The Numbers Game

New-School Baseball Stats From A to Z

Whirlpool theory: James theorizes that human nature pulls teams toward mediocrity: Bad (or disappointing) teams are aggressive in addressing their problems, while good teams tend to get complacent and often fail to address their needs. Sabrefact: Despite Bud Selig's protestations to the contrary, there's more parity. In 2000, for the first time ever, not one team finished with a winning percentage below .400 or above .600.

Yount, Robin: What's the most important thing you want to know about a rookie hitter? His age. Players like Yount, who break into the majors as teenagers, have a propensity to become very good major leaguers. Older rookies—say, Lou Piniella—have almost no chance to develop into Hall of Famers. Sabrefact: The top five in batting average among players through age 20 are four Hall of Famers and a shoo-in: Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Alex Rodriguez, Ty Cobb, and Mel Ott.

Illustration by Dusan Petricic

Zminda, Don: The majordomo of STATs Inc., the Chicago-based company that enabled more detailed analysis by scoring games in a far more detailed way, including, for example, where every ball was hit. STATs Inc. also made sabremetrics a business by publishing the ubiquitous Stats Handbooks and the annual Baseball Scorecard.

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