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January 4, 2010

State of the Prospectus

The Year and the Decade to Come

by Kevin Goldstein

First off, I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season. As it turned out, 2009 was a successful year for Prospectus Entertainment Ventures, but this coming year has the potential to be the biggest for us since the year we went to a premium product, and I'd like to share with you all some of the things we are working on. For our readers and subscribers, Baseball Prospectus means two things; great content, and leading-edge statistical work. I'd like to talk about some exciting developments on both fronts that push us even further forward in 2010.

Statistics

Since the founding of Baseball Prospectus in 1996, many other outlets have arrived to give readers a variety of choices when it comes to cutting-edge statistical analysis, and we appreciate and respect the great work that's out there. At the same time, it's come time for us to not only improve our current offering, but to better present what we have and communicate to both existing and potential readers why what we do is the best it its class.

We've added some of the best minds out there to meet these goals. You've already seen their work in the past month here at BP, and their names should already be familiar to many of you. Russell Carleton (known to many on the web as "PizzaCutter") and Colin Wyers are two of the best statistical minds contributing content on the internet, and now their work will be exclusive to Baseball Prospectus. Beyond the featured analysis they will provide on a content level, both are working behind the scenes to enhance our statistical offering, including the development of new metrics, which we will share with the public as they become perfected, with an explanation of why they should become the new standard.

While you have seen his name for a few months here, I would also like to talk about the work that Eric Seidman is doing that will be revealed in the coming months. In 2010, you will see new searchable, sortable player cards with career statistics, all of the BP family of stats, PECOTA projections, and more on a single easy-to-use, easy-to-read page. This is the one encyclopedic tool that many of you have been waiting for, and I think our readers will be thrilled with the results. Eric is also taking on a role as our statistical evangelist. We have a lot of great metrics out there, many which are unfortunately buried within our current public offering. That is going to change, and Eric will be spending a lot of time talking about our numbers, as well as many of the new metrics currently in development, and explaining the nuts and bolts around them, and why they are the best out there at accurately measuring team and player performance.

Some specific projects our entire stats team is working on (but are hardly limited to) include:

  1. SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA): A run estimator that corrects QERA's flaws and dethrones it as the most accurate of its kind. There's a long explanation of SIERA in the upcoming Baseball Prospectus 2010, and look for it here soon.

  2. New, "from the ground up" defensive measurements, including a separate project that will result in a state-of-the-art metric for measuring the value of catcher defense.

  3. A revamped and much improved MORP.

As always PECOTA will be an important part of our product offering. Once a series of complicated Excel spreadsheets and thousands of lines of Stata code residing on Nate Silver's laptop, we've moved PECOTA to a more stable and sharable development environment with the assistance of Nate, which will allow PECOTA to continue its growth as the most detailed projection system available. With our fearless statistical leader Clay Davenport at the helm, we expect to share with you many new and exciting developments concerning PECOTA in 2010 and beyond.

Content

As aggressive as we will be on the numbers side of things, our content will also see a significant number of changes that in the end means better and much more content for our subscribers. The increase in the amount of information we will be pushing to our subscribers will not be measured by a small percentage, it will be in multiples.

First, the new faces. Another name that has already been on the site a few times, Tommy Bennett, is becoming a BP-exclusive contributor. We've had our eyes on Tommy for quite awhile, as his work at Beyond the Box Score combined excellent analysis with highly entertaining writing, and we're confident you'll come to enjoy his work as much as we have.

In addition to Tommy, Jeff Euston is coming aboard. If that name doesn't ring a bell, I could instead refer to Cot's Contracts. Yup, that's Jeff, and Cot's Contracts is coming over to the Baseball Prospectus family. The product as you all know and love will now be hosted at baseballprospectus.com with a variety of visual improvements, and will remain a free product. We will also be developing a premium version for our subscribers with a variety of in-depth searching and sorting tools to better mine this fantastic data. Jeff will be staying at BP as the manager of the product, while also writing about contracts and other economic aspects of the game.

