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July 11, 2014

Overthinking It

Forever Changes

by Ben Lindbergh

I know where I was when I got the email: sitting in the Georgetown cafeteria between classes, eating lunch alone. It wasn’t the only time I soloed the delicious cuisine at Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall in the middle of the day during my senior year—not because I was bad company, but because I was the only one of my friends who was still paying for a meal plan (food preparation isn’t my strong suit). To pass the time (and to try to look less forlorn), I’d usually bury my face in a book, glancing up only occasionally to stare at the cafeteria worker who went by “Bone” and sometimes stormed around the room with a football helmet held under his arm, looking as if he was dodging invisible linemen. Lately, however, I’d had something besides books and Bone to distract me: a direct pipeline to Baseball Prospectus.

I’d been a BP research assistant the previous summer and had transitioned to intern when I went back to school, at which point I was added to “Chatter”—a now-defunct listserv that pinged everyone at BP, as well as some alumni and outsiders with ties to the staff. In late October of 2008, where our scene is set, I hadn’t been back at school long, and I still hadn’t acclimated to the idea that messages from writers I’d read and admired for years were ending up in my inbox, as if by some behind-the-scenes screw-up at the local NSA surveillance station. This was just before BP became BBWAA-certified, when the staff was still widely regarded as an assortment of “outsiders.” Still, I’d never felt closer to baseball’s beating heart. An email from work was a source of excitement. I willed my phone to flash.

On this day at the dining hall, it did, to notify me of some Chatter from Joe Sheehan. Joe was looking for a list of diamond-in-the-rough relievers whom the Mets might pursue for their bullpen, going the Grant Balfour/J.P. Howell route that had worked so well for the Rays instead of paying big bucks for a free agent like Brian Fuentes or Francisco Rodriguez. Sensing an opportunity to ingratiate myself, I spent the next hour looking for pitchers who (I replied) fit the “high K rate/high ERA/good minor league track record mold, aren’t especially young, and might be an improvement in control or a change in role (or league/park) away from value.”

Joe liked my list and picked out a few pitchers who he thought “could be the next Al Reyes”—that was kind of a compliment then—which made my week. With some prompting from Steven Goldman, I pitched a longer piece on finding free bullpen talent. Joe gave me the go-ahead, and when I recovered consciousness, I got to work, grinding out each word until (after an eternity; I Overthought It even then) I had something to send to Christina Kahrl.

Her verdict: It was too long, and the tables were too big (two things my editors still say), but she was going to run it—and I was welcome to submit more in the future. I felt like Ralphie wielding dual Red Ryders.

I didn’t know when the big day would be, and I didn’t want to keep asking for updates, so I operated under the assumption that the article would be up aaaaaaany second now. If anyone is still wondering why traffic spiked at BP during the first week of December 2008, I can explain: It was the Firefox extension that I'd ordered to refresh the site every 30 seconds. I even took the drastic step of getting up each morning (which, while making my schedule, I’d gone to great lengths to avoid) to see if my article had appeared. For days, it didn’t, so I repeated the routine, drifting in and out of sleep, unable to distinguish between the times when I’d actually gotten out of bed to check the site again and the times when I’d merely dreamed I was doing it.

To recap: I was a senior in college, and the thing that was keeping me up at night was my anticipation of the publication of an unpaid article about baseball on a sabermetrics website. I may have had a problem with priorities.

Eventually, the article went up. One of the ways we improve as professionals and as people is by studying where we went wrong in the past. Plus, this wouldn’t be a BP piece without a table of stats. So here’s how my top 10 free-talent reliever picks from that piece performed from 2009 on:





Chris Britton




Jason Bulger




Fernando Cabrera




Francisco Cruceta




Lee Gronkiewicz




Tom Mastny




Juan Salas




Dennis Sarfate




R.J. Swindle




Ehren Wasserman




I might have done better picking fringy relievers at random. Six of my selections never pitched in the big leagues again, either because GMs refused to recognize my genius or because I wasn’t one. The four who did pitch netted 0.1 WARP.* On that inauspicious note, my baseball-writing career began. At least I’ll always have my honorable mention of Edward Mujica.

