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Background and Glossary

SABERMETRICS is a neologism created by Bill James, currently working as an analyst for the Boston Red Sox baseball club, to describe the statistics underlying his baseball writing. He defined it as ‘the search for objective truth about baseball’. He derived the word from the acronym for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Sabermetrics began by using traditional statistics in new ways in order to explain what makes a winning team and what a losing one, or to give a quantified estimate as to how good a player is. We try to figure out ways to apply these principles to cricket. Like sabermetrics, this remains something of a work in progress, although we have a lot further to go than our baseball counterparts. Sabermetrics in baseball has passed from a ‘lunatic fringe’ in the 1970s to being part of the way some clubs choose players or plan strategy–the Boston Red Sox, the Oakland Athletics, and the Toronto Blue Jays are just some of the major league clubs whose thinking is influenced by Sabermetrics.

Here are some explanations and definitions of things you’ll read on our blog, as well as some more familiar terms to help out those new to cricket.

B

Batting Average is a calculation worked out by

Runs Scored/(Innings Batted - Times Not Out).

Bowling Average is a calculation worked out by

Runs Scored/Wickets Taken.

Batting Overs Per Inning (BO/I for short) is a calculation that shows how the number of balls faced by a batsman converts into overs. It enables a more direct comparison between a batsman’s and a bowler’s figures.

E

Endurance shows the average number of overs that a bowler bowls during a Test or a Series or a Year.

F

Four-Year Average The averages for a player that you’ll read in Wisden or cricket annuals or elsewhere normally are for a single year or for an entire career. We believe that a more accurate estimate of current ability is attained by using an average over four years. We chose four years because that was the traditional cycle for Ashes series, which used to be the acme of a Test series. England’s recent showings against the Ockers and the creation of the ICC test championship have hung a question mark onto whether a four-year cycle remains a good idea; but since players gearing themselves up for Ashes series remains an historical fact we’ll stick with it for a little while, if only to compare like with like when we talk about Steve Waugh and Douglas Jardine.

I

Innings Average Batting Average (q.v.) is the traditional measure of a batsman’s ability, and it’s a good one. But one thing it doesn’t do is tell you exactly what the average score by a batsman is in his innings. So we use the Innings Average, which is

Runs Scored/ Innings Batted

 M

Match Score is a development of our own from a ‘fun’ statistic called Game Score introduced for baseball pitchers by Bill James in his 1988 Baseball Abstract. The Game Score awarded points according to a pitcher’s performance in such categories as strike outs, runs, and innings pitched. The Match Score similarly calculates a bowler’s performance based on an ‘average’ performance worth 50 points.

 O

Overs Average (OA) shows how many runs a batsman scores per six balls faced. It’s not necessarily good to have a high OA, unless you have a high BO/I (q.v.), too.

Overs to 10 Wickets (O/10W) shows how many overs it would take for a bowler to garner all ten wickets. It will indicate a bowler who could usefully be bowled more, or another bowler who might be better bowled less. 

R

Runs per Innings (R/I) is a calculation that shows the average number of runs a bowler surrenders during an innings.

Runs per Scoring Over (R/SO) shows how many runs a bowler gives up per over after the number of maidens bowled is deducted from his total overs. You might want to bowl a bowler with a high R/SO for short spates, especially if he is a wicket-taker. On the other hand, a low R/SO bowler could be useful with the older ball.

 

W

Wickets per Innings (W/I) is a calculation that shows the average number of wickets a bowler takes during an innings.

© 2003 Phil Austin and Paul Brewer