There are also some faces you well know who will be taking on new roles in 2010. First up is Christina Kahrl, who for years has held a dual role as a feature writer, primarily on transactions, while also serving as the website's editor-in-chief. In 2010, Christina will focus solely on writing, not only on transactions, but on all aspects of the game, and of course, expect lots of obscure reference to 16th century Belgian military tactics. We've always loved Christina's writing, and now that she's no longer a two-sport star, we firmly believe that it will become even better (and more regular). In addition, Christina will be working on a pair of book projects, but we'll have much more information on that for you in the coming months.

As far as our new Editor-in-Chief, luckily the perfect candidate fell into our laps as John Perrotto will be joining BP on a full-time basis. With over two decades of newspaper experience, John brings us new angles on content management, and he'll remain one of our feature writers as well. I've known John personally for years beyond my time here, and I couldn't be happier about this, as he's one of the most dedicated workers I know and I'm sure everyone here will learn much from him. We are excited for John in his new endeavor, and look forward to him meeting the challenges ahead.

One of those challenges will be the deluge of new content that we anticipate we'll be providing to readers and subscribers. Our feature content that you all know and love isn't going to change in any way, other than the addition of all the new faces, but we are adding a whole new layer to our writing in the formation of blogs that go far beyond Unfiltered. We will have blogs for all of our subject categories (analysis, transactions, news, prospects, injuries, etc.) that allow our writing to provide instant analysis with our commenting features creating some of the smartest conversations out there. If Will Carroll sees a pitcher leave a game, he can blog what he saw, with more details in the next UTK. A scout calls me on the road at 1 a.m. to talk about what he saw in a Cal League game, no need to wait for a scouting notebook or ranking to share that information. No longer restricted to feature-length pieces only, we can provide more in-depth statistical material, while also having a little fun with it as well, while also share interesting conversations culled from our private e-mail list. Our goal is to overwhelm you with information, and keep you returning to the site several times throughout the day.

Since I mentioned Will, it's important to note that Will Carroll is returning in 2010, with a commitment for 2011. Peter Gammons called him the industry standard for a reason, and we couldn't be happier about his return, as well as what he can accomplish with all of our new content layers. Will is also bringing back BP Radio, and we'll be adding to our audio products as Joe Hamrahi, our CFO and founder of Baseball Digest Daily has begun the planning and development of a weekly podcast, with BP's team of experts discussing the game's current events.

Unfortunately, we do have one departure that needs to be addressed, as Joe Sheehan is moving on to other things. Joe's one of the founders of BP, and his iconoclastic work has been a stalwart here to a point where I have little difficulty in saying that without Joe, none of us would be here. We wish him all the luck and happiness in the world with his future endeavors, and hope to work with him again in the future.

This is really just the opening salvo for BP moving forward, and there will be much more news to share with all of you in the coming weeks, once we catch our breath after the conclusion of our work on Baseball Prospectus 2010. I hope everyone is as excited as we are about what lies ahead this year and beyond. It's our subscribers are the people who drive us to be better, and many of the things that we are executing on came from ideas suggested by you, our readers. I make no secret of how to contact me (kgoldstein@baseballprospectus.com), and I read every e-mail I receive, while trying my best to respond to every one as well. If you want to discuss things a little more publicly, I'll be chatting today at 2pm ET, but hopefully we'll talk some prospects as well. As you all know, this is all very exciting, but in the end, it's all about baseball.

Here's to the end of the decade, and more importantly, the upcoming one.

Kevin Goldstein
Managing Partner
Prospectus Entertainment Ventures

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

dianagram

Sad to see Joe go, but excited to see John come onboard.

Jan 04, 2010 05:52 AM
rating: 0
 
nkhare

Great news (except for Joe leaving). I'm very excited about Cot's Contracts as well as the other additions. I'm curious - will Nate be writing some articles in 2010?

Jan 04, 2010 06:36 AM
rating: 4
 
jdtk99

Very excited about the new content. Keep up the good work.

Jan 04, 2010 07:03 AM
rating: 0
 
Tarakas

I want to note that I am sad to see Joe go. I'm a longtime subscriber, and increasingly, there seem to be mainly two sorts of articles at BP--articles focusing on increasingly marginal statistics using highly complex math, that don't really argue anything or come to some major conclusion, but instead spend paragraphs giving complex methodology to measure something, followed by a list. The list is sometimes merely a short list of leaders and trailers. If the teams/players you are interested in are neither, you never even see where they rank or rate. I think there is a place for work like this, but it is losing my interest. For example, reading pages of math on a computer screen to find out the Colorado Rockies were three runs better at something than the Reds last season, well, I've forgotten it an hour later.

