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May 25, 2009

Prospectus Idol

Round One - The Basics

by Dave Pease

It's finally here. The process that started over a month ago is now ready for your input. Our hard-working judges turned their critical eyes on hundreds of entries to winnow the field to ten worthy finalists. The finalists' play-in entries have been published, giving everyone a glimpse of what they can do. Now we've got the voting code, the front-page widget, and the display firmed up, and hopefully it doesn't break.

At long last, this. Is. Prospectus Idol.

Good day to you, and welcome to the show. I'm Dave Pease, and it's an honor to be here with you today. Before we get started, give yourselves a round of applause. That's a good looking audience I'm seeing out there on the other side of those monitors and displays, which the sponsors always like, and an event like this simply wouldn't be possible without you. We're looking forward to working with you to determine the identity of this year's Prospectus Idol.

Sure, we said "working with." Assisting you in your task to choose the best of the best are our beautiful and talented judges, who you doubtlessly know from their roles here at Baseball Prospectus: injury majordomo Will Carroll, prospect guru Kevin Goldstein, and Christina Kahrl, managing editor of baseballprospectus.com (and mistress of transactions). You'll find the judges' comments directly beneath each of the entries each week, giving you their take on the strengths and weaknesses of the effort.

But in the end, it's up to you, Baseball Prospectus subscribers. Each week, you're be the voting body that decides who went big and who goes home. The process is simple. During the voting period, you'll have the opportunity to vote for any entry you feel is worthy-just click the thumbs-up icon at the top right of each article display.

means you haven't voted for the contestant to move on to the next round.

means you have. No phone numbers with mildly scammy toll charges. No texting from your mobile phone. It's that simple.

Of course, you're going to need to be logged in to vote. If you're not a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, click here to see your options. If you've got skin in this game and you want your peeps to back you up, we hope you don't drop a bunch of coin to get them all gift subscriptions. That wouldn't be right.

As a voter, you're going to need to decide how well each contestant fulfilled their weekly assignment. Opening week here at Prospectus Idol was inspired by our Baseball Prospectus Basics series, and is predictably being called "Basics Week". Here are the contestant's instructions, exactly as they received them:

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.

Without further ado, let's get rolling! To read the articles and vote, click here to visit the Prospectus Idol page. You'll see the articles presented in random order, with two buttons on the right side of the display for each article. The first is a checkbox that indicates if you've read the article or not, and the second is whether you've voted for the author to continue on (if you're able to vote). Ask questions or make pointed suggestions in the comments section, and thanks again for participating!

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

Related Content:  Prospectus

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

BP Comment Quick Links

eamuscatuli

After reading all ten articles, I have given the thumbs up to only three. I don't know if this says more about how underwhelmed I was by the Idol submissions, or how high the bar is set by the established BP contributors. Consider me a Simon I suppose.

May 24, 2009 16:11 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I gave a thumbs up to five, just based on what was written and not previous articles. That being said, I had more fun reading the initial entries than this week's entries. It might be due to the choice of topic as "The Basics" which meant I wasn't reading it as much for my enjoyment as for accuracy and clarity to new BP readers.

May 24, 2009 16:26 PM
rating: -1
 
Evan
(47)

I still read for my own enjoyment. My idea of what's a suitable introduction might differ from the ideas of others, but that's why we all get to vote.

May 25, 2009 11:55 AM
rating: -1
 
BurrRutledge

I also voted for just 3. I'd rather not water down my vote, so I only voted for the authors I felt fullfilled the assignemnt "the best."

May 26, 2009 11:47 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I ended up voting for 7, under the idea that the best ones will float to the top anyway and I'd rather give the ones who aren't the best some time to develop their voices... and perhaps come up with some new ideas. I'll definitely narrow who I give votes to in later rounds though.

May 26, 2009 13:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Btw, I love the format of the bpidol page and how it records each article read and what's been voted on. Is it possible to add in a timestamp for when the last comment was placed?

May 24, 2009 16:27 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

sure--we wanted to get something like this in there but ran out of time.

May 24, 2009 16:35 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

No problem, as I said, I like the interface.. and I realize it's more important to get it up and going then to add in extra frills.

May 24, 2009 16:52 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

You know, just from a macro level.. if the ten finalists started up their own baseball site, there'd be a nice balance of strengths and writing styles. The part I'm starting to realize is I don't necessarily fall head-over-heels-in-love with 100% of BP's articles... so maybe I'm overly critical (or drawing on my writing critique background) a bit too much for the finalists.

Ah well, there can be only one!

