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June 7, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

Spreading the Word

by Joe Sheehan

It's good to be back, now that we have all regained consciousness.

As many of you know, ESPN.com columnist Peter Gammons referenced Clay Davenport's EqA rankings here at Baseball Prospectus in his June 3 column. For Gammons, long a target of our barbs over the years, to reference Clay's work represents a significant step forward for him, a step that follows his apparent embrace of OBP and his repeated references to OPS as a tool for player comparison. Gammons deserves a lot of credit for the change in his work over the past six months.

But more importantly, the reference is a milestone for performance analysis. For a long time now, I've personally been hammering the point that it doesn't matter what progressive metric someone uses, be it OPS or Runs Created or Equivalent Average or VORP or Extrapolated Runs. What matters is getting the people in power and the people covering the game to recognize that these tools exist and that any and all of them are better than the traditional metrics.

With the work of Billy Beane in Oakland and Dan O'Dowd in Colorado, and the introduction of OPS and EqA into the work of the media through people like Mark Wolfson and, now, Gammons, we're starting to see this happen. The points that performance analysts have been pounding for years are slowly starting to make inroads: strike-zone judgment is an increasingly appreciated skill for batters. Pitchers are being handled with greater care. No, these things aren't happening everywhere--hi, Dusty--but they are happening and they will happen more as the teams that embrace these concepts have success and the media outlets that push a higher level of baseball coverage get positive feedback.

Saturday was another victory for the Empiricists. The war isn't over, but when we tell our kids about it, winning this battle will be one of the better tales.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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