The other type of article is the statistically informed opinion piece, filled with attitude and wit. I love these--this is mainly why I subscribe--and Joe and Christina are the main sources of these, and with Joe gone, that worries me.

This is a gross overgeneralization--Will's pieces don't fit into these category, and are great, and there are other exceptions as well. But overall, I'm worried.

Jan 04, 2010 07:08 AM
rating: 176
 
pbconnection

Thank you for writing this. I couldn't agree more. Joe and Christina's articles were the ones that I truly looked forward to the most. They use statistics intelligently, but purposefully to a specific point.

I find that much of the "methodology" pieces start with a premise, and generally can't draw much in the way of conclusions. They seems like they're trying to emulate the incomparable Nate Silver, but Nate waited until the statistics were strongly indicating something to make an article out of it. I've criticized these pieces several times before as a commentary to how I feel like I'm starting to get less out of my BP subscription over time.

With Joe gone, it's a major blow to my interest in this site.

I don't dislike John Perotto, but his content is all to similar to the writing that I don't have to pay for from many many other sources.

Jan 04, 2010 08:35 AM
rating: 33
 
surveyzas
(119)

Could not agree more with this statement. BP content has become more easily pigeonholed into the categories you described, particularly over the last couple of years. it's something that's had me on the fence on whether or not to re-up my subscription in 2010. If so, this would be the first year i've let it lapse, going back to the days before there was any such thing as Premium Content at this site.

BP has, for years, provided an incredible blend of innovative analysis techniques and wonderful, well-written articles - often using the latter to deliver the former. the site is at a point where the writing has almost gotten lost in the analysis, and it's more than just a shame - it's a problem. (i mean, i love and appreciate the stuff a guy like Matt Swartz brings to the table, but if i read one more bone-dry research paper masquerading as a sports article, i'm gonna barf.)

i find myself thinking wistfully of the old days - when we saw regular pieces by Jazayerli, Silver Perry, Huckaby, etc.) we need more from the current group who do this well - more Goldstein, more deMause, more Jacques, more Jaffe - both to balance things out, and to guide the new writers joining the fold. be lyrical as well as analytical, irreverent as well as relevant. use language to explain what the numbers mean. and ultimately, follow in the steps of the BP 'forefathers' - have some fun with it, and let it show!

The stable of fine minds that BP has always kept means that we subscribers should expect and welcome continuous turnover and change, even when it means saying goodbye to some of our favorites. On the flipside, we should also expect the site's standard for quality to remain as high as ever, and at this particular moment in time, it just ain't.

Jan 04, 2010 09:56 AM
rating: 51
 
Dave Holgado

Well said!

Jan 04, 2010 10:01 AM
rating: -1
 
pbconnection

Amen to this!

Jan 04, 2010 10:08 AM
rating: -3
 
TucsonTumbleweed

Couldnt have said it better myself!

Jan 04, 2010 11:11 AM
rating: 1
 
pbconnection

I can't say how disappointing it is to see a well reasoned and heartfelt comment by Tarakas ignored by the BP staff.

Currently, his comment has a staggering +43 ranking, and zero BP staff have attempted to have a discussion about these concerns!

Jan 04, 2010 12:03 PM
rating: 0
 
Ozdoltorps

Easy there. I agree with Tarakas too, but its been less than 8 Hours since his post. You act like its been a week.

Jan 04, 2010 12:23 PM
rating: 6
 
pbconnection

The BP writers have left double digit comments in this thread. They simply chose to respond to the softball comments that didn't get so much as a +5.

Jan 04, 2010 12:38 PM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

This is something we've already been talking about internally, particularly throwing open the door for more people to write on more topics; in December, you might have noticed, we had more divergent tacks on similar subjects, in part because the focus is on giving people the outlet to write about baseball--which is fun--than being just on one particular "beat."

