Statistics play an important role in summarizing baseball performance and evaluating players in the sport.
Since the flow of a baseball game has natural breaks to it, the sport lends itself to easy record-keeping and statistics. Statistics have been kept for professional baseball since the creation of the American League and National League, now part of Major League Baseball.
Many statistics are also available from outside of Major League Baseball, from leagues such as the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players and the Negro Leagues.
Development of statistics
The practice of keeping records of player achievements was started in the 19th century by Henry Chadwick. Based on his experience with cricket, Chadwick devised the predecessors to modern day statistics including batting average, runs scored, and runs allowed.
Traditionally, statistics such as batting average (the number of hits divided by the number of at bats) and earned run average (approximately the number of runs allowed by a pitcher per nine innings) have dominated attention in the statistical world of baseball. However, the recent advent of sabermetrics has created statistics drawing from a breadth of player performance measures and playing field variables. Sabermetrics and comparative statistics attempt to provide an improved measure of a player's performance and contributions to his team from year to year, frequently against a statistical performance average.
Comprehensive, historical baseball statistics were difficult for the average fan to access until 1951, when researcher Hy Turkin published The Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. In 1969, Macmillan Publishing printed its first Baseball Encyclopedia, using a computer to compile statistics for the first time. Known as "Big Mac", the encyclopedia became the standard baseball reference until 1988, when Total Baseball was released by Warner Books using more sophisticated technology. The publication of Total Baseball led to the discovery of several "phantom ballplayers", including Lou Proctor, who did not belong in official record books and were removed.
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