Stat junkies unite at SABR Convention in Long Beach
Media panel from LA Times, Baseball-Reference discuss the future of baseball information.
Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 15:07
It had been 31 years before the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) had its annual convention in the Los Angeles area.
This year, however, the Long Beach Hilton had its share in the spotlight as baseball geeks and stat junkies gathered from July 6 through July 10 to talk about "sabermetrics" (advance statistical research in baseball) at the 41st annual SABR convention.
The convention itself was like no other. This wasn't an event like Comic-Con where fans dressed up as their favorite comic book superhero, or in this case, their favorite baseball player, and enjoyed the festivities. This was a place for research.
"Here at SABR 41, fans will be able to experience the third and fourth-oldest ballparks in the major leagues," SABR President Andy McCue said. "[They'll be able to] hear from top baseball figures such as [agent] Scott Boras, and enjoy the usual round of groundbreaking research presentations, research committee meetings and socializing with friends."
Inside the Hilton, on the second floor from the main lobby, there were presentation boards, including one that was titled "How foul balls correlate to specific outs."
Research committee meetings on Thursday featured research from "The Deadball Era" to "Meeting Latino Players" and "Black Sox Scandal."
Boras, a celebrity sports agent whose list of clients include former Long Beach State Dirtbag, Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels and Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, was the keynote speaker for Thursday's session.
Boras receives a lot of flack from the media because of his tedious negotiations that result his clients receiving a large sum of money. Experts say this tarnishes the game of baseball today, but Boras calls it "trying to find the right cost" for his client.
He was candid during his presentation, and even let attendees in on some of the most advanced statistical measurements he implements when finding a potential client.
The highlight of last Thursday's session belonged to the media panel, which consisted of Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton; Bill Squadron of Bloomberg Sports; managing editor Dave Cameron of the advanced baseball statistical site Fangraphs; and Sean Forman, the founder for the premier baseball statistical website Baseball-Reference.
The discussion focused on where people will be going to get their baseball information a decade from now.
Stanton said that he would like to see more advanced stats in the dying breed of newspapers, which may increase readership. Cameron and Forman both viewed the Internet as the top medium, and are attempting to make their sites as user friendly as possible.
"I'm always trying to make the website better in anyway," said Forman, whose website also features stats for hockey, football, and basketball. "Baseball is the most advanced thus far, and [most] popular, but right now, I'm trying to mesh the other sports to reach that level as well."
Forman added: "I like to talk to people and jot down ideas."
This is true. Forman spoke to fans and even jotted down notes on his green notebook when they had a suggestion for the site.
For the average fan, however, Cameron admitted that advanced metrics in baseball may not be for everyone.
"I'm never one to tell a person straightforward to go on Fangraphs because advanced stats are the thing now," Cameron said in between laughs. "It's a preference, but it doesn't hurt to get viewers so I can get paid."
Sabermetrics may not be the norm for a while, but people are beginning to take more notice. After all, it's been 41 years, and SABR hasn't appeared to have shown any signs of slowing down.