Take in point Ken Funck's bits on the Brewers' signings or the Marlon Byrd contract: those were analyses of transactions doing what I think is BP-level at its best: a statistically-informed argument interpreting a historical event. His tack and mine won't be identical; the hope is that you'll find both interesting.

Understandably, folks enjoy the specific over the abstract, and my expectation is that you'll see everyone on the staff writing about team- and player-specific topics, and not just high-end theory pieces. We deliberately want statheads on staff, but we also just as deliberately seek to use sabermetrics to inform commentary.

Jan 04, 2010 12:52 PM
 
pbconnection

Christina, if you were leaving as well as Joe, I'd be indignantly asking for a refund on the remainder of my subscription.

I wholeheartedly look forward to you spending a larger portion of your time on writing, which was the only clear positive that I gleaned from the changes for 2010 and beyond.

Jan 04, 2010 12:57 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Believe me, one of the things I look forward to is having the time to get down to the ballpark in plenty of time, as opposed to a few too many afternoons chewed up by site logistics. Whether writing up game stories (applied sabermetrics) or even the odd TA from the park, I found the experience last year to be a lot of fun, and look forward to doing more of it. At the end of the day, nothing beats the simple joy of being at the ballpark, and I like to think that joy has a way of showing up in the writing. Similarly, I'm looking forward to making my way to St. Louis and Cleveland (for fun), New York (for New York), Anaheim (for the All-Star Game), Atlanta (for SABR), and perhaps driving on up to the Twin Cities to check out the new park.

Jan 04, 2010 13:09 PM
 
thsaladboy

While I don't dislike the statistics articles, they certainly aren't as important to me as the opinion articles, and in general they don't hold my interest as much as the old stats articles by Clay Davenport, Michael Wolverton and Keith Woolner did. Perhaps that's natural--as the statistics have become both more advanced and more entrenched into the consciousness, the new areas of research had become by design more obscure.

Mostly, though, I'm sad to see Joe go. I was sad when he left the first time, but it's even more of a shame now. He and Christina were the last two founding members still writing for the site (possibly working for it at all? Is Clay still doing stats work behind the scenes?), and I became a fan of the site way back in 1998 because of the writings of Joe, Christina, Gary Huckabay, Rany Jazayerli, Keith Law and (a little later) Derek Zumsteg. I like Kevin Goldstein, Stephen Goldman, Jay Jaffe and Marc Normandin, but I will miss reading Joe's columns. I hope the future of BP is still closer to that side of opinion/analysis writing, and, now that he's editor in cheif, not John Perrotto style stuff. Nothing against Perrotto, but I don't come to BP for beat writing style stuff, and one such guy is enough.

Jan 04, 2010 15:03 PM
rating: 11
 
deep64blue

>>Is Clay still doing stats work behind the scenes?<<

Yes, as per the article!

"With our fearless statistical leader Clay Davenport at the helm, we expect to share with you many new and exciting developments concerning PECOTA in 2010 and beyond."

Jan 07, 2010 10:33 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I'm sorry, I have to note this: this comment has a rating of *143*! I don't know that I've ever seen even a tenth of that before this article.

And there's at least one fortysomething, and some 20s and 30s, in this thread.

I'm astounded. BP's had comments for about 16 months, and these ratings completely shatter anything I remember seeing. I don't think "puppy dogs are cute" would register that highly. "Nate Silver is smart," maybe.

Maybe it's Tarakas who should get a phone call...

Jan 05, 2010 23:25 PM
 
Dave Holgado

Hear, hear!

I think my David Lee Roth comp (one of those hovering in the 30's) would rate far higher had I only picked a better band/singer. Maybe Led Zeppelin without Plant? Yes, that's it. BP without Joe is like the Coverdale/Page project. You buy the album because you have to -- that's how much you like Zeppelin -- but it's not even the same thing.

Joe, it has been a pleasure reading you for these many years. To borrow a phrase that you (or perhaps Nate) made popular, you've been the most entertaining and important writer for this site and the sabermetric community over the last decade, "and it's not particularly close." As a fellow fan of the Yankees, Donnie Baseball, James' Abstracts, Tout Wars, college hoops, Hold 'Em, food that's bad for me, and popping off first and asking questions later, I also consider you a kindred spirit. Best of luck wherever you land. And here's hoping your solo work reaches heights greater than "Just A Gigolo" and campy Beach Boys covers. I know it will.

