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May 17, 2009

Prospectus Idol

Meet the Finalists

by Baseball Prospectus

It is our privilege to present the slate of competitors in the first-ever edition of Prospectus Idol. The objective of this competition is to find a new Baseball Prospectus columnist, but it is also an exercise in learning, from the authors for the benefit of the audience (ideally), as well as by the authors and judges from one another. As Kevin Goldstein initially laid out in his introducing the competition and explaining the basic rules for entry, this also represents a potential gateway to work within the baseball industry itself, given the increasing number of former contributors who have already landed jobs with the various clubs.

Clearly, there's the potential for plenty to be at stake for the contestants; there's also going to be a lot of opportunities for Baseball Prospectus subscribers in general to make a significant difference. By using your power as the voting public to evaluate and vote for the competitors themselves, you will help shape the future content on the site. In the weeks to come, starting with next week's first round of competition, we want to encourage you, the voters, to participate actively by commenting on the articles themselves, making a case for which ones you like and why, and helping sustain a debate on the questions these articles will inevitably raise.

Among the hundreds upon hundreds of entries which we ended up reading, there was surprisingly easy agreement on a slate of competitors. However, that is not to say that the process didn't lead to at least one complication: Jeremy Greenhouse withdrew from the competition due to a previous commitment, the outcome of which he was not aware of when he entered. The Tufts student's work was deserving and an early pick of the panel of judges, so we felt he was deserving of seeing his work and getting the title of "Finalist." Greenhouse will not be continuing on in the competition and was replaced in the field (although we're declining to publicly identify the alternate). We want to congratulate Jeremy and wish him the best of luck with that other things he's doing

Without more ado, here are the initial competitors, with a little information about them, as well as their winning entries. [Ed. Note: As with all of subsequent Idol articles, these are published with nothing more than formatting of the tables and graphics, but without any corrections or editing.]

Brian Cartwright
Bio and Entry: "Major League Equivalencies"

Jeff Euston
Bio and Entry: "Payroll by Position"

Ken Funck
Bio and Entry: "Seeing is Believing"

Brittany Ghiroli
Bio and Entry: "Rays Relish First Taste of October"

Jeremy Greenhouse
Bio and Entry: "Derek Hollandaise Sauce"

Tyler Hissey
Bio and Entry: "Ibanez Contract Analysis"

Matthew Knight
Bio and Entry: "Back of the Envelope"

Tim Kniker
Bio and Entry: "Does Organizational Depth Really Matter?"

Byron Lescroart
Bio and Entry: "To Pronk, or not to Pronk? That is the Fantasy Question"

Brian Oakchunas
Bio and Entry: "The Gibbons Conundrum"

Matt Swartz
Bio and Entry: "Why Teams Do Not Spend More on the Draft"

Finally, having picked our slate of finalists, we communicated the rules for their first competition:

Greetings finalists! Again, congrats on being one of the final ten. Now, the real work begins. You have to prove yourself to the judges and the voters week in, week out. The winner will have done it ten times, so push yourself, do your best work, and leave it all on the page.

Each week will have a "theme" much like American Idol. We'll have mentors, guest judges, and some twists that will prove you deserve to stand beside the rest of us at BP. We'll have your winning entries posted at BP on Sunday, but this is just a "get to know you," there won't be voting. We want people to see why we selected you.

This week's theme is "The Basics." A couple years ago, we ran a series of "BP Basics" that attempted to explain what we do at BP to some of our newer readers. You'll be doing the same thing. Craft an article around one statistic or concept and explain it. Use examples. Don't be condescending, but make it so that your average baseball fan isn't going to lose it in the calculations. Please limit these to 1500 words, though this is a "soft" limit-you can go a bit over or use graphics without penalty. Use some sense; 1600 words is pushing it, 2000 is going to get sent back.

This article will be due in no later than noon on Friday, and will be posted for reading and voting on Sunday. We'll announce who's been voted off on Tuesday afternoon, at which time you'll get your next assignment. That will then be due the following Friday, and so on.

So ... there's your assignment. Use the tools you have, be creative and good luck.

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

BP Comment Quick Links

Richard Bergstrom

"I haven't heard of half these guys, and the ones I do know are way past their prime.

Most of these guys never had a prime."

- Major League

Just kidding, congratulations everyone!

May 17, 2009 17:14 PM
rating: 1
 
yanksgood

This guy here is dead

May 17, 2009 17:46 PM
rating: 2
 
capn14

cross him off, then

May 18, 2009 05:30 AM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Btw I thought their BP membership IDs would also be identified. I'm kind of curious how many finalists regularly read and commented on BP.com articles before the competition started...

