Digging deeper into the decline of African-Americans in major league baseball

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Last month we had a series of posts about how fewer African-Americans are playing major league baseball than they used to.  The context of all of this was the annual report in which Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida releases numbers which purport to show the decline.

Mark Armour, friend of HBT and baseball researcher extraordinaire, had done some research on this back in the day and was quoted in the New York Times and other places noting that Lapchick’s study overstated the decline because it was counting apples and oranges. Specifically, Lapchick was using data which lumped together U.S.-born blacks and black Latino players to represent overall black participation in the 1960s through the 1980s but excluding black Latino players from today’s game. That’s some bad science, my friend.

Well, Mark has gone back and re-done his research in order to (a) bring it up to date; and (b) control for some various variables. His report can be read at the SABR website today, and it’s absolutely fascinating, regardless of what you think about black participation in baseball.  The two key takeaways:

  • The percentage of African-Americans held steady between 16% and 19% between 1972 and 1996, but has since decreased by more than half. This is still obviously a sharp decline, but nothing approaching the 27% figure Lapchick usually cites; and
  • A non-trivial part of the decline can be attributed to the fact that the two positions which are least-commonly filled by black players — pitcher and catcher — now take up a greater number of roster spots than before due to changing pitcher usage patterns.

The second bit doesn’t change the overall thrust — there are still fewer black players and this is so for reason other than roster changes — but it’s really, really neat and I had not thought about it before.

I highly recommend Mark’s very readable and very insightful article. Both for its own sake and because it throws some actual research into an area that is so often polluted with politics.

Danny Farquhar taken to hospital after fainting in dugout

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White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar passed out in the dugout after completing his outing against the Astros on Friday evening. The cause of the incident has yet to be determined, but Farquhar was supervised by the club’s medical personnel and EMTs and regained consciousness before being taken to Rush University Medical Center for further treatment and testing. A diagnosis has not been announced by the team.

Farquhar pitched 2/3 of an inning in relief during Friday’s 10-0 loss to Houston. He was brought in to relieve James Shields in the top of the sixth inning and was immediately bested by George Springer, who belted a ground-rule double down the right field line and scored Brian McCann and Derek Fisher for the Astros’ sixth and seventh runs of the night. He recovered to strike out Jose Altuve, but was again punished with a two-run homer from Carlos Correa (his first of two), and induced a fly out to end the inning.

The 31-year-old righty pitched just 7 1/3 innings with the club prior to Friday’s performance, issuing four hits, three runs, two homers and eight strikeouts in seven appearances.