The present author, for the first time in his already forgotten life, has recently begun reading the work of very dead author Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle, as anyone who attended an important college will know, is responsible for the creation of fictional menace to the criminal classes, Sherlock Holmes.
Beyond the pleasure attendant to the stories found in Doyle’s collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the author’s presiding emotion whilst reading Doyle’s work has been one of Unfettered Indignation. “Why has no one demanded I read this before?” the author has possibly been heard shouting. “What strange grudge does the world bear against me?” he’s also maybe ejaculated after three or seven drinks.
Apart from those theatrics, what Doyle’s stories have revealed is a mind (in Holmes) sensitive to those concepts which today inform the principles central to the thing called sabermetrics.
One finds the following exchange, for example — between Watson (in the first person) and Holmes — in “A Scandal in Bohemia”, in which Holmes aptly distills the best practices of baseball analysis to three sentences:
“This is indeed a mystery,” I remarked. “What do you imagine that it means?”
“I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
One also gathers clues, perhaps, as to the modern sabermetrician’s motivation for applying the scientific process to so trivial an endeavor as baseball — such as Holmes summarizes in this other exchange, from “The Red-Headed League”:
“You reasoned it out beautifully,” I exclaimed in unfeigned admiration. “It is so long a chain, and yet every link rings true.”
“It saved me from ennui,” he answered, yawning. “Alas! I already feel it closing in upon me. My life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence. These little problems help me to do so.”
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