I’ve buried the lede under my embarrassing BP origin story because I wanted to give you some sense of how important a part of my life Baseball Prospectus has been. After college, I left BP to take a team internship for a year, which was long enough to learn that I’d be better off on the internet (which I might’ve known sooner, if I could’ve seen how that table would turn out). When the internship was over, I came back to BP, and I’ve been here ever since. Now that you know how excited I was to say hello, you can imagine how hard it is to say a sort of goodbye. This is my last day as editor-in-chief, and my last piece for BaseballProspectus.com (this time, mercifully, I can press “publish” myself—no need to auto-refresh). In 2012, I signed up for a two-year tour of duty, and now that it’s complete, I’m stepping down to start a new gig as a staff writer for Grantland, where I’ve been an occasional contributor since last year.

I say "sort of" goodbye because unlike a lot of people who’ve moved on from Prospectus, I won’t be cutting ties completely. I’ll continue to co-host Effectively Wild with Sam Miller—What, you thought we’d quit with the Ryan Webb/Matt Albers games-finished-without-a-save streak still alive?—and contribute to the annual, which (along with Rob Neyer’s work at ESPN) was my entrée to a new way of thinking about baseball. I’ll also draw upon plenty of BP-powered research in my work at Grantland (at least some of which will find its way to your browser, I hope).

Speaking of Sam: I’m pleased to announce that he’ll be taking over as editor-in-chief, effective immediately. As a writer, Sam has a Darvish-ian repertoire and Zobrist-ian range, which you know if you’ve been reading him here over the past few years. He’s an astute analyst and reporter, and he’s also one of the people most likely to make me laugh. It’s very rare to find someone who can do both funny and serious so well, and who sees the sport (and the world) in such an original way. While the rest of us are watching the game, Sam realizes that sometimes, the fan in the front row is the real story. He’s going to be great. He’s also going to be annoyed at me for saying so, because he’d probably prefer to smash modest expectations than to have to top high ones. Too bad. He was my first choice as right-hand man and my first recommendation as a replacement, and with him at the helm, you’re not going to notice that there’s been a change at BP, unless it’s a change for the better.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to preserve BP’s sense of irreverence, keep our content on the cutting edge, and more closely integrate the site with the rest of the sabermetric community. I think we’ve gotten better at both beer and tacos. Between Dan Brooks, Russell Carleton, Harry Pavlidis, and talented recent recruits Robert Arthur and Noah Woodward, the statistical wing of BP is as robust as it’s been since I started, and the skilled Prospect Staff Jason Parks has assembled has far eclipsed any of BP’s previous efforts in that area. Bret Sayre has done a similarly fantastic job of beefing up our offerings on the fantasy side. I’ve already included a table, but now I need a graph. This is a count of the pieces of content (articles, blog posts, and podcasts) published at BaseballProspectus.com in each year of its existence.

I’d like to think that we’ve brought you a better BP. I know that we’ve brought you a bigger one.

(I’ll pause to mention that if we were to graph the price of a BP Premium Subscription over the same span, it would be a perfectly flat line. Please consider supporting the site by subscribing, which, unlike everything else in the world, costs the same as it did a decade ago. Since I’m shilling for a place that no longer pays my salary, you know I’m being sincere.)

I’ve edited more than a few Baseball Prospectus farewells, and I've read most of the ones I wasn’t around for. If there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s an acknowledgement that one of the best things about being a Baseball Prospectus staffer is the access to super-smart colleagues. Since I left an actual Baseball Operations department and returned to BP, I’ve worked with most of another Baseball Ops department that didn’t yet know it was one. It’s an embarrassment of resources for a writer—and, I hope, for a reader or subscriber. With an email or instant message, I can reach someone who’s seen any prospect I might need to know about, or who can contact a scout who recently sat on that prospect’s series. BP has a pitching mechanics expert and a swing mechanics specialist. It has a handful of people who can coax any piece of information out of any available data source. And, most importantly, it has writers who can convey that information without making you want to skip to the last few lines. Few sites have as long a track record of melding math and innovative analysis with the whimsical and weird.

The other best thing about BP is you, the readers, who set a standard in your comments, tweets, and emails that few other communities can equal. In the greatest baseball book, Bill Veeck wrote that “Every baseball crowd, like every theatre audience, has its own distinctive attitude and atmosphere.” That’s true of some baseball websites, too, and this is one of them. I’ve learned a lot from your feedback, and because you were always willing to go along for the ride, I never felt restricted in what I could write. After all, I’ve seen what Parks gets away with.

The exit music is starting, which means it’s gratitude time. Thanks to Steven Goldman, in particular, for taking an interest in me as a research assistant, bonding with me over the Beatles, encouraging me to write, and making me better at it. Thanks also to Christina, John Perrotto, Kevin Goldstein, Dave Pease, and tireless leader Joe Hamrahi for allowing me inside the store and eventually entrusting me with the keys. Your faith in me means a lot.