Jan 07, 2010 08:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Here's my silly question, but Tarakas, I'm assuming you're not new to BP and have commented before... so what was your nick?

Jan 08, 2010 18:35 PM
rating: 0
 
Worthing

I wrote something that was considered and tried to be balanced. Something about Joe leaving not being the last straw, but possible the straw before the last straw. But then the comment submission ate my comment and it poofed (not the first time this has happened!). So maybe it was the last straw.

Tarakas somewhat made the same point I was trying to make right above. Too many of the former, too few of the latter. I really hope the new writers are good at the informed opinion piece, because really, after 10 years of BP being my go to fix for baseball writing, the former just doesn't do it for me anymore.

(this time cut-n-pasted just in case...)

Jan 04, 2010 07:22 AM
rating: 6
 
dianagram

Oh, and Kevin .... and time to make the BP Annual available for download! :-)

Jan 04, 2010 08:10 AM
rating: 12
 
SC

and/or player cards to include the write-ups in the annual. I'd rather pay $60/year for my subscription to have the book and site integrated than have two separate products.

Jan 04, 2010 08:18 AM
rating: 15
 
dianagram

Yes! This is a long-standing wish of mine. For those of us who like to include some of the player notes in our fantasy baseball worksheets, this is essential.

Jan 04, 2010 08:34 AM
rating: 5
 
karp62

As a long time Pittsburgh Pirates fan and Perrotto follower, I am very pleased to see his full time addition to BP. I'll miss Joe though. I always thought he would make a wonderful in studio analyst for one of the networks, as they lag so far behind the times in terms of bridging the gap between old school baseball thinking and modern day statistical analysis. Every front office seems to be featuring a stats guru now; why not the networks? Is the MLB Network a potential new gig for Joe? How cool would that be to see him working to get their in studio experts a little bit more versed and accepting of modern day statistical analysis?

Welcome on board John! Take care Joe! Looking forward to more from both of you.

Jan 04, 2010 08:23 AM
rating: 1
 
oira61

Kevin: I'm sorry, but you buried the lead. You're the managing partner, the Lew Wolff of BP? Congratulations. Can you explain a bit about the ownership structure?

Please accept the directness of the question as exactly the type of thing you guys would ask of a baseball team.

Thanks.

Jan 04, 2010 08:26 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Not buried at all, this was originally announced last March.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8653

As far as structure goes, BP is an completely owner-operated entity.

Jan 04, 2010 09:43 AM
 
oira61

Thanks Kevin, I had forgotten that posting. Good luck with the new lineup.

Jan 04, 2010 11:02 AM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Handing the reins to Kevin was news last year this time. He took over from Nate, if I remember my details correctly.

Personally, I am looking forward to another wonderful season of BP Premium subscription. Yes, I'll miss Joe and his contributions - just as I miss Nate. As an aside, I do remember Kevin telling us in this space a year ago that we would continue to read occassional articles from Nate; yet, in retrospect none come to mind.

But BP is an evolving corporation. I've been through my share of personnel and management changes in my own employment, so I shouldn't expect anything different from other businesses.

I wish Joe the very best, and the same to all the other members of the extended BP family.

Cheers, Burr

Jan 04, 2010 10:05 AM
rating: 1
 
thsaladboy

My guess is Nate pledged to do some baseball articles this year and meant to do some but got too wrapped up in his political writings to ever get around to it (though he might still be in charge of maintaining PECOTA. I don't know). It's a shame he no longer writes for the site as well, though now I have bookmarks in Firefox for both BP and FiveThirtyEight.com, so I still get to read him talk about one of my other obsessions.

Jan 04, 2010 15:11 PM
rating: 0
 
Flynnbot

Echoing some above sentiments, I hope that Sheehan's departure was his choice and not BPro's, and I hope Christina did not want to do TA anymore, and not BPro, b/c those are two of the last really good reasons to come here. I always felt their writing was the competitive advantage that kept BPro relevant compared to other sites....I'm just not sure what's left that's worth paying for.