Guess it doesn't matter, but still something I'm curious about.

May 17, 2009 17:55 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

I'd like to use this opportunity to encourage everyone to click "manage my profile" in the blue subscription bar below the BP logo and set your Display Name to your real name.

May 17, 2009 22:32 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Thanks.

May 18, 2009 07:13 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

Commenting is irrelevant to ability to write an article.

I'm not disappointed I wasn't picked...preparing for an upcoming wedding made it a bad time for me anyway. I was not happy with the quality of my submission, or even the topic I chose. Big congrats to the ten above!

May 17, 2009 18:59 PM
rating: -2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I agree that commenting is irrelevant to the ability to write an article, but it is an indication how many of the finalists were already BP subscribers and contributors to the community. I think that is definitely relevant.

May 17, 2009 19:59 PM
rating: -1
 
chuckmotl

I think you're the only one that cares about that. They're graded on their ability to write an article, not on their ability to comment. So unless you plan on stalking them, what does it matter?

May 17, 2009 21:15 PM
rating: -1
 
John Carter

Oh, please. Knowing which contributor is which commentor further helps identify who is who - and particularly gives us a stronger personal connection to that contributor's comments. I don't think anyone is suggesting that those comments should be part of the Idol voting or is considering stocking anyone. (Although, I'm sure there are some nuts out there, whether the connection is drawn or not.)

May 18, 2009 06:27 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

My point is more that there are a lot of us who are avid baseball fans, BP readers, and talented writers who are unable to comment as often as others.

I know that when I was in college I was able to spend hours of my day posting in message boards. With a more than full-time job and trying to keep my dog from chewing my shoes, I'd rather spend my time on my baseball blog or writing actual articles than providing comments that 90% of the BP community never reads anyway.

At the chance to become a professional baseball writer, I would make more than enough time to produce quality articles. I would not make that same time to comment dozens of times per week on others unless I really had something to say.

May 18, 2009 06:36 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

My perception was that Baseball Propsectus is an analytical site where ideas and concepts are proposed, reviewed and critiqued by other experts, fans, the public, etc., then refined. My curiosity was in which finalists were already members of that process before BP Idol was proposed.

I don't care as much about the frequency of past pre-Idol postings. There are many avid fans who rarely, if ever comment. Whether any of the current finalists fall into that category, that I have no idea. But I would like to have seen some activity from them.

The thing is that BP writers don't just write articles, but reply to subscriptions/customers/us with our questions. The BP writers are not like writers on some other sports sites who are not directly reachable. BP writers are held accountable for what they write, receive feedback, and are very prompt in posting their replies. While I can vote based on article quality and not on comments, I definitely want the winner of this BP Idol contest to be a person as responsive in comments as the other writers here. Those who entered the contest and are familiar with BP and the community should realize a lot of work outside of article-writing is involved. Those who entered BP Idol but hadn't heard about BP before might not be used to the interactive feedback the BP community has required.

(Peanut gallery member formerly known as Oleoay)

May 18, 2009 07:06 AM
rating: 0
 
CRP13

Good point with that last paragraph.

May 18, 2009 09:27 AM
rating: -1
 
Bob

For what it's worth Richard, I'm a big fan of your comments. Based on those, I was hoping you'd be a finalist.

May 20, 2009 19:11 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I was hoping I'd be a finalist too, but now that I see the kinds of articles that were selected, I have a better idea why I wasn't selected.

That's ok, I've learned for the next time there's a competition like this. I imagine others have too, so the next competition should be fun :)

May 20, 2009 19:31 PM
rating: 0
 
LetsGoRangers

Oleoay, sorry to hear you didn't make BP Idol. I have no doubt you will make it in the sports world one day. Everyone has their own PECOTA career path in the journalism world, but we just don't know when the breakouts are going to come. Keep loving the game, and the game will love you back. Good luck in whatever you do and I hope you stay here with the PEV team. You should think about blogging on your hometown team and try to network with the blogging community.

May 17, 2009 21:13 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Thanks for the support skiier. I chose to do an experiences piece on Opening Day to show I could submit work under time constraints, so I submitted relatively quickly. I was pretty sure I didn't have a chance when Will mentioned how many recipients he had and the one week/two week deadline was clarified. The additional week and knowing that there were so many entrants would've made me submit a piece with more of a research component, instead of an experience narrative. Most of the finalists pieces were analytical or research-based instead of straight narratives, comedy, etc.

