Cooperstown Chronicles – Bill James & Pete Palmer
Photo courtesy of TSN Archives/Icon SMI
Famar, a friend of mine from the Sporting News community, suggested I profile statistician Bill James and Pete Palmer. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Here are my findings.
Obviously this is a little different than analyzing a player or a manager, but Bill James certainly has left his mark on the game, or at least how the game is viewed. Famar’s point, which I feel is a valid one, is that if broadcasters and journalists are worthy of the HOF, maybe statisticians should be honored as well. Bill James is a master of Sabermetrics, which is a way of analyzing future performance based on past statistics. Bill James has a lengthy résumé of his works that dates back to The Bill James Baseball Abstract in 1977. There are several tools that teams, fans, and baseball writers who have the honor of deciding who is inducting into the Hall of Fame. If you have been following the Cooperstown Chronicles you may have noticed I started adding Hall of Fame Yardsticks to help illustrate my case for the subject at hand. Bill James developed these yardsticks (Black-Ink Test, Gray-Ink Test, HOF Standards, and HOF Monitor). He also is the creator of the following stats: Runs Created, Range Factor, Defensive Efficiency Record, Similarity Scores, Power/Speed Number, and others.
He gained some credibility when Billy Beane began using sabermetrics in conjuction with his Moneyball practices to help small-market Oakland stay competitive in the current high-dollar baseball climate. He moved into a more mainstream role when the Boston Red Sox to apply sabermetrics to their decisions. He got off to a bumpy start when the Red Sox employed the Bullpen by Committee, but that could very well been more a reflection on the talent, or lack thereof, that Boston was utilizing. While I won’t contribute all or even the majority of the Red Sox’ recent success to Bill James, it is worth noting that they have won two World Series in four years following an 86 year drought.
Pete Palmer has also left his thumbprint on the way baseball is analyzed. He first broke on the scene when he discovered that Nap Lajoie was the 1910 Batting Champ rather than Ty Cobb, who was originally credited with the title. His premier work is The Hidden Game of Baseball, which shows some of the sabermetrics in play while explaining their relevance. He is credited with coming up with the OPS statisitc, where you combine On-base % and Slugging % , which helps determine a players offensive value.
Baseball wouldn’t be baseball without the stats and the analysis of those stats. Bill James and Pete Palmer are legendary statisticians that helped shape baseball as we know it today. I think their contributions should not go unnoticed. They should both be inducted into the Hall of Fame under the Pioneer/Executive category.
Jim Bunning *
Jimmie Dykes (Player/Manager)
Charlie Grimm (Player/Manager)
Whitey Herzog (Manager)
Ralph Houk (Manager)
Shoeless Joe Jackson
Tom Kelly (Manager)
Billy Martin (Player/Manager)
Gene Mauch (Manager)
Buck O’Neill & Minnie Minoso
Pee Wee Reese
Red Schoendienst* (Player/Manager)
George Van Haltren
* Signifies actual Hall of Famer