Jan 04, 2010 08:27 AM
rating: 1
 
Worthing

I don't think CK is stopping the TA, at least, that's not what I read. She's not filling the website editor-in-chief role anymore and is solely a writer.

Jan 04, 2010 08:31 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I humbly ask that you give it a chance. Personally, I think we're going to rock your socks off. Just to clarify a few things here. There was no coup or anything like that, just didn't happen. What Joe said in his piece and what I say here are both the truth. Some goes for Christina -- she's actually going to be writing MUCH MORE for BP (and is totally jazzed about it), on transactions and other things.

Jan 04, 2010 09:49 AM
 
Juris

Christina's TA is the, um, quippiest and sassiest writing about baseball current event anywhere on the web. I'm really glad to see TA continuing and Christina being free at last from daily editorial responsibilities.

Jan 04, 2010 11:08 AM
rating: 4
 
Nils J

Joe and Christina are great. But I don't look forward to their columns any more than Kevin's or Will's. I don't know why you would stop reading the best (IMO) baseball site out there because one of the top 4 or 5 left.

Just my opinion

Jan 04, 2010 14:11 PM
rating: 8
 
nfkrueger
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I find myself wondering if we will see Joe again - it sure sounds like you guys decided he no longer fit in. Changing Christina's duties seems odd as well.

Speaking as a math nerd, I must admit that as noted above.. obscure math has its place but every year we seem to get fewer insightful commentaries & losing Sheehan & TA is not going to help... at all.

Smells like a coup.

Jan 04, 2010 08:32 AM
rating: -5
 
dianagram

We aren't losing TA.

Jan 04, 2010 08:35 AM
rating: 7
 
Dave Holgado

Joe Sheehan is BP. Kevin, you've been a fantastic addition to the site (just as Jay and Nate have/had been before you). And of course Chris, Rany, Gary, Clay, et al., all deserve ample credit for their contributions over the years as well. But it was Joe's writing that brought me here, and that filled the huge void left for me during the late 90's and early 00's when Bill James wasn't publishing much of anything. That Joe filled that void with pieces written in the classic James style (terse, witty, intellectually honest, at times brash, but ultimately always well-reasoned) is what made me a devoted follower of the annual book, and eventually, this website. For the last several years, the annuals have suffered noticeably from Joe's absence, and now I believe the website will as well. I'm sorry, it's just a fact. You can still call it Van Halen if you want -- and, well, Eddie is still here -- but you done lost your lead singer.

Jan 04, 2010 09:00 AM
rating: 37
 
ddanyc
(837)

The comment from Tarakas is exactly on point.

It seems to me that BP, in adding to its roster, is not asking the basic question "Is this person a good read?" Joe is a good read. CK is a good read. Steve Goldman, during one of his rare appearances, is a good read. Matt Swartz? Eric Seidman? Sorry, no, they are not good reads. Plowing through those articles is akin to grading term papers. John Perrotto? Wire service-style rehashes of topics covered multiple days earlier by Ken Rosenthal or MLB Trade Rumors or a dozen other free sites.

This is supposed to be fun. I think BP is losing sight of that.

Jan 04, 2010 09:03 AM
rating: 35
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Steve Goldman is flattered and doesn't mean to be rare, but during annual season my columns have to take a back seat to getting the book ready to go. Once we're done, and we almost are, I intend to be more visible here (and at my other home, the Pinstriped Bible as well).

Jan 04, 2010 09:31 AM
 
pbconnection

The Pinstriped Bible is a great read. I check it all the time. Keep it up, Steven!

Jan 04, 2010 09:44 AM
rating: 4
 
J Scott

Genuinely strange to realize Kahrl was BP's "Editor-In-Chief". Whenever reading CK my dominant reaction is "This indiviual would benefit greatly from some serious editing". One word, Kahrl. No, not "plastics"...pithy. Pithy is your friend.

Jan 04, 2010 09:21 AM
rating: -3
 
Brian24

Allow me to respectfully disagree. CK has a very distinctive writing style, and it's probably not for everybody, but count me among those who enjoy it.

Jan 04, 2010 09:51 AM
rating: 13
 
Dr. Dave

If I want pithy, I'll read wire service releases. One or two sentences per paragraph, no thought required.