So I learn for next time, and no sour grapes in the meantime. And hey, there are still honorable mentions possibilities.

The quipper formerly known as Oleoay

(Btw what does PEV mean?)

May 18, 2009 07:13 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

PEV = Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, LLC. It's the parent company of the various Prospectuses (Prospectii?), plus FiveThirtyEight.com, but not Football Outsiders.

May 19, 2009 10:01 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Ah, thanks for the clarification. I knew the parent company, I just didn't know it was used in an abbreviated form.

Maybe it should be Prospectibles... kind of like mandibles, but less chewy.

May 19, 2009 11:33 AM
rating: 0
 
JayhawkBill

My concurrence. All of these articles are excellent, just as I'm sure Oleoay's was. I suspect that it was a difficult call.

As an aside, if this is ever repeated, either offering a little more time for creating the qualifying article or disqualifying previously published work would be helpful.

May 18, 2009 11:53 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Thanks for the thought, JayhawkBill. I am pleased with my submission (or I wouldn't have submitted it), but after seeing the finalists, I do not think my submission was worthy of joining that group.

But I definitely know much better for next time and instead of an experience narrative, I'll do a piece which is more analytical/research/reporting based.

May 18, 2009 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
pftodd

I really enjoyed 2 of them and rated them A+. The others not as much, maybe because I was not interested in the topic, or I did not agree with their methodology or conclusion.

Having a winner who was published on mlb.com for writing a team article is kind of like American idol, which I do not watch, let Papelbon on the show to do an Irish dance. It's all good though.

It should be fun, a very diverse group.

May 18, 2009 01:42 AM
rating: 0
 
pftodd

Giving voters a single Monday, or is it most of Sunday and Monday, to review 10 articles and vote is really unfair to the contestants themselves. The order in which the articles are listed may affect the outcome since some may not read all articles or read them closely. Seems you should give them their new theme every Friday, and just not publish the one voted off by the next Friday's submission.

This means 1 contestant does an article that does not get published, but they get a vote that is more meaningful. Of course, there may be other considerations I am not aware of.

May 18, 2009 01:53 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Well, if the idea is to get interesting articles, then part of the voting will deal with how interesting the finalists can make the titles of their articles. Look at American Idol. You have the first second of a song to make a good impression. If you're off by a note, it affects people's perception of you for the rest of the piece. Internet articles are the same way. I open up ESPN.com and I read the writers I'm familiar with and any titles that look interesting... but I don't read every article. I don't read every article here either.

Though, there is a problem in that we're not voting for which articles to keep, but who should be voted off first... so it's possible that articles perceived as grossly incorrect or flawed might get voted off before the merely boring articles...

So, let the gratuitous article titling begin.

May 18, 2009 07:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Funny thing is I had read that article (along with a few others Brittany had written) back when it was published... but yeah, the article was from last October and was published on MLB.com's website already which got me a bit miffed. I like her writing style though, so we'll see what she does.

And yeah, I really enjoyed two of them as well(though I still have one or two left to read). Just like Idol though, we'll have to see what comes next.

May 18, 2009 07:25 AM
rating: 0
 
Brian Cartwright

We're not voting on ths batch of articles, that will start next week. I too am concerned about having too many articles on one day (even if I am first alphabetically). I would suggest running two a day from Mon thru Fri, so we don't get burned out reading ten at one time.

May 18, 2009 02:39 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Ever watched American Idol?

May 18, 2009 06:37 AM
 
Brian Cartwright

No

May 18, 2009 10:15 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

i'll suggest, as a judge, that you might want to ask a friend. understanding the format of the contest is going to be important.

May 18, 2009 11:03 AM
 
Brian Cartwright

I've realized that you are following the show as closesly as possible, as best I understand it. It was just a comment. I will follow whatever instructions the judges send me each week. On the other hand, I'm a reader as well.

May 18, 2009 11:28 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Will, Kevin, and Christina must be laughing. They probably read, what, 100 Idol entries a day? 200? No wonder my entry was overlooked.

May 18, 2009 07:47 AM
rating: 0
 
pftodd

Given they took 3 weeks and had hundreds to read, I doubt it. Also, the junk would be apparent after 1 para, and the rest of the article likely skimmed to verify it, and they move on to the next one.

May 19, 2009 00:30 AM
rating: 0
 
pftodd

You were one of my 2 A's BTW, I know we are not voting.

May 19, 2009 00:27 AM
rating: 0
 
josephax

So...are you guys still planning on doing some fun things with other entries that didn't make it? Snippets of some of the better or funnier ones, perhaps? Or Simon Cowell-style snidery?

