This is a question I have asked before, and Bill Simmons touched on some relevant answers in a recent mailbag:
We knew something shifted in baseball a few years ago; it’s definitely happening in basketball right now. Whether it transforms the other sports remains to be seen. I do think we could reach a ceiling with performance-related formulas some day soon — if we’re not getting there already — and complicated analysis will shift to less definable quantities like injury recovery and behavior. But that’s a few years away. As I mentioned at the conference, the big challenge for sabermetricians this decade will be learning how to educate a mainstream audience in a relatable and entertaining way. Easier said than done.
There are some quantifiable areas that have yet to be fully explored, with defensive metrics still waiting for technologies such as Hit f/x to help take them to the next, more accurate level. However, there are some elements of the game, particularly offensive production and pitching, where the innovation seems to be about building upon existing ideas and adding a higher degree of accuracy rather than reinventing the wheel.
Outside of defense, where might we see some revolutionary ideas? Simmons mentions behavior and health, and I think health in particular will become a new frontier for statistical analysts, as we try and predict injuries based on workloads, pitch and swing types, and other observable factors. Teams that can find some measure of predictability in terms of player durability will find themselves at a strong advantage when it comes to building an effective, consistent team. Injury projections represent a logical evolution of the “Moneyball” philosophy that encourages teams to exploit market inefficiencies.
Where do you think the sabermetric revolution will take us next?
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