Sabermetrics and the Future of Baseball Writing


With the advancement of sabermetrics in baseball has come a lot of changes. With change usually comes good and bad. Some pros and some cons. In today’s internet age there’s rarely ever a fan who can’t resort to WAR when comparing two players. I forgot who, but I once read that even today’s biggest baseball idiot isn’t that much of an idiot. I definitely have to agree with this due to the sabermetric age.

I bet your OPS went sky high after this. (Image : John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports)

I recently had a very short conversation with a friend who doesn’t really get majority of his sports information off the web. He relies on the major networks like ESPN and the league’s respective networks. We’ve talked about sabermetrics and the concept of them, but he hasn’t really come around. Today even ESPN shows these new statistics that have taken the internet by storm. However, a few still rely on the simple numbers. In all honesty I’m okay with that, and I don’t mind that some people don’t use sabermetrics. It’s okay to be a fan of the standards statistics, but you just can’t dismiss the new wave of statistics that is sabermetrics.

However, today everyone is an expert. If you can find sites like Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs, then you have all the numbers at your disposal to copy and paste into the comment section of any baseball forum. Which is fine to make a point in a comment section. Though, now I’m starting to see a lot of this in baseball writing. A whole paragraph dedicated to reciting numbers off a website. Is this really what baseball writing has become? Just a stat-based discussion with little in between? What bothers me is that I am guilty of this at times. Sometimes I feel that I ad lib my way through an article because many of the terms sound the same after a few years of analysis.

There is a cyclic pattern here that I realized the other day when reading other prominent MLB sites. In the comment section a thread stated how WAR was bogus. Then another commentator joined the discussion stating how it was not. It ended up with words I’m very familiar with when it comes to WAR. “WAR is a valuable tool, but shouldn’t be the be all and end all.” Every anti-WAR conversation ends that way. It’s gotten to the point where it’s boring.

Now, not all writers do this. Perhaps my favorite baseball writer of all-time, Joe Posnanski, is the best example of what every writer should strive to be. A writer who can state his numbers, but that won’t be the content of the article. He seems to make a point without even using the numbers. There is a story to be told in almost all of his posts, which make his writing so enjoyable to read. Someone who can make a clear point using stats does have talent. They have the evidence to prove themselves correct. But someone who can prove a point with a story involved has a special talent. What I’m trying to say is that sabermetrics has closed our minds more than it has opened them. If even the simplest of commentators are analysts, then we need to creatively separate ourselves.