May 18, 2009 07:44 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

let me see ... some are worried that people can't read ten articles, but others want us to publish lots and lots of the honorable mentions ...

yes, we will have some honorable mentions up at some point in the near future.

May 18, 2009 08:05 AM
 
sykojohnny
(225)
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

BP has too many stats and charts and not enough interesting articles about baseball. Statistical analysis isn't always interesting. Sykojohnny

May 18, 2009 07:45 AM
rating: -12
 
G. Guest

I find stats and charts quite interesting.

Unfortunately, "interesting" is not something that can be universally quantified and is purely subjective.

That's a good thing. It allows for sites like BP to exist along with other more sites where they focus on human interest stories and everything in between.

May 18, 2009 08:42 AM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

Indeed. Charts are mostly why I come here.

May 19, 2009 11:04 AM
rating: 0
 
Peter Benedict

Thanks for the opportunity BP Idol gives us to read more work and learn more.

I'm a pretty smart guy, but my brain fades as I read numbers over time. My BP Annual is read in small chunks over the course of a month, rather than at one sitting. I hope (and doubt) you have a headline order randomizer, because my experience this week is likely to be my experience every week: The first few articles were very enjoyable, I had to work at the next few, and the last few were more work than I'm used to doing as I read.

May 18, 2009 08:07 AM
rating: 0
 
GoodKingJohn

I agree with Richard Bergstrom. it is relevant whether they were subscribvers, had comments etc.

yeah, I am disappointed I was not picked.

the one suggestion I would make to BP is that they should have sent an email STATING they received a submission.

that would have been not only courteou but would have left no doubt it was received. as it is, we were left to wonder whether they receieved it. yeah, there might have been a 99% chance they receveived, but they could have taken two seconds to respond ('email receieved').

I DID NOT expect a response to say we were not picked.

that WOULD have been irrelevant as we would know in time anyway.

May 18, 2009 08:38 AM
rating: 3
 
BurrRutledge

Much to my dismay at the office this morning, I'm two hours in and I've finished a first scan of about half the articles.

If the unread (and more importantly the unwritten) articles are as good as the ones I've already scanned through, this will be a tremendous 10 weeks of entertaining and informative baseball writing.

Kudos.

May 18, 2009 08:41 AM
rating: 0
 
Adam Hobson

My main suggestion to all of the finalists is to learn to write for the Internet. It's not the same as writing a thesis paper.

Please, please, please get rid of the 500 word paragraphs that take up a dozen or more lines. Huge paragraphs on the Internet make reading a challenge and the last thing you want to do is make us not want to read your entries.

Stick to paragraphs of two to three sentences (depending on the length of your sentences), so that the paragraphs don't go past four, maybe five lines at most.

It also helps to organize your posts by utilizing headers to help break up the flow of your text.

Of course Baseball Prospectus itself doesn't help the readability of your entries, or any of its posts for that matter. Black text on white, 1.2 leading, huge measures, Arial? Not exactly a typographers dream.

May 18, 2009 13:19 PM
rating: -2
 
Matt Hunter

Yeah esp. Arial. It is especially hard to read tons of content. I doubt a lot of people really know the difference in fonts and why some are easier to read in larger samples.

May 18, 2009 22:32 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

By the way, since this is going to be a really long competition, is there going to be an easy way to access the entries from the previous week?... Or will we have to dig through the archive?

May 19, 2009 07:58 AM
rating: 0
 
Jeff Evans

If you can't post the articles until Sunday, any chance you could throw them out there on Sunday morning instead of the evening? It might make a heck of a difference as far as the time people have to check them all out. Easier to spread around. And sorry, no, I won't ever take the time to watch American Idol. If you guys were only on network TV, your product wouldn't be near as good as it is either.

May 19, 2009 17:53 PM
rating: 0
 
Bob

My criteria as a voter and subscriber is simple: I want someone who can begin to replace Nate Silver. With all due respect to all the other outstanding BP writers, his departure from Baseball Propsectus (and let's face it, for all intents and purposes, he's gone) has left a huge hole. So I'm looking for not just a stats analyst, but for someone who can develop compelling new statistical tools. Perhaps no one will ever be able to fully replace Nate, but I'd like to see someone try.

May 20, 2009 19:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

ARGH!

I do not want to be digging through the archives to follow how this contest is going. Have an intern create a sidebar on the main page or something!

May 21, 2009 09:33 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Yeah, I anticipated this would happen and bookmarked this site.

May 23, 2009 11:58 AM
rating: 0
 
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