2017 Reds / Baseball - General

Bill James and the Origins of Sabermetrics

Bill James was in Cincinnati a couple weeks ago, speaking at Xavier for the Williams College of Business Distinguished Speaker Series. The semi-autobiographical talk, titled “Never Meant for that to Happen: How My Career Accidentally Disrupted a Market” focused on the humble beginnings of his career and the sabermetric movement. I was fortunate to hear about the event, and despite a complete lack of Xavier credentials was able to attend.

I had attempted to write up a summary of his talk (which was a challenge because I failed to take any notes), but since then Bill has posted his speech here on the free section of Bill James On Line. It is a long piece, but if you want to understand the origins of his work, and the early challenges to his approach (which as we are aware still exist to among prominent members of the Cincinnati sports media) it is a worthwhile read.

I will put in a plug for the Bill James Online, where for $3 a month you can interact with Bill, access to a wide variety of studies on baseball and other topics that interest him, additional talented writers and like here, a very smart community of readers and posters. Tom Tango is a regular poster, and a Dayton-based writer named Daniel Marks contributes excellent pieces (including a great summary of the event that is behind the paywall).

For me, it was a big thrill to meet a person whose work I had been reading for 35 years, and had a significant impact on my career in addition to my enjoyment of baseball.  Meeting your icons can be very intimidating, but Bill was quite gracious.  I’m not a big autograph collector, but this one is special:

BJ Baseball

Enjoy the speech.

2 thoughts on “Bill James and the Origins of Sabermetrics

  1. Amazing article. My parents bought me his 1987 version and It was my favorite book as a child. Fascinating to see in his speech that people inside baseball were buying who book and using his data well before we would have thought that was happening.

  2. I’ll have to check it out. Didn’t even know he was in town. Thanks for the heads-up… Those original Baseball Abstracts were fantastic. Just great stuff.

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