Baseball, Sabermetrics and the Future – A Brief Essay
There is a new set of baseball stats coming which will not make the current ones obsolete, but which will be seen as the causal structure of the stats we now use. RBI, hitting percentage, pitching efficiency etc, will all be viewed as byproducts of a larger subset of sabermetric analysis which represent the fuller (true) explanation for why the bigger, more historic stats, are what they are.
In the same way an atom is explained by the interaction of protons, neutrons and electrons around a nucleus, which involves spin and orbit speed, so too will OBP be built up out of hitter acceleration, bat speed, first step, rotation rate and the like. You can still take OBP as the ratio of hits plus walks to AB’s, just as you can still say (accurately I might add) that material objects are built out atoms. But something more fundamental is on the horizon and that explanation will superseded those now used as the basis for baseball analytics.
The trick then, is finding a way to make that information actually useful to ball players and managers. It doesn’t do me much good in my day to day life to know that the atoms of which I’m comprised are themselves comprised of neutrons, electrons and protons. I accept that as a fact, but one that I have no control over and thus that makes no difference in my day-to-day life. Similarly, it’s hard to know how informing a pitcher his pitch was thrown with 2600 RPM will be viable knowledge that can be useful in throwing the next one. It may just be a brute fact.
Sabermetrics is a great way to get information – it is the future (and in some cases the present). How to then use that for increased performance is a question (and process) of which, I doubt we’ve scratched the surface.
– Ryan Tootell