As a baseball writer, I am a frequent visitor of such websites as baseball-reference and FanGraphs, and it never fails. My initial reaction is always one of being hit by the staggering amount of information and the many complicated ways of looking at this information that exists for baseball and which is unprecedented for any other sport played by humankind. And then after I shake this sensation off, I dive right in, swimming through an ocean of BABIP, and ISO, and Rtz, and K/BB rates for left-handed relief pitchers with three days’ rest during weekend games in the month of June when throwing a changeup to the sixth spot in the strikezone grid against batters with a leg kick higher than two inches off of the ground.
When I was growing up, there was a pretty simple explanation of the baseball world. The Periodic Table had been filled in by then with all of the naturally found elements — home runs, RBI, stolen bases, errors, earned runs, hit batters, etc. The mathematicians of baseball had already constructed simple equations that had long been used and depended upon, like H/AB=BA, which could do things like assign a value to a batter so as to help a general manager build a winning roster, but now, now the quantum world of baseball performance has been discovered, and the sport is, as they like to say, a whole new ballgame. Now we know every hitter’s Batting Average on Balls in Play When Swinging at a 0-2 Curveball. We know which minor league pitchers are on the cusp of getting a few more rotations on their spin rate in order to maximize the Magnus Effect on their curveball and turn it into something special.
We have left the old world behind and have now entered an era where statisticians have at last produced a grand unification theory, dubbed “WAR,” that combines every outcome that has been documented of a player’s performance on the field, on both defense and offense, and it assigns an overall value of that player’s complete worth. And in secret analytics laboratories deep in bunkers miles underneath every Major League stadium, there are scores of statistical geniuses running binary simulations and theorizing about the mysteries of how to most effectively steal a base, about which shifts against which batters in which counts on what pitch thrown by which of their pitchers will eke out an extra 1.2576 wins per season.
And these theoretical statisticians who run their computerized experiments are on the cusp of completing their Manhattan Project that will unleash the power of the perfect training techniques, the innovative strategies, and the optimal roster components that will make their team better, by far, than even the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates. That is, until the analytics departments of the other franchises are able to understand what has been discovered and begin to build their own super teams. But that will only increase the fervor of the computer code statisticians submerged deep in their bunkers to smash the quarks and leptons of baseball analysis into even smaller and smaller pieces and discover, perhaps, the gravitons or dark matter or vibrating strings that have been thought to exist in order to stay one step beyond the other 29 franchises and claim the Commissioner’s Trophy that is awarded at the end of each season to the last team standing.