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Sabermetrics for beginners: Links to get you started

On the tails of some (mildly) expressed lurker interest in learning more about sabermetrics during the South Side Sox open house, I've decided to compile some of my personal bookmarks and other useful resources to help simplify things. I share some links ‘round these parts, so naturally I am expert. Perhaps this can be a database. Or just a one-off. Either way, maybe a few more people will ask more questions and really get the sabermetric ball rolling. If you're only vaguely familiar with some of the more obscure terms and acronyms thrown around on here, well, it can be overwhelming. There is a lot to learn, of course, but there are also a host of White Sox fans willing to help with that process. Just read up a bit first, eh? The links below provide a ton of material, but it's all good stuff, I promise. For the sake of brevity, I'll try to keep my comments clipped.

So, new jack, what is sabermetrics? Where to start? What a coincidence. Fangraphs, perhaps the most-cited outside resource on SSS, recently asked themselves that exact question. The rest of the links are focused on the numbers, but it's a larger field than that to be sure. As you'll find, many of the sites mentioned below are extremely interesting; I highly encourage new users to simply dive in. Select a couple favorite players, use the search functions and click away in any and all directions. Reading stat descriptions is fine, but you'll learn a lot more by putting them to work for you.

Next, to start the technical descriptions, this is an excellent primer. Yep, it has 24 articles on 24 subjects, but it's concise (if you can believe that) and very easy to understand. The listed subjects are largely concerned with player value, which is good since that's probably where most discussions and arguments originate. Those articles give us the meat and potatoes background behind concepts such as Wins Above Replacement. For some quick references, use the Fangraphs library. I've linked to a few of more frequently used stats and concepts below.


I suppose it's cheating a bit, but we really do get a lot of information from Fangraphs. Some essentials:

OPS and OPS+ (with a disclaimer), BABIP, groundball, fly ball and line drive percentages, and strike-out and walk percentages. We'll let colintj explain wOBA.

Other good resources: Hit Tracker is basically a home run database. One of the more "fun" websites here.

For the armchair managers, custom lineup analysis.


More Fangraphs stuff. It's basically unavoidable, and if I tried to be more creative with these links the information likely wouldn't be as good.

WHIP (there's that disclaimer again); Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), on which fWAR (or Fangraphs WAR) for pitchers is based; strike-out and walk rates; groundball, fly ball and line drive rates; and home run per fly ball rates.

Also, It's not strictly pitching, but Texas Leaguers uses PITCHf/x data to give you, the consumer, basically whatever you want. Search by a player, batter or pitcher, and you can pull up customized (and very specific) pitch location, velocity and movement charts, spray charts, pitch results... everything. If you're looking to deconstruct an at-bat or a pitcher's performance, this is your site. Before you jump to conclusions about your findings, though, read this precaution.


From colin again, this time about Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). Also sometimes cited is the Fan Scouting Report, a defensive measurement by the fans, which Fangraphs now includes on each players' page. Not available to the public yet, but hopefully on the horizon, we have FIELDf/x, with a more in-depth preview here.

WAR and expectancy:

fWAR and bWAR, or baseball-reference WAR, otherwise known as rWAR. He's a graphic difference between the two in scale.

Run expectancy, a context-neutral stat, is one of my favorites. Here's a couple charts in different eras, contrasted to last year alone. Win expectancy is a bit more complex, but makes for many fantastic graphs, such as this from game six of the 2011 World Series.

Others links:

Ballpark dimensions (the written numbers are accurate, while the ones displayed in the graphic are not for some reason). Park factors explained; ESPN has them for every year, but definitely take those rankings with large chunks of salt. I just found these convenient day-of-game factors; if nothing else, it's convenient to see where the wind is going. Since we often talk value, Cot's is probably the most trusted source for salary information. And, especially early in the season, we're always worried about a large enough sample size; here larry provides an assist.

Alright. It's entirely too late, I'm still sick and this took a lot longer than expected. If one person makes it halfway through the Lookout Landing guides, though, it was worth it. Commenters, feel free to add more sabermetric-inclined links and resources in the comments, and editors should feel free to edit.