Sabermetrics: What They Are and Why They Matter To You

by AJ Pettersen · 3 comments

I have been a baseball nut my entire life. While the game is boring to many, it strikes a chord with me. The intricacies of what happens on the field never cease to amaze me. Baseball has been known as a sport of statistics since its inception. In no other sport are statistics followed so closely. For a number of years, they were merely derived from box scores. Big home run hitters, base stealers and strikeout pitchers dominated the league leaders. Recently, a man named Bill James turned these traditional statistics on their head. By introducing Sabermetrics to the game of baseball, James changed the way general managers and front office personnel view their employees.

What are They?

Sabermetrics uses traditional and modern statistics and molds them into something more tangible. These revolutionary stats can show how much or little one contributes on defense and also how many runs they helped create throughout the season.

While statistics used to only show half of the story, Sabermetrics attempts to show the entire thing. Power hitters who were once thought to be huge contributors are now often seen as defensive liabilities. Fielders with good fielding percentages are now highly sought after for their fantastic range. Sabermetrics have essentially placed values on items that were previously ignored. The name of the game is wins and losses and these statistics can be an effective predictor of overall record.

If America’s pastime and most traditional sport can have a statistical revolution, what is in store for the rest of the world?

How it is Affects You

Businesses are always looking for an edge. No doubt, some have already begun to use statistical analysis to determine which employees are the most productive, but are there more ways in which a company can do this? Are there statistical models that can predict how well an employee will do with a certain company?

In economics we use widgets per hour as the standard for employee productivity. In the real world, things are quite different. If you are a manager or business analysts at a company like Target, your productivity is more complex than “widgets per hour.” While there may be some quantifiable statistics regarding your progress, your effect on others is largely omitted. Companies may use surveys to see how well employees are getting along and working together. Do you see this in your line of work? Does your company use statistics to determine your productivity?

In baseball, a statistical revolution has taken place. Players that are large contributors to wins are seen as more valuable regardless of their traditional statistics. Traditional business suggests those who are increasing sales, widgets per hour, etc are most productive, but what about unseen effects? What about the effect an employee has on others?

David’s Note: Many of us are in, or know of, some situations where there’s unfair compensation among co-workers. Do you think you will benefit if there’s a way to truly measure your affect on the company’s bottom line? Why or why not?

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  • Sam Samson says:

    In explaining sabermetrics you focus a lot on fielding, but in fact fielding is one of the areas that is still sabermetrically rather weak, as all of the current metrics are flawed. It’s probably more useful to say that sabermetrics have taught modern baseball folk to realize that not giving away outs is the main thing baseball players should try to do — as opposed to swinging for the fences, and not valuing walks etc.

    That said, an interesting analogy. I am writing a book that uses sabermetric style analysis in another different context, so obviously I agree with you that there is potential for this kind of thing.

  • Greg says:

    Nice piece. It is quite amazing how many dollars the big companies can put into the measurements of statistical things like this. I, like Charlotte, work at a smaller company. In a smaller company i believe these things are being measured, without being said. For instance, I work in Landscape Construction. If a person blows away his peers in production, but no one wants to work with him, what good is he truly? Things go much smoother, and more efficiently when people are happy to be at work, happy to help each other out, and feel like a team or family.

    I personally became a division manager in under 6 months at this company, taking the job of someone with more experience than me. I’m not saying that to toot my own horn, but I know for a fact it was my eagerness and positive attitude and not my experience that got him canned and put me in the driver’s seat. So of course, there is always more than meets me the eye; however, you should always realize that the eyes are watching you and taking in who you are as a person as well as what you accomplish in the field.

  • Good comparison. I work for a small company that doesn’t really measure our production. It’s all we can do to keep up.

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