May 24, 2009 16:55 PM
rating: -1
 
Kingctb27

Adam Lambert should win

May 24, 2009 17:36 PM
rating: -2
 
John Carter

I'm taking the original entries into consideration for my votes. Despite whatever the stated rules may be, effectively this is about keeping safe the writers we most wish to keeep safe.

May 25, 2009 11:08 AM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

I fully planned to take the earlier articles into account, but I found that the authors with whose work I had issues before continued to offer the same sorts of problems in these new submissions, so considering the earlier work proved unnecessary.

I voted for 4 articles. There are perhaps two others I think were good enough to warrant consideration.

May 25, 2009 11:54 AM
rating: -1
 
Evan
(47)

And (here's me being a big nerd) I'm keeping a spreadsheet of the articles week to week so I'll know for whom I voted before, and for whom I considered voting but didn't. If nothing else, it will be useful for breaking ties.

May 25, 2009 12:07 PM
rating: 1
 
Sky Kalkman

I think that's awesome. I'm going to do that, and may even rate them 1 to 10 for increased detail.

May 25, 2009 18:30 PM
rating: -1
 
R.A.Wagman

There seems to be an overwhelming assumption in the submission comments that the "average BP reader" has great comprehension of the stats, or even that said reader well understands conceptual statistics. I do not think that is the case, as even a number of BP writers loudly proclaim to not understand statistics. I do not think I am the only one here who reads BP, and enjoys it greatly, because it offers wonderful, in-depth, researched and backed-up analysis of this fantastic game.

That rant aside, this has been a valuable experience in finding fresh insight and perspective to the game. My voting (I will be voting for all but my low score each week) will be based on the contestant's success at analyzing and retaining the ability to communicate clearly that analysis. Good luck to everyone and thank you.

May 25, 2009 21:20 PM
rating: 0
 
greensox

I voted for 8 of them. I thought they were all pretty good, with no major standouts.

May 25, 2009 23:15 PM
rating: -1
 
jpkand

Am I just missing a link to the BP Idol page from the home page?

May 26, 2009 09:54 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I don't think there is one, but you can use this link (assuming you're a subscriber).

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/bpidol/

May 26, 2009 10:08 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

you can use that URL even if you aren't a subscriber. we'll have a front page link up very soon.

May 26, 2009 10:27 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I thought only subscribers could vote... what does the link do for those that're not subscribed?

May 26, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: -1
 
jpkand

Thanks!

May 26, 2009 12:00 PM
rating: -1
 
Dan

I would encourage you to vary the article length for future rounds. (Maybe you're already considering that?)

In my opinion all the articles were on the long side.

Personally, I think the best writers are able to make a good point and back it up in not that many words. Some of Joe Sheehan's best articles take up barely one full screen for me. (I'm not sure how many words that is, but it's a lot less than 1500.)

Whoever writes an interesting and well-supported article in under 1000 words will have my vote!

May 26, 2009 11:32 AM
rating: -1
 
jpkand

I agree with that, but I suspect it will be difficult for them to sufficiently unleash their fury with a 1000 limit? They sure were longer than I was expecting.

May 26, 2009 12:01 PM
rating: -1
 
jtrichey

I'm not seeing a voting deadline, but Will just mentioned that there are on;t hours left. When is the deadline?

May 26, 2009 14:50 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Read the black bar near the top of the page just beneath the blue login/manage your subscription bar and just above the advertisement banner.

May 26, 2009 18:01 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Time to stir the pot with a...

Idol Hit List! (Pardon the pun)

These reflect my cumulative personal rankings/impressions so far. Numbers in parenthesis indicate what I thought of their initial entries. Feel free to flame away!

#1 Tim Kniker (#3) Good opening effort, but I think he nailed Run Expectancy in a way new people can grasp. Yummy!

#2 Matt Schwartz (#4) I thought this was a much better, more interesting piece about applying game theory which retained its focus on baseball itself.

#3 Ken Funck (#1) Loved the TGF article, a bit more meh on this one... I like what's possible.

#4 Brian Cartwright (#5) I'll admit that I get swamped with his statistics, but I found his Park Factors work more accessible.

#5 Brian Oakchunas (#10) Dull first article, immensely more impressed with his second entry.

#6 Jeff Euston (#7) Still trying to acquire his taste... a conclusion would make a good appetizer.

#7 Byron Lescroft (#2) Clunky writing turned the Hip FIP into a bad trip. Darn shame after the pitch F/x insight.

#8 Matthew Knight (#6) There is clearly some raw potential here, but it's not a sit-down meal yet.

#9 Brittany Ghiroli (#9) The statistics suggest she's not writing up to her potential yet.

#10 Tyler Hissey (#8) Initially, there were a lot of details. The Basics were too vague. Unfortunately, both topics were rehashed, though his comments are promising a better second course.

