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Computer-generated statistics score few points with OU's coach

Throughout the course of a baseball game, coach Joe Carbone has to make many decisions: who to start, who to pinch-hit or who to bring on to pitch with the game on the line.

For Carbone, these decisions come down to a hunch based on who has played well lately and whom he thinks can get the job done.

But a growing number of people are adopting a new way of answering of these questions: through the use of sabermetric statistics.

Sabermetrics is defined as,“the search for objective knowledge about baseball.”

It attempts to give an objective answer to those questions by predicting what certain batters or pitchers will do in a certain situation based on what they have done in the past.

The use of sabermetrics has recently become more prevalent in Major League Baseball and has been successfully utilized by teams such as the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland A’s. 

Despite the growing trend, Carbone said he does not buy into its popularity.

“I know who’s hitting what against left-handers and what against right-handers and who’s getting left-handers out and who’s getting right-handers out,” Carbone said. “But I don’t need to look at stats to see what I see.”

Some of the most prominent sabermetric stats used include on-base plus slugging (OPS), wins above replacement (WAR) and walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP).

According to History of Baseball Professor Matthew Gladman, these new stats are only different ways to quantify a player’s ability to get on base or to get batters out.

They also go beyond the limitations of the usual stats such as batting average and earned run average.

“The idea behind using sabermetrics is to be able to find players who make less outs,” Gladman said. “It’s pretty straightforward that if you have players who make less outs, your chances to score runs increases.”

Even with the success of some major league teams that have utilized sabermetric stats, Carbone said he does not use them, and does not believe their use is very widespread across college baseball.

“The exact stats of what one guy does doesn’t dictate what he’s going to do,” Carbone said. “He could have recorded those stats against really poor competition or against really good competition.”

One major use of the new stats at the professional level is to find players who can get on base in ways other than the home run.

With home-run numbers down in college baseball this year due to the new bats, Gladman said sabermetrics could be even more useful now.

“Everyone buys into the fact that it’s a slugger’s game,” Gladman said. “But if you don’t have the home-run hitters, you have to find a new formula to make your team competitive. That’s where sabermetrics comes into play.”

The Mid-American Conference does not keep any sabermetric stats at the moment, but Gladman said he believes the use of these stats is on the rise.

“RBI did not become an official stat until 1920, and saves were not official until 1969,” Gladman said. “Statisticians, owners, players and media are always looking for new ways to quantify baseball statistics.”

Despite its growing popularity, Gladman agreed that the use of sabermetrics might not yet be feasible in college baseball because of the lack of time and resources.

“It can give you the quantitative data, but sometimes you still have to play a hunch,” he said. “If everything worked out the way it should on paper, you wouldn’t have to play the games.”


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