Bill James was a baseball fanatic. He was the kind of 8 year old who spent hours reading box scores and writing about them – except he wasn’t 8, he was much older. And he didn’t really write interesting articles, more like the kind of articles only a marketing person gets excited about. sabermetrics

He became a night watchman at a pork-and-beans factory. While there he was able to spend the nights reading and calculating baseball statistics.

Unlike most writers, his pieces did not recount games in epic terms or offer insights gleaned from interviews with players. A typical James piece posed a question (e.g., “Which pitchers and catchers allow runners to steal the most bases?”), and then presented data and analysis written in a lively, insightful, and witty style that offered an answer. Editors considered James’ pieces so unusual that few believed them suitable for their readers.

The term James created to measure all of these stats and information was Sabermetrics. Imagine being so good at marketing and measuring successes that you got to name a whole analytical genre! 

Eventually baseball noticed.

The famous book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a book by Michael M. Lewis, published in 2003, about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane.  Its focus is the team’s modernized, analytical, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team.roger-clemens-comparison

The Boston Red Sox hired James soon after and credit him with helping to end the 86 year drought of a World Series title.

He is still Boston’s Senior Advisor for Baseball Operations, and a hero to all of us who deal with metrics and analytics.

What are you going to do today to change the way the world views metrics and analytics?

Watch Bill James on 60 Minutes here.

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