I did a radio spot on 610 WIP in Philadelphia this morning. I’m not in Philly so I don’t listen to that station, obviously, but they’re always really fun when I stop by and I enjoy chatting with them. It was particularly enjoyable today when HardballTalk was described as “a subsidiary of ProFootballTalk” which was a new one for me. But, hey, as long as Florio’s monster traffic keeps paying the bills they can call me his butler for all I care. I digress.
The last question they hit me with was “gun to your head: assuming for the sake of argument that all three were fresh and available for Game Seven of the World Series, who would you start if you were managing the Phillies: Halladay, Hamels or Oswalt?”
I think I let one ten millionth of a microsecond pass, but then I said “Roy Halladay. No doubt about it. I wouldn’t even blink.” The response from the host: “Sorry, but the answer is Cole Hamels! Thanks for playing!”
Hurm. I can’t decide if they were just messing with me or if they really think that Hamels should get the start in a critical game over an equally-rested Roy Halladay.
This has been bothering me for the past two hours, in fact. They were messing with me, right?
If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.
While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.
The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.
A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.
A great read and a great history lesson.