Thanks also to the SQL and R stars I’ve tormented with research requests over the years (not that I plan to stop now): Bil Burke (who always made me wonder “Why one “l”?), Dan Turkenkopf, Mike Fast, Colin Wyers, Max Marchi, Rob McQuown (whom I may have bugged the most), Andrew Koo, Bradley Ankrom, Ryan Lind, Dan, Harry, and Russell, who’s managed to raise a family and hold down a day job in between dashing off lengthy answers and articles in response to my incessant emails and topic suggestions. There are a lot of questions I couldn’t have answered—and worse, wouldn’t even have bothered to ask—without the help of the people in this paragraph.

Thanks to R.J. Anderson, Marc Normandin, Jason Cole, Jason Wojciechowski and Neil deMause, among others, for being my go-to GChat sounding boards and sanity checks (and in R.J.'s case, for tackling so many transactions); to Derek Carty, Stephani Bee, and Daniel Rathman for their tireless late-night editing; to Zachary Levine for filling in on the podcast and explaining odds; to Jay Jaffe, for his early encouragement; to a long list of interns who’ve saved me many hours at inopportune times; and to Brian Kenny, for giving internet analysts the same prominent platform that in the past was afforded only to former players. I’ve already named half the staff, so I’ll stop there, but I’ve enjoyed knowing many more of you. You know who you are (which is a clever way of covering my bases in case I forgot someone, which I almost certainly did).

At Grantland, I’ll be joining former BPers Jonah Keri and Rany Jazayerli, not to mention Christina, Keith Law, and Nate Silver under the larger ESPN umbrella. The continued poaching of BP personnel is, of course, a compliment. The company has always functioned as a farm system, and when someone swoops in to pluck away an author, it’s both a sign that the site is still offering something that most others aren’t, and a chance to infuse the BP brain trust with new blood. Although the turnover is sometimes sad, it makes me immensely proud that BP authors are now sought out not only by mega-media outlets and as statistical analysts, but as scouts. Having seen the traffic and subscription stats stay strong after previous departures, I know for a fact that BP is bigger than any one author. Hack off an appendage, and the other parts glom back together, T-1000-style, until the whole is as strong as it was before.

My predecessor closed his farewell with one of the best songs by one of my favorite songwriters. Maybe we can make that a tradition. I can’t do better than “Days,” so I’ll settle for a simple (sort of) goodbye.

*My mother says that the most successful people she knows are also the most willing to admit their mistakes. So, there, mom: Look at all my mistakes! I must be a success.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Farewell

56 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


Thank you Ben for everything you have done at BP! I'm glad you will not be leaving entirely as I listen to the podcast everyday while I drive to work.

Jul 11, 2014 03:59 AM
rating: 14

Thanks Ben and good luck.

Jul 11, 2014 04:12 AM
rating: 5
Bradley Herring

"Hey now, you're an all-star..."


Looking forward to your work at Grantland!

Jul 11, 2014 04:25 AM
rating: 12

Thanks Ben and good luck.

Jul 11, 2014 04:43 AM
rating: 1

Nice job, Ben. I'll miss reading your work here.

Well done and good luck at your new spot. They are very lucky to have you.

Jul 11, 2014 04:43 AM
rating: 3

Good luck Ben. I always enjoy your writing and love the Podcast.

Jul 11, 2014 05:07 AM
rating: 2
dREaDS Fan

Nicely done - today's post & the last ~5 (?) years.

It wasn't until I saw you on MLB Network that I realized how young you really are (& look). Would never have guessed based on the sagacity of your writing.

Jul 11, 2014 05:08 AM
rating: 4

Best of luck, Ben! We hope to see more of you on MLBTV. They need to offer you a full-time gig!

Jul 11, 2014 05:08 AM
rating: 1
Andy Cochrane

Oh no! Not another.., Sob.

Jul 11, 2014 05:19 AM
rating: 2
Andy Cochrane

Seriously Ben, best of luck at Grantland. Also glad you'll still be around for the podcast.

Jul 11, 2014 05:30 AM
rating: 3

You did such a good job that I hate to see you go.

Jul 11, 2014 05:39 AM
rating: 4

I just changed jobs. Its hard. But people move along. You'll do great, Ben.

