Friday, February 15, 2008

Cricket sabermetrics

I don't know anything about the sport, so I can't evaluate the work, but this blog, by David Barry, is devoted to statistical analysis of cricket.



At Friday, February 15, 2008 3:09:00 PM, Blogger David Barry said...

Thanks for the link Phil, though I suspect my blog will be largely meaningless for your readers!

I'm somewhat in awe of the amount of data that you guys have in baseball - there have only been about 1860 Test cricket matches (the highest level of competition) in all history, going back to 1877. I think that that's not even a full season of Major League baseball.

I only recently learned of the sabermetric community, and the amount of work that you've all done analysing American sports. It's amazing stuff, and you're probably about two to three decades ahead of cricket. Charles Davis would be a sort-of equivalent to Bill James, and his major cricket statistical book was published in 2000. But it hasn't been read widely enough, and there are still top cricket statisticians who carry on believing old myths that just don't stand up to statistical analysis.

Judging by your posts on the media, I'm not holding out hope that the "not-outs boost averages" myth will disappear from cricket fans any time soon....

At Friday, February 15, 2008 3:33:00 PM, Blogger Phil Birnbaum said...

Hi, David,

I have no idea what the "not outs boost averages" myth is ... something to do with balls that are hit but don't score runs?

Will look up Charles Davis ... and if you have any links to other cricket sites, especially for beginners like me, please share them!

At Friday, February 15, 2008 4:34:00 PM, Blogger David Barry said...

Hmm. I don't really know of any easy guides to explain cricket. The Wikipedia article is good and detailed but it's rather long. This looks like a reasonable effort aimed at people who know baseball, but it'd probably be hard to follow without actually watching a game with someone to explain things.

I'll give a simplified overview to describe the not-out myth, trying to use baseball terms.

Each team has 11 players. There are usually six specialist batters, a wicket-keeper (like a baseball catcher), and four specialist bowlers (pitchers).

The batting side will always have two batters in the middle, one at each end of a 22-yard strip of dried turf called the pitch. Runs are scored by the batters running so that they swap ends of the pitch (or by hitting the ball to or over the boundary). Batters do not have to run if they hit the ball - defensive batting is an essential skill. All 11 players bat. Many more runs are scored in cricket than in baseball - on average a specialist batter will score 30 to 50, and a bowler between 5 and 20.

A single 'at-bat' can last one ball (pitch), or more than a day.

Now, since there must always be two batters in the middle, once ten batters are out, there must be one left not out. The usual average for a batter is defined as his runs scored by the number of times he's out. So, eg, a batter with 600 runs from 30 at-bats, with 10 not-outs, will have an average of 30.

The myth is that those 10 not-outs are inflating his average. "His average is really 20," some would say. Some players have a high proportion of not-outs, and there is usually grumbling about how their averages are too high, they're not really that good, etc.

But remaining not out is a skill - the batter was good enough to defy the bowlers and not get out. Furthermore, the longer your at-bat lasts, the easier it gets to score runs (this is both common perception and backed up by stats). So when a batter finishes not out, he was denied a chance to score even more runs (averaged over many at-bats) than his average.

So, for many batters, not-outs actually decrease their average. A batter with a high proportion of not-outs is probably not being used effectively by his team - he should be moved "higher up the order" (ie, closer to lead-off hitter) so that he can score the runs his team-mates (by getting out) aren't letting him score.

But try convincing your typical cricket fan of this. They usually don't believe you.

I hope you could follow some of that.

Davis' website is here. There's a link to his blog near the top.

At Friday, February 15, 2008 4:39:00 PM, Blogger Phil Birnbaum said...

Yup, makes sense. That's mildly similar to an accepted truth in sabermetrics -- that what should count more for a hitter is the outs he makes, not his at-bats.

At Friday, February 15, 2008 4:41:00 PM, Blogger Phil Birnbaum said...

"... the longer your at-bat lasts, the easier it gets to score runs."

Why is that? Is it just that if your time at bat lasts longer, it's because it's more likely the bowler is mediocre? Or does the batter actually improve against that particular bowler?

At Friday, February 15, 2008 4:59:00 PM, Blogger David Barry said...

It's more a case of "getting your eye in". You get a better feel for how the ball is moving in the air and off the pitch (the ball usually bounces before it reaches the batter), etc.

At Saturday, February 16, 2008 6:21:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Phil if you want a baseball focused primer on cricket try this:

I actually grew up with cricket ...

At Saturday, February 16, 2008 6:22:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

That link looks broken. Try this:

At Saturday, April 12, 2008 3:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading a bunch of stuff purportedly aimed at Americans that was either too long and went into minutia, or left too much unanswered, I had my "a-ha" moment reading this. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone. It's perfect if you're already familiar with baseball, and will make watching a cricket game comprehensible (i.e. "How come he hit it but isn't running; why are they cheering?")


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