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Sabermetría: La ciencia detrás de los numeritos del baseball

Podría decirse que el béisbol es uno de los deportes más completos en lo que a estadísticas se refiere, ya que cuenta con una amplia diversidad de datos que han sido recopilados de manera minuciosa por más de un siglo. Estadísticas como promedio de bateo (AVG.), carreras empujadas (RBI) y cuadrangulares, han quedado plasmadas en la memoria de todo fanático que haya coleccionado postales de béisbol durante su juventud. Pero recientemente estas estadísticas están siendo complementadas y en algunas ocasiones cuestionadas por una novel tendencia de análisis conocida como Sabermetrics.

La sabermetría no es más que el análisis del béisbol a través de evidencia objetiva, específicamente a través de estadísticas, cuyo fin es medir de manera eficaz las actividades que se suscitan dentro del campo de juego. El término es derivado del acrónimo SABR, el cual hace referencia a la Sociedad para la Investigación del Béisbol Americano según sus siglas en inglés (Society for American Baseball Research), entidad que fue fundada en 1971 por Bob Davis. Pero el término sabermetrics no fue acuñado sino hasta 1980, cuando Bill James hizo referencia al mismo a través de uno de sus escritos sobre béisbol conocidos como Baseball Abstracts.

Para ser más especificos, la Sabermetría se concentra en evaluar cómo afectan las estadísticas individuales y colectivas de los jugadores al record de ganados y perdidos de un equipo de béisbol. La lógica detrás de ésto es que para que un equipo sea exitoso debe ganar más juegos que sus oponentes, lo cual se logra mediante la anotación copiosa de carreras o por medio de la prevención de éstas. Es por esto que la sabermetría se enfoca en medir los aportes de un jugador en términos de carreras, lo cual a la postre puede ser traducido en cantidad de victorias.

Dentro de los usos más comunes de la Sabermetría están los de evaluar el desempeño de diferentes jugadores durante una temporada para determinar quiénes son merecedores de premios como el MVP o Cy Young o para la comparación de jugadores de diferentes épocas. Asimismo, la Sabermetría busca predecir el desempeño de un jugador en el futuro y así poder estimar el precio de éste para fines de cambio o para su contratación a través de la agencia libre.

Otra función de los análisis sabermétricos es la de analizar conceptos arraigados en el mundo del béisbol que no han sido lo suficientemente estudiados, y que a través del análisis nos permitirían estimar su veracidad y eficacia. Ejemplo de ésto sería el efecto que tendría un parque en las estadísticas de un jugador o la medida en que contribuye la defensa a la conquista de victorias.

Es en este sentido que la Sabermetría se concentra en evaluar la eficacia de las estadísticas mediante la búsqueda de respuestas a estas tres preguntas:

1- ¿Contribuye la estadística X de manera real a los fines de saber si un jugador colaboró o no a la victoria o derrota de su equipo?

Mediante esta pregunta no buscamos saber en qué grado contribuye una estadística al record de ganados y perdidos de un equipo, sino simplente saber si la misma se encuentra o no dentro de los aspectos del juego que afectan dicho record. Por ejemplo la efectividad (ERA) mide la capacidad de un lanzador de permitir carreras limpias cada 9 innings, y como la prevención de carreras contribuye con la victoria de un partido, podemos decir que es una estadística que de cierta forma nos deja saber si un jugador colaboró o no a la victoria del equipo.

2- ¿Qué tan bien estima la estadística X la contribución de un jugador a la victoria del equipo?

Contrario a la pregunta anterior, la respuesta aquí no resulta tan fácil, ya que se requiere de un profundo análisis para determinar en qué grado mide la estadística X la contribución exacta del jugador. Aquí, todas las estadísticas tendrán cierta deficiencia, ya que en un juego de béisbol convergen muchos eventos que influyen en la victoria o en la derrota. En ese sentido, las estadísticas que pasarán la rigurosidad de esta pregunta, serán aquellas que menos faltas contengan en su propósito de determinar la contribución del jugador. Manteniendo como ejemplo la efectividad de un pitcher, aunque ésta contribuye a saber si un pitcher aportó o no a la victoria del equipo, no nos dice hasta qué grado lo hizo, ya que en el cálculo de la efectividad no se incluyen las carreras no merecidas o sucias, y en el caso de los relevistas, no se le calcula dentro de su efectividad las carreras permitidas por jugadores encontrados en las bases que son propiedad de otro lanzador.

3- ¿Existe una mejor forma de medir lo mismo pero que resulte más eficaz que la estadística X?

Aquí nos podemos encontrar con la situación de que aunque la estadística X haya fallado a la prueba propuesta por la pregunta anterior, la misma no tenga una estadística alternativa con la cual se pueda medir el aspecto propuesto. Pero en caso de que sí la tenga, debe procederse a analizar con argumentos válidos cuál de las dos estadísticas provee la medida más acertada a la contribución real esperada de ellas y cuál de éstas permite una real apreciación de la contribución del jugador a ganar o perder el partido. Un ejemplo de esto sería la estadística de carreras empujadas (RBI), la cual cumple con la primera pregunta ya que ayuda a determinar si un jugador contribuyó o no la victoria de su equipo (ya que el juego lo gana el que más carreras anotadas tenga), pero puede ser sustituida por una estadística más completa como lo es el OPS (obp + slugging), por el hecho de que los jugadores no contribuyen de manera individual a la anotación de carreras (al menos que conecten un cuadrangular o se roben el home plate), pero sí contribuyen a las oportunidades que le dan a su equipo de anotar carreras cuando alcanzan alguna base, ya sea por bases por bolas, sencillos o extrabases.

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