Diversity vs. Achievement in Baseball Stats Analysis
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As we all know, diversity is our strength and the more Intersectional Pokemon Points somebody possesses, the more merit they have.

Except … in fields where there really is obviously sizable progress, such as in computer chip design during the Moore’s Law Era (1960-~2010) or in baseball statistics analysis in the Sabermetrics era (1975-?), the heavy lifting is done largely by white guys with some Asian guys pitching in.

That doesn’t mean The Diverse don’t contribute anything, but it’s worth looking at the one woman who made substantive contributions to baseball statistics during its heroic amateur age in the last quarter of the 20th Century. From The Ringer:

The Sabermetric Movement’s Forgotten Foremother

You might not know Sherri Nichols’s name, but if you care about baseball, you’ve felt her influence on the game. Meet the woman whose precedent-setting work left a vital legacy in a field largely populated by men.

By Ben Lindbergh Feb 20, 2018, 6:20am EST

… On an off day during the New York Yankees’ championship run in October 2009, another then-intern for the team, Alex Rubin, and I passed a slow afternoon at the stadium in the nerdiest way imaginable: by creating a Sporcle quiz about the inventors of sabermetric statistics. Gchatting arcane names and acronyms across the small room where the other interns and we sat, we assembled a list of 60 sabermetric stats and the people who’d published them. …

It didn’t dawn on either of us at the time, but the inventors we’d identified had something in common: They were all men. We’d traced baseball’s statistical lineage over a span of several decades, from Allan Roth to Bill James to Tom Tango, and in sketching out that whole history, we hadn’t included one woman. …

Allan Roth was hired by the great Branch Rickey to be the Brooklyn Dodgers’ first statistician. His first game was April 15, 1947, which also was Jackie Robinson’s first game. The Dodgers won six of the next ten National League pennants.

But while in some ways it may not be surprising that sabermetrics would be such a boys’ club, in others it’s more glaring because the statistical side of the game is an area where on-field experience is less common and where critical thinkers who lack traditional baseball backgrounds have been the dominant demographic. Before breaking into baseball, Roth was a salesman; James, a night watchman; Tango, a computer programmer.

So now Lindbergh has done some more research and discovered a woman sabermetrics pioneer of the 1980s and 1990s who deserves to make his Top 60 list: Sherri Nichols. Ms.Nichols seems like a nice representative of the kind of woman who excels in a male-dominated field:

A lifelong sports fan, she embraced baseball early on as a means of bonding with her father, rooting for the then-dynastic Reds.

My impression is that a high percentage of high-achieving women in stereotypically male fields take after their dads. Having a traditional father around the house is extremely important to women who shatter glass ceilings. If you want your daughter to, as Chris Rock says, Stay Off the Pole, stick around.

For example, George Boole, the Victorian genius who invented the Boolean algebra that controls the computer on which you are reading this, had no sons and five daughters. Three were high achievers in male-oriented fields and the other two had children who were (e.g., one of Boole’s grandsons invented the Jungle Gym beloved by children).

Math, at which she always excelled, was another early love. She earned her undergrad degree in physics at Tennessee Tech and went to grad school for computer science at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates became her adopted team.

While at CMU in the mid-’80s, she enjoyed access to Usenet, a collection of bulletin-board-like newsgroups that functioned as the precursors to today’s internet forums. There, she stumbled across rec.sport.baseball, a hotbed of baseball analysis populated largely by a forward-thinking fringe influenced by James, whose annual Baseball Abstracts were then nearing the end of their run.

Besides her father being a big baseball fan, her husband, another Carnegie-Mellon grad student, was also really into baseball statistics.

Nichols and her husband, David, whom she met at CMU, had been introduced to the Abstracts through a friend of David’s, so r.s.b. was a welcome environment, full of like-minded thinkers who were still very much in the minority among fans.

I asked a Silicon Valley investor recently about Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. He said he’d studied the approximately 150 or so “unicorn” tech start-ups that had achieved a billion dollar valuation and only 3 had women co-founders. And all 3 were married to a cofounder.

Nichols did the coding for a groundbreaking stat called Defensive Average that was a big improvement over traditional fielding stats. It is, more or less, still used today.

1996 was the last season for which Nichols calculated DA; her daughter, Susan, had been born in 1995, and she says she drifted away from r.s.b. and baseball as she focused on parenting.

Keep in mind that it was extremely hard to get paid in the 1980s/1990s for doing advanced statistical analysis. The Nichols, husband and wife, had some meetings with the Pittsburgh Pirates front office a generation ago, but the club only offered freebies in return for doing analysis.

Most of the sabermetricians of the late 20th Century were doing it for the fun of it and in hopes of eventually getting hired by a big league team. (E.g., it took almost 30 years after Bill James started publishing his Baseball Abstract in 1975 for him to get hired by the Boston Red Sox.)

Today, however, there are about 225 salaried analysts employed by big league ballclubs and Lindbergh offers the names of 9 women who hold those jobs.

My impression is that smart women are more likely to be attracted to actual paying jobs than to death-or-glory hobbies where you might Change The World but will probably not get paid a dime.

[Comment at Unz.com]

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