Usually, though, I'd rather read Faulkner than Hemingway.

Jan 04, 2010 09:58 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Funny, I've always made more of a Kerouac comp here.

Jan 04, 2010 10:04 AM
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

'Tis a fair complaint, certainly, and one I've been hearing for 25 years. My feeling was that if I was writing about Billy Budd, Wilhelmine foreign policy dysfunction, post-Vatican II priestly formation, or the unique virtues of a particular third lefty in the pen, it doesn't hurt to take my cue from the chairman of the board and do it my way. It has been my long-cherished conceit that I let myself write the way that I enjoy writing (and speaking, for that matter), while I've generally tried to edit others to show a similar respect for author voice. Blanditude's one of the reasons newspapers are where they are.

Jan 04, 2010 11:18 AM
 
Vilica

Christina, your writing style is awesome, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. We need more obscure historical references and long-winded sentences in all forms of writing IMO.

Jan 04, 2010 15:31 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

CK's writing reminds me (in a good way), of some of the monologues in Kevin Smith's movies where the speakers weaves in logic and examples in a rapid-fire argument. I love the ride.

Jan 05, 2010 06:08 AM
rating: 1
 
dianagram

How about a BP app for mobile phones .... ?

Jan 04, 2010 09:24 AM
rating: 6
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

We are looking into a few mobile technologies. Unfiltered feed is now on Kindles for example as a test case.

Jan 04, 2010 09:51 AM
 
baserip4

I hope that RSS is a bigger part of the future, too. I read a TON of stuff on the web daily, and RSS is about the only way I can get to it all, especially if an intriguing article arrives on a day that I don't have time to read it. I'd love to see several RSS feeds (comprehensive, articles only, blogs only, etc) to which customers can subscribe to have their content delivered conveniently. I don't know about others, but the daily email just doesn't work for me.

Jan 04, 2010 10:06 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

All of the new blogs with have RSS feeds.

Jan 04, 2010 10:14 AM
 
baserip4

My biggest complaint is that chat archives, radio news, etc. never makes it to the RSS feed. I don't mind clicking through the partial feeds for content, but rarely do I check the homepage for the day's events.

Jan 05, 2010 09:12 AM
rating: 3
 
Hawkeye

holgado said it all!

Jan 04, 2010 09:24 AM
rating: 1
 
lemppi

Change can be good...I'm not opposed. But, in order for my cash to continue to flow to BP, whatever replaces Sheehan better be darn good.

Jan 04, 2010 09:33 AM
rating: 6
 
TheBunk

In addition to Joe's pieces i'm also gonna miss the chats, he was the best at sticking around and getting to almost all the questions. Will be missed.

Jan 04, 2010 09:34 AM
rating: 10
 
BillyB

We all subscribe for various reasons that likely distill to the content on the site--it is a media outlet after all. We pay because the content is worth it. Joe Sheehan is very good, attractive content--attractive in the sense that once you started reading him, you probably came back. Others are good, too.

What I find curious (and not pejoratively, rather intriguing) is that in this piece the site first touts its upcoming statistical development for the way it will advance how people think about the game, rather than the quality of the writing that will be adversely affected with Joe's departure. It's not really any of our business how you decide to deploy our subscription dollars until it starts to impact why we subscribe. It's the writing and analysis that most people pay for, not so much new metrics that may catch on in a few years. It's just something to think about.

Jan 04, 2010 09:39 AM
rating: 16
 
nicopad

Kevin,
That was a lame sendoff to Joe Sheehan, who is the best baseball writer around in my opinion. There are other writers at BP I like but like a number of other subscribers have already said, a lot of articles now read like homework.
The content ain't as fun as it should be.

Thanks, Nick

Jan 04, 2010 09:50 AM
rating: 21
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

You are the second person to bring up the fun factor and that really bothers me. Not because you brought it up, but because in a lot of ways I think you are right. I hope read my chats, because I certainly (or at least try) to have a ton of fun in those. I do think Tommy and Colin (from a more analytic side) bring a lot of fun to what the do, but more importantly, I think the blog layer will really take care of that. The one thing most related to the fun issues is a mindset over feature-length pieces. Fun tends to be much quicker, and fun things that were come up with often got discarded, or just shared internally as they didn't add up or create an opportunity for feature-length stuff. No more, we'll all share the fun from now on.

