November 08, 2002

GAMES BY JAMES: In perhaps

GAMES BY JAMES: In perhaps the biggest shocker of its kind since Pauline Kael left the New Yorker for Hollywood in 1978, the Boston Red Sox announced yesterday that they have hired the legendary baseball statistician Bill James as a senior adviser.
James, in his annual "Baseball Abstract" books in the 1980s, invented the field known as sabermetrics, which has had as much effect on the way baseball has been managed in recent years than perhaps anything else. Sabermetrics is the reason that managers and GMs now refer to on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS (OBP + SP) as the most important statistics, even more than batting average, RBIs, or home runs. Promiment adherrents include columnist Rob Neyer and such general managers as Billy Beane of Oakland, J.P. Ricciardi, and Kevin Towers of San Diego- all of whom, not coincidentally, were candidates for the Sox's still-vacant GM position.
The knock on sabermetrics and those who adhere to it is that many of them (like Mike Gimble, who previously held a similar position with the Red Sox) don't actually watch or care about the game, and only see it as Matrix-like numbers. But certainly no one can accuse Bill James of being like that- anyone who has read him knows that of course he loves the game. Peter Gammons (who has been criticized for not being on board with sabermetrics) said that he thinks James' hiring may prove to be the most important of the year, and I tend to agree.

Posted by Stephen Silver at November 8, 2002 12:41 AM
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