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Bill Simmons on Stats and Sabermetricians

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Three groups are involved … Group A: Smart people with mathematical backgrounds figuring out new ways to evaluate sports. Group B: Smart people without mathematical backgrounds determining which of these advances are more useful than others. Group C: Outsiders (fans and media members) figuring out how to digest these concepts without being overwhelmed by them. Group A desperately cares about winning Group B over and doesn't worry enough about Group C sometimes. Group B deals with Group A because they want to improve their product to make Group C happy. And Group C is splintered into different sub-groups of people who either love this stuff, tolerate it or openly loathe it. If there's been a trend over the past few years, it's that Group A openly resents anyone in Group C who doesn't embrace them and/or willfully ignores their data (even undeniably useful information like strand rates or BABIP). ------------------------ That's where the statistical movement sits in 2010. The previous decade was about sabermetricians winning the respect of the mainstream sports media (a work in progress, but it's mostly happened) and the teams themselves (definitely happened). ------------------------ We knew something shifted in baseball a few years ago; it's definitely happening in basketball right now. Whether it transforms the other sports remains to be seen. I do think we could reach a ceiling with performance-related formulas some day soon -- if we're not getting there already -- and complicated analysis will shift to less definable quantities like injury recovery and behavior. But that's a few years away. As I mentioned at the conference, the big challenge for sabermetricians this decade will be learning how to educate a mainstream audience in a relatable and entertaining way. Easier said than done.

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