Why you should care
So you can drop some knowledge.
It was Game 4 of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets and the neurotic Brooklynite who runs the OZY newsroom paced the office. The staff was apprehensive too (more for our own well-being than investment in the game), and we wanted to know: Has any team ever come back from a three-game deficit? Did the Cubs have even a remote chance of rallying?
Turns out, we would find our answer at Baseball-Reference.com, along with a trove of other juicy stats (oxymoron?) that we thought readers might find interesting as they get amped up for tonight’s World Series opener. First, a warning: This site is a time suck, so enter cautiously. But with numbers for nearly every player and team in the game’s 140-year-plus history, it can also add a layer of depth to the viewing experience. For instance, did you know that Babe Ruth hit his very first playoff home run during the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1921 World Series between his Yankees and the New York Giants? Ruth’s Yankees still lost 4-2; ultimately, they would lose the series.
Professional baseball is built on tradition, and it has a long history with numbers. Even now, you can still see people in the stands, pencil in hand, scoring the game. Baseball Reference is like the digital version of the old man who’s gone to every home game at Wrigley Field for the last 50 years and can recite the play-by-play of every big matchup. And while there are plenty of stat sites that baseball fans can geek out on, like Baseball Prospectus or FanGraphs, the beauty of Baseball Reference is that with its charmingly simple interface it can work for both the casual and fanatic fan. Indeed, Sean Forman, then a mathematics professor at Saint Joseph’s University, started the site in 2000 because he was frustrated with all the other online stat sources. As Forman tells OZY, he was just trying “to scratch his own itch.” Because back then, fancy graphics slowed down the page, he opted for a Craigslist-esque design that conveyed as much information as fast as possible, Forman says. The site was, and still is, a fan favorite, with about 758,000 monthly unique visitors, according to Quantcast.
Of course, there are those who would argue that baseball’s allure is found in its storylines, not its stats. And it’s true, RBIs only tell us so much. However, with regard to our boss’s happiness — which in turn influences the entire newsroom’s happiness — in that moment all we cared about were the facts. And the most important one was that the 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team in history to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a league series. Sure enough, the Mets are playing the Kansas City Royals in the 111th Fall Classic. Which means we here at OZY will be wasting many more hours reading through Baseball Reference’s collection of stats from the last 110 World Series (while praying for a New York championship).