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Articles on the SABR Era of baseball wanted (1971-present)

So, some of you may have seen via the SABR newsletters and my other social media things, that I’m editing the Fall 2011 issue of the Baseball Research Journal, aka BRJ.

BRJ is SABR’s main research publication, and has become one of the premiere places to publish ground-breaking research into both baseball history and statistical analysis. (SABR = Society for American Baseball Research).

SABR was founded in 1971, and it’s probably not a coincidence that the society’s formation came about just as many other changes were coming to the game. So this special themed issue will have some (not all) of its articles focused on baseball from 1971 to the present. Consider the following upheavals & changes we’ve seen in our lifetimes:

  • SABR was born just after the mound’s height was reduced, and just before the game’s economics were changed forever by free agency.
  • SABR was still young when the first players’ strike occurred (1972) and when the first designated hitter took his swings in 1973.
  • We witnessed Babe Ruth’s home run record fall to Hank Aaron, and then Aaron’s record fall in turn.
  • The role of the relief pitcher has changed; in 1974, Mike Marshall was the first relief pitcher to win the Cy Young Award, yet we didn’t see a spate of relievers in the Hall of Fame until just recently.
  • Advances in technology have changed the way players train, and sabermetrics itself has changed the way teams acquire players, how they value them, and how they train them for major league performance.
  • Speaking of performance, advances in performance-enhancing substances have not just changed baseball, they’ve necessitated a change in the way the game is governed.
  • Baseball has had several expansions in the SABR era, as well as at least one crazy flirtation with contraction, abandoned when the Twins were presented with this era’s version of the marry-me-forever diamond ring: a new baseball stadium.
  • SABR arrived around the same time as Astroturf, and it appears we will (happily) outlive it by a wide margin. New stadium construction has been a huge part of the past four decades, along with advances in field preparation, drainage techniques, etc.
  • Even the minor leagues are changing, with more franchises coming to urban areas with fancy training facilities, and fewer in rural communities with “rustic” fields. Is this changing the players and the game, or having no effect?

SABR has always presented a synergy of quantitative analysis and historical context in our research, helping us (and the world) to understand the game as it both was and is. Looking at our recent past should be no different than looking at the far past, except that we need to be even more exceptional at setting aside our preconceptions to examine the facts than we usually are.

When you’ve lived through an era, it’s different from peering through the mists of time, where lost information may obscure the story. Instead, we may have too much information at our fingertips and our own memories may cloud the picture. However, if there is one quality I have prized in SABR researchers at the many conventions and research presentations at chapter meetings I’ve attended, it’s a passion for ‘getting it right.’

So what I’m looking for in this journal is articles which tackle these and related themes as research and analysis subjects. What I’m not looking for is a bunch of opinion pieces about how baseball “used to be better when comic books were a dime” and the like.

The BRJ does not pay for articles, but some college professors whose research has appeared there have told me that it “counted” as a scholarly publication for them. The contributors to the Journal are mainly SABR members, looking to share their research with other members and drive baseball knowledge forward. One does not have to be previously published to be considered.

SABR is the vanguard writing the history of our own era for future researchers to read. So I’m psyched to see what lines of research will not only populate the pages of this anniversary issue of the Baseball Research Journal, but future general issues and convention presentations.

Please send all pitches, ideas, suggestions, drafts, and questions to my SABR email address: Abstracts, queries, and proposals will be accepted until the end of April. All assignments should be made no later than May 1, and first drafts of papers are due no later than June 1 unless by special assignment.

One tip: When querying with an article idea, please include not only an overview of what the article would be about, but why you are interested in the topic or why you’re uniquely qualified to research the topic. Include what sources and resources you’d be hoping to use and approximately how long you guess the article might be.

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