So happy you're staying on the podcast though. I'd probably be crying if that wasn't the case. I started listening to the podcast a couple of years ago. I spend every weekday morning waking up to you and Sam. You two have made me a better, smarter, more educated baseball fan. You both have made both my understanding and my enjoyment of the game soar.

I owe you a lot.

Look forward to reading you at Grantland.

Jul 11, 2014 06:02 AM
rating: 2
Shaun P.

All the best with the new gig at Grantland - and thank you for keeping Effectively Wild alive! The morning commute would not be the same without it.

Jul 11, 2014 06:12 AM
rating: 2

Ben, you're wonderful, good luck at G-land. And now listener emails will begin with Dear Sam and...?

Jul 11, 2014 06:24 AM
rating: 1

Sweet. I can't wait to collect on my +10000 bet that Ben Lindbergh would leave before Ryan Parker.

Jul 11, 2014 06:27 AM
rating: 5

Now I'm going to have to bookmark Grantland. Congratulations on the new gig, Ben. Thrilled you're still going to do EW. And dammit I just knew that long bus ride to DC to save the company a hundred bucks was going to cause trouble.

Jul 11, 2014 06:53 AM
rating: 3
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff


Jul 11, 2014 07:14 AM

Congrats, Ben, and well done. Always have and always will enjoy reading you. Best wishes.

Jul 11, 2014 07:17 AM
rating: 2

Happy trails it won't be the same without you.

Jul 11, 2014 07:29 AM
rating: 1

Good luck Ben. You'll be sorely missed.

Jul 11, 2014 07:52 AM
rating: 1

Good luck Ben!

Jul 11, 2014 07:53 AM
rating: 1

A fine send off sir, in the literary sense, as I am happy you will continue with the show. Happy for you as well of course.
Cheers Ben!

Jul 11, 2014 08:07 AM
rating: 0
Myles Handley

Ben is quitting EW when Ryan Webb gets his first save.

Jul 11, 2014 08:33 AM
rating: 2

WARP speed, Ben.

Any chance we can have a BP alumni day or week or something like that? Just think of the possibilities.

Jul 11, 2014 08:52 AM
rating: 0
Rick Stumbo

Good luck Ben and thanks for everything!

Jul 11, 2014 08:56 AM
rating: 1
Richard Bergstrom

Thanks for all your contributions Ben and I'm excited to see what the future holds for you!

Jul 11, 2014 09:00 AM
rating: 0

Bill Simmons continues his conquest of the internet...

Jul 11, 2014 09:22 AM
rating: 1
Kendall Guillemette

Thanks for everything Ben. Best wishes at Grantland.

Jul 11, 2014 09:54 AM
rating: 0

Good luck and great job with the site and podcast. You'll be missed.

Jul 11, 2014 09:57 AM
rating: 0
Bill B

The editor has retired! Long live the editor! At least we can continue to read your stuff at Grantland, Ben. And Sam will be awesome.

Jul 11, 2014 10:02 AM
rating: 0

Congrats, Ben! Good luck at Grantland!

Jul 11, 2014 10:05 AM
rating: 0

Congrats, Ben. You will be missed.

Jul 11, 2014 10:22 AM
rating: 0
John Carter

Nice appropriate ditty - unknown to me (or forgotten) - from the greatest master of ditties.

I wish you well at Grantland - and hope making Sam the editor won't take away too much from his own outstanding pieces.

Jul 11, 2014 10:36 AM
rating: 2
Dave Scott

Good Luck!

Jul 11, 2014 11:25 AM
rating: 0

Thank you, Ben, and good luck.

Jul 11, 2014 11:40 AM
rating: 0

Boooooo, booooooo!!!!!! (In a good way, of course.)

Jul 11, 2014 11:50 AM
rating: 0
Bill Skelton

Another BP'er gets called up to the big leagues (so to speak). Truly a testament to the talent of the people who work there.
The best part about this one, is that we will still be able to enjoy Ben's work.

Good Luck Ben.

Jul 11, 2014 12:03 PM
rating: 0

BP is the big leagues...all the big players are the Yankees buying off our best players. Except, unlike the Yankees, these guys are being bought up in their prime. :(

Jul 11, 2014 13:45 PM
rating: 3

Is it weird that I'm sad? Cause I'm kinda sad.

Also, we now have an Effectively Wild Facebook group that will not include Ben or Sam.

Jul 11, 2014 12:07 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I'm not leaving the Facebook group!

Jul 11, 2014 12:30 PM

Ben, I feel like I know you because of our shared obsession with "Bunting to Beat the Shift". BP has been the best addition to my passion for baseball ever, how did I live without it, and you were my introduction. I will follow you at Grantland and all the best.

