] the same language” they do. Rowley finds that last phrase “nearly as troubling in the figurative meaning as if it were literal,” noting that, “at the heart of the push for front office and managerial diversity is the desire to expand the range of common language.” In fact, Rowley points out, preferring baseball’s incumbent “language” could mean missing out on finding the uncommon edge that allows a team to advance to the World Series. The rise of those who view baseball with analytical eyes, and speak of it with similar tongues, threatens to create a new uniformity that is just as bad for the sport (and ripe for exploitation) as the general ignorance of analytics that preceded the present period. Front-office intellectual homogeneity, Rowley asserts, breeds homogeneity of other varieties: “after a decade of painful progress to advance women and minorities to positions of authority, a generation of Ivy Leaguers are falling into the exact same traps: showing a predilection for “Clubability,” as Michael Lewis called it, over something new, something innovative, or even something marginally uncomfortable.” To put a finer point on it, Rowley believes that, “by ignoring intellectual diversity and a broad pool of potentially qualified candidates,” teams are sacrificing wins. To remedy this, Rowley proposes two practical reforms: 1) mandate entry-level fellowship positions for women and people of color that include mentorship components and pay “a living wage,” and 2) enhance the Selig Rule, which currently directs teams to “consider” minority candidates when hiring for all general manager, assistant general manager, field manager, director of player development and director of scouting positions, by requiring actual interviews of such candidates, rather than mere consideration of them.

Read about the other thirteen nominees, see my ballot, and cast your vote here.



2 thoughts on “The Best Baseball Research of the Past Year

  1. Pingback: Sounding off on the 2016 MLB season | ALDLAND

  2. Pingback: The Best Baseball Research of the Past Year | ALDLAND

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