As Billy Beane himself once said: “my sh** doesn’t work in the playoffs.” At least I think he said that. Or someone said it about him and attributed it to him. Point being: sabermetrics circa 2002 had a reputation for producing good regular season results and not working when the small sample size postseason came around.
Happened again last night. Despite six nominations, it came home from last night’s Oscar’s telecast with zero awards. Poor Brad Pitt had to go home empty-handed, with nothing to keep him warm except Angelina Jolie, his amazingly handsome looks and piles upon piles of money. Must be hard to be him.
Can’t say it’s a snub. I never bought anything about “Moneyball” as Oscar bait. Good movie. Not great. Other than a subject matter that is geared toward people like me, there wasn’t really anything about that put it over the top. And besides, I stopped getting worked up over Oscar snubs when “Forrest Gump” beat “Pulp Fiction” back in the day, so this isn’t going to come even close to animating me.
Oscar thread, people. All yours.
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.