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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Baseball's Secret Formula

As I'm sure many of you did I watched Baseball's Secret Formula last night. My overall review is positive because I think it did justice to the basic ideas of sabermetrics on a level that the general viewer could understand. Unfortunately my wife is out of town and didn't get to see it because I wanted to use her as a test case for gauging the program's understandability if you will.

Visually, the program was very well put together and included helpful graphics along the way (except for the senseless equations that would popup in the background from time to time). Concepts like runs created, linear weights, win shares, run expectancy, similarity scores, and win probability were all presented in a way that made sense. The biography of Bill James, the interview with Sandy Alderson and Alan Schwarz's contributions were also very good. My favorite part, however, were the comments by Terry Francona as he asserted that baseball as an industry is behind the times and that he's open to discussing issues with James; they even showed the two of them talking apparently during spring training.

As expected the show stressed that these ideas came from outsiders and James had a nice short description of using the outside perspective while the screen showed his image appearing in many seats in the grandstand. I was a little disappointed that similarity scores were given what to me was a weight way beyond their importance in the performance analysis community. I assume the producers of the show did that because they were trying to tie in the Hall of Fame somehow. As a writer for BP that's where performance projection ala PECOTA should have been discussed.

The show ended with a nice discussion of the inadequacies of fielding statistics and an interview with John Dewan that discussed how BIS collects fielding data published in The Fielding Bible.

I'd be interested to hear what others thought...

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