A Primer on Primers: Beginning the Discussion on Sabermetric Education

Ever since Justin reached out to me about joining Beyond the Box Score, I've been struggling with a dilemma: how do you write "Intro. to Sabermetrics" pieces on a site where everyone is smarter than you? As it was pointed out in the comments of my introduction piece, there have already been countless primers written in the past - including ones written by gods of the saber-world like Graham McAree - so what would make this series unique? Explaining wOBA step-by-step is all well and good in most venues, but to this crowd, doing so would be akin to a college student stumbling into a class of PhD students and lecturing them on how a t-test works.

But instead of being another saber-primer series, my weekly columns will focus on the larger, more pressing issue: how we, as saberists, can best inform and educate non-saberists. Think about all the articles you read on a daily basis within the saber-sphere. How many of them are written for people new to sabermetrics? How many take the time to explain what the acronyms mean, or to explain the principles and research that they're referencing? Some writers do, but from what I see, most articles are written by people in the know for people in know.

Let me be clear: I'm not advocating that we dumb down articles and research to the lowest common denominator. Every site has a niche and there are enough writers out there that we can have a bit of everything: hardcore articles that cater to sabermetric researchers, middle-of-the-road articles that cater to the saber-inclined, and simple articles that cater to the newbies. As it stands now, though, I see the sabermetric community sitting in an awkward, in-between position: wanting to become more mainstream and accepted, yet not willing to reach out to the uneducated. We have the research pieces, we have the middle-of-the-road article - but where are the introductory pieces? And no, I'm not counting "Saber 101" posts.

So that's what I see this column as: a forum where we can discuss different ideas about how we, as a community, can reach out to newer readers. Some of the articles may come off similar to a saber-primer series (e.g. what are the best ways to teach about WAR?), but I hope to also discuss many of the roadblocks that make it tough to educate and ways around them. I want this to be a discussion, with everyone bringing their issues and insights to the table so we can best understand how we can become a more open community.

With that said, here's my first question for everyone. Say you're in an elevator with someone and they notice the [insert favorite MLB team here] hat you have on. You get into a conversation about baseball and somehow, it comes out that you're a fan of sabermetrics. The person immediately looks at you a little shifty and says something along the lines of, "Sabermetrics? You mean that movement with all the funny stats and numbers? Why should I trust that stuff?"

Since you're on an elevator, your answer has to be short and brief - ideally one or two sentences, one minute long max. How do you reach this man in so short a time, make him stop and challenge his preconceived thoughts on sabermetrics? How do you sum up everything that sabermetrics is in one or two sentences? What's your answer?

Steve is the founder of the Sabermetrics Library and has a degree in child development / education. He also writes over at DRaysBay.com.

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