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Original Issue

Stats Stat Need to know all about Ernie Banks--or how the Cubbies did in 1959? A site has instant answers

Sean Forman didn't have to hear voices whispering in the middle
of a cornfield in his native Iowa to know: If he built it, they
would log on. What emerged was a kind of website of dreams called, a compendium of statistics that in the
year since it began operation has become indispensable to fans
and historians. Forman, 29, an assistant professor of mathematics
at St. Joseph's and a former catcher at Manning (Iowa) High, has
assembled easy-to-access season-by-season and team-by-team
statistical recaps going back to 1876. Moreover, by typing in the
name of any major leaguer, past or present, a user can see the
player's statistics, his appearances in top 10 listings and, most
intriguingly, his place in the Similarity Scores system,
developed by statistician Bill James, which reveals other players
whose statistical profiles at a given point in their careers are
most like the subject's at the same point. For instance, through
age 26, Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was most like the
26-year-old Ernie Banks (above). Baseballreference also has
features such as a travel link with mileages to the major and
minor league parks nearest the user.

Forman's next project, with Massachusetts fireman and fellow
baseball nut Jim Furtado, is a Yahoolike portal called the
Baseball Think Factory, which will include sites devoted to
pitching, news and scouting. What aren't in the picture for
baseballreference are hard-to-load photos or video. "Look,
people need the links to be as quick as possible," says Forman.
"This is a site where people look at 300 to 400 pages in one

--John O'Keefe