Monday, June 22, 2009

And Again...

Today I received my copy of the Baseball Research Journal, 2009 Volume 1 from SABR. As I have said before, the increase in the quality of the BRJ from the mid-90s to now has been remarkable, and much credit is due to the contributors as well as to SABR's publication directors. I look forward to reading it and I may devote a post down the road to my comments on particular articles.

However, escaping the continuing reuse of a particular offensive statistic appears to be too much to ask for. Quickly skimming the statistical pieces, I came across "Offensive Strategy and Efficiency in the United States and Dominican Republic" by Robert J. Reynolds and Steven M. Day, which appears to be a study of the shape of offensive performance of American and Dominican batters. Just flipping through it, the graph "Plate Appearance Base Average" caught my eye and raised my suspicions.

Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed. This is yet another presentation of bases/something, this time bases/plate appearance. The authors write "...we use on-base percentage and introduce the statistic plate-appearance base average as a plate-appearance analog to slugging percentage. PABA is calculated as the sum of the bases achieved in three categories--hitting (TB), BB, and HBP--divided by the total number of plate appearances: (TB + BB + HBP)/TPA...PABA is similar to bases per plate appearance and runs created, though these later include stolen bases, and advancing other players through sacrifices."

At least one can rejoice that they are not claiming to be the originators of this statistic as many others have. It appears as if they use both OBP and PABA to determine overall effectiveness, which at least somewhat defuses a major downfall of bases/PA in isolation, which is that it does not properly account for outs. Still, it would be nice to be spared the "introduction" of bases/PA, and it would be nice to see a better metric used as the primary offensive measure.

Last week, I linked to a new website, the Barry Code, which features the work of Barry Codell, the creator of Base-Out Percentage, which was one of the first bases/something metrics and the first bases/out metric. Many others have come along with bases/out metrics (most famously Tom Boswell's Total Average), but Codell was the first. While I have my qualms about any base/something metric, bases/out is certainly the "better" form (better in the sense that it better captures a player or team's true offensive efficiency), and at the very least was a nifty idea at the time of its introduction. It is a continuing frustration of mine that people keep re-"inventing" these measures, with seemingly no knowledge of the work of others that went before them, which in the internet age can be discovered with a cursory Google search.

To be fair, Messrs. Reynolds and Day don't fall into this category exactly, as they make no claim to developer status. Still, the relentless recycling of bases/PA (and re-invention of bases/out) remains one of my top sabermetric pet peeves.


  1. Looks like I have something to look forward to seeing in the mail as well. Thanks for the early insights on the BRJ!

  2. Don Sevcik here from the again. First off, my hats off to you on another great article. I have conversations with folks who are not Base/Out proponents, and our point of agreement is always the solid research and unbiased delivery found in your articles. Both sides thank you for that. It's inspiring to see more and more public credit given to Mr. Codell as the founder of Bases/Outs, even from fans I talk to who are not proponents of the Base/Out school of thought.

    [Start soapbox]Now, on to the point in your article about the recent uptick in the Bases formulas being spread around. My belief is that 2010 will be the Return to Efficiency. Much like the economy, the American People are tired of spending tall coin without seeing some value returned for their dollar. This is why I think the Base/Out craze is growing as of late. If you, I, or any American showed up to their job 2 out of 10 times (.200), surely we would be fired with dizzying quickness. This is why the Base/Out frenzy continues. While the homerun is fascinating, I'm not sure the average fan wants to shell out that kind of money to see (maybe) 1 homerun in 4 At Bats. They want to see action, from start to finish, especially the fans who come to see 1 player in particular.

    If owners started paying by bases converted to run production, I believe in my heart of hearts that the fans and baseball in general would be in better shape. I appreciate Pete Rose's hard nosed play as much as the next guy, but the fact remains is that he made just under 10,000 outs in his career. Take a relatively low key guy like Shin-Soo Choo; here is a guy in 2008 that the owners and fans only had to pay just over $6,000 per every base translated into a run.

    I wouldn't be doing justice to the argument if I didn't present the opposing side. I'll be the first person to admit that guys like Pete Rose, Sammy Sosa, etc. draw in fans because of an electric personality or the possiblity of that one big homerun or play. I think certain players, even with weak BOP's, BAM's, or GOD's will always bring in the fans and I can respect that.[end soapbox]

    As always, excellent work on the article, and have a great week.


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