May 26, 2009 19:25 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Um, misspelled Byron Lescroart's and Matt Swartz's last names. My apologies.

May 26, 2009 19:33 PM
rating: -1
 
John Carter

That's darn close to my ranking, although I'd drop Matt to a distant fourth, because I wasn't convinced his original entry on the prisoner's dilema and collusion was anything solid.

The bottom four are are pretty fungible at this point, the rest got a vote from me to continue. Although, I am glad Brittany made it through for now, because she does write well. She might come up with something unique and interesting.

I'm also glad Matthew Knight made it through even though both of his articles were overall the worse. He seems to be a very bright guy who has a cheerful attitude. I figure he has potential to come up with something quite worthwhile. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have any understanding of what most of us know already or how we think. Of course, it is very difficult to understand your mass audience, but, I'm trying to put my finger on it, compared to the others Matthew seems tone deaf.

One more thought - just to show how different we all are and how difficult this is - I had the total opposite feelings towards Brian Oakchunas' entries as Richard had. I thought Oakchunas' qualifying entry on DER was one of the more interesting ones, though lacking a little polish, while his first assignment on First Strike Pitches was much ado about very little.

May 27, 2009 13:27 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I wasn't real keen on Matt's first article as to whether he proved what he was driving at, but it did spur some interesting conversation and ideas and I liked how that kind of game theory could be applied to future topics... so I was even happier when I saw his second post. Byron wrote on something I wanted to see for awhile in his initial entry (pitch f/X from the batter's perspective)and I really liked the method he used so it was my second favorite article for the initial entry... but his subsequent article wasn't as good and caused a bit of a vaccuum. Still, I had him at #7 and I'll admit I was shocked when he went. I also tried to be loyal to what I gave thumbs up to... since I gave six thumbs-up votes and a 7th "save" vote for Byron, you can easily tell which ones I didn't vote for.

A lot of my ranking was based on potential too, even if the execution was a bit flawed. Brittany and Tyler might be better writers technically than Matthew, but I liked what Matthew has tried to do. Funck had my favorite opening article... but was he a one-trick pony? Not at all, but I couldn't quite give him a #2 either. I really want to love Cartwright and I definitely liked him a lot more than his first posting. Something tells me his data-driven side will shine through in Fantasy week. And, truth be told, I am glad Brittany is still around because I want to see what she can do (though she's running out of time) and I liked how Tyler addressed comments to his article, so it seems he's learning and adapting.

Gotta love lists, a great way to encourage discussion and debate... and a way to poke a tongue-in-cheek fun at the BP Hit Lists.

May 27, 2009 13:41 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Yeah, some of the commentary has been terrifc, if not daunting. Thanks to everyone's contributions - especially the writers who must be very busy on their next entries.

I wish I had more time to evaluate some of the heavier mathematical comments. I thought I was a stat brain, but at this stage of my life, it is more intuitive. I think I have a good feel for what is significant and where there are blatant biases. However, when it comes to many of these precise higher math equations and concepts, I'm feeling a bit left out. I'll let that pass on the commentary, but I'm not willing to completely concede what I can't follow in the articles, because I know I have the facility to understand heavy mathematical concepts (or at least used to). If someone wants to go there and feels it is necessary, I'm OK with that as long as they don't try to bulldoze us over with their mathematical knowledge. Granted, it is not an easy task because if you hold our hands and walk us through it too slowly, we will be too bored and refuse to come along.

That brings us to a difference between text on paper and a website. BP should be encouraging links to details. If we need more hand holding to understand a concept, we should be able to link to that. I don't see how these writers will be able to do this under this context. Footnotes? If the contestents submit a hyperlink to another article will it work here?

May 27, 2009 14:45 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

It appears they've been formatting articles after submission to include hyperlinks.

As for myself, I probably fall into the same kind of bucket where my stat brain has given away to more of an intuitive feeling (or a lack of one). Also, since there are often arguments about sample size, noise, chance, luck etc, I'm more interested in if the broad mathematical/statistical theory is sound than if things are off by a few decimal points because the wind speed in Turkey off a butterfly's wings caused balls to fly faster out of Fenway park. I imagine my stance would be different if I had my own blog and was writing my own baseball-related articles, but I don't.

May 27, 2009 15:28 PM
rating: 0
 
Brecken

Is it possible to unclick Read? It comes up automatically when you open the article, but it presumes the end state. I'd feel bad to have printed these out, read half on my way home, and have a series of "No" votes for people I didn't actually read because I ran out of time.

May 26, 2009 20:02 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

no, it's not, but all we're counting is yes votes, so it doesn't matter if you read it or not.

May 28, 2009 14:30 PM
 
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