Jul 11, 2014 14:04 PM
rating: 0

Big props to all you have done and looking forward to what you have in store for all of us, lucky enough to be reading your outstanding prose.

Jul 11, 2014 17:13 PM
rating: 2
Matt Martin

Thank you, Ben, for all that you have done to make BP great and us, as BP's readers (and podcast listeners), well-informed baseball fans. I have learned more about the ins and outs of baseball from BP (and Effectively Wild) than any other source.

Good luck, and I am sure I will be reading your stuff on Grantland. And, thanks for supporting Sam. I just read his piece on the Fan in Black, linking to it from your so-long article, and it is great journalism (from my non-professional viewpoint).

See ya.

Jul 11, 2014 18:25 PM
rating: 1
Matthew W

I am very happy you will still be podcasting!
I have always felt that Sam was this huge tsunami of enthusiasm constantly breaking upon your soothing, dulcet tones.
Yin and Yan and all that jazz!

love ya, good luck out there!

Jul 11, 2014 19:15 PM
rating: 0

Best of luck Ben and thanks for all the great stuff!!!

Jul 11, 2014 19:38 PM
rating: 0

I clapped out loud when I saw that Effectively Wild will continue. It's nice to be the one DC commuter in the Metro car who, instead of looking stony sad or reading some boring law journal or trade press article, has a huge grin on his face.

As the trajectory of article quantity has gone up, the quality at BP has gone up along with it. It's incredible, because the content has always been high-quality. But I think you're right that the beer-and-tacos experience has become richer in the past few years. We readers see a different game because of the way the scouting and statistical information have become more fully articulated and more fully integrated over the past couple of years. And anyone can see that you deserve a healthy share of the credit for that, Ben. Thank you.

Jul 12, 2014 05:37 AM
rating: 2

Ben, just in case you are waking up earlier than usual to hit refresh on the comments to your farewell article...I have eschewed NPR in the mornings for the past several months because of the entertaining, playful, and educational banter you and Sam (Sam and Ben?) have presented to us. (Yes, I am late to the podcast game)

I appreciate your insight, almost as much as your diligence with respect to Webb-Albers, and your desire to keep (yes, sure, obsession with keeping) the podcast ending with a multiple of 5 on Fridays.

(Can you really risk messing that up by moving away from daily podcasting?)

Thanks for keeping BP strong these past 2years. The interwebs are a big place, but I'm sure we'll all find you at G-land.

Jul 12, 2014 07:06 AM
rating: 0

All the best at Grantland, Ben. Looking forward to reading you there, and I will echo the "THANK YOU FOR CONTINUING THE PODCAST" sentiment. I haven't even been around as some listeners, but my mornings would be sadder if I couldn't listen to Effectively Wild anymore (I'd probably go back and start listening to the old episodes, from the beginning, and you don't want that, right?) For real, keep up the excellent work.

Jul 12, 2014 07:25 AM
rating: 0

First of all, congratulations to both Ben & Sam and thanks for keeping the podcast going. Grantland is a good site to visit, now I might have to check it out more regularly.

That being said, where would you put BP in terms of the baseball economic divide. This is kind of feeding off of the earlier comment of you going to the big leagues. I have been a subscriber for a long time & have seen a lot of great minds/writers come and go. Is this due to BP being more along the lines of a small market team whereas Grantland and ESPN are obviously big market teams?

Again, best of luck to both of you.

Jul 12, 2014 10:21 AM
rating: 0

In a similar vein, why doesn't ESPN just buy BP already?

Jul 12, 2014 16:00 PM
rating: -3

Nooooooo. Unless they had complete autonomy to stay the way they are.

Jul 13, 2014 06:06 AM
rating: 2

An echoing Nooooooo!

Jul 17, 2014 14:22 PM
rating: 0
Replacement Cat

Thank you, Ben. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

Jul 13, 2014 06:29 AM
rating: 1
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Thanks for all the kind words, everyone. I hope you'll continue to support BP, and I also hope to see you around Grantland.

Jul 14, 2014 00:24 AM

congratulations Ben - really enjoy your work and look forward to reading you at Grantland. You and Zach Lowe right now are the tops in your fields.

Jul 14, 2014 03:22 AM
rating: 0

An absolutely terrific two years, Ben -- thanks for countless hours of illuminating and entertaining reading.

Jul 14, 2014 23:01 PM
rating: 0
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