Jan 04, 2010 10:02 AM
 
BurrRutledge

Kevin, do I understand correctly that the intent of the blogs to be more in keeping with rec.sports.baseball discussions? Will subscribers be able to comment similar to the Unfiltered? Thanks!

Jan 04, 2010 10:12 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Oh yeah, everything will have comments, and we're encouraging more cross-comments internally where if, for example, Christina posts a quick thought on a transaction, any of us will go in there and add our two cents as well.

Jan 04, 2010 10:15 AM
 
rjg6cb
(648)

I disagree on the length/fun correlation. I'm a longtime reader (eleven years and counting, when I discovered the site in HS) and, yes, Sheehan is a main attraction to most of the readers here.

Some things are fun and gimmicky (BP Idol) and some are niche fun (CK, the scouting stuff, etc.). But, with fewer and fewer stats-inclined opinion writers on the site -- Zumsteg's "God Bless America" piece is one of my favorite baseball writing ever -- I will find myself coming here less and less often.

Sheehan constantly had his pulse on the top stories of the day. He opened my eyes to interesting storylines, colored by non-arcane statistics. He made the complex less complex. He wasn't "fun" in the hokey or pretentious sense. He was simply a very strong writer who tackled timely subjects (and didn't waste our time writing about music or video games in his chats). Jaffe is a similar writer and I, for one, hope to read more of him in the future.

I know there's more to this than any of us readers can understand or whatever, but Sheehan will be missed. I will certainly reconsider my subscription next year.

Jan 04, 2010 11:06 AM
rating: 20
 
ElAngelo
(942)

I agree with this wholeheartedly. There's two sides of the BP coin: the creation of stats, and the analysis of the stats and other information out there. I think I'm not alone that the first category, while fine and good, is not my particular cup of tea. I don't have the time or curiosity to see how any number of metrics are created, and usually, the writing associated with these pieces is below the level I expect from a pay website.

The other side of the coin is the work done by Sheehan, CK, Jay Jaffe and others, who use and apply the stats, coupled with what's actually going on or went on in the game into analysis that's well-written, timely, incisive, and makes one think. The problem is this group is now down the CK and Jay, which is making it tough to stomach the annual fee.

(There's third element of news gathering and reporting, which Will, Kevin and Perotto do better than most others.)

Jan 04, 2010 11:21 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Just wanted to chime in here on a few notes. First, I've counted Joe Sheehan among my short-list favorites when it comes to baseball writing for nearly a decade, and I've been privileged to call him (not to mention so many other great folks here at BP) a colleague for the past five years. He's taught me invaluable lessons in both capacities, and helped me refine my own critical thinking about baseball, so on both levels, I'm sad to see him depart. At the same time, I'm excited for Joe to stretch his wings a bit, because the world of baseball writing needs more people reading Joe Sheehan, and I suspect that in due time, whatever he's got up his sleeve will give us just that. Here's wishing him nothing but the best in his endeavors.

Second, I'm flattered that some of you have gone so far as to single me out for mentions among the writers you enjoy here. So first off, let me reassure you that despite my relative scarcity around these parts since the final out of the World Series, I'm still here, and once I finish with the JAWS/Hall of Fame beat this week (culminating with an article and a chat about the results on Wednesday), there will be more of me here than there has been in coming weeks due to the BP annual and other responsibilities (which suddenly came to include eyeballing PECOTA projections at 1 AM on a Saturday night to weed out Manny Ramirez's Mexican League comparables. Ironically enough, while I was in Mexico...).

I remember what it felt like to be the new kid on the block, somebody charged with the responsibility of living up to the expectations of paying readers who had watched folks like Keith Law, Gary Huckabay and Rany Jazayerli move onto bigger things and wondered if Baseball Prospectus could survive. It's been five years since I joined the staff, and I've watched some other great minds - Keith Woolner, Nate Silver - move on as well, but BP continues not only to survive but to thrive. I'm gratified that colleagues and readers have given me a chance to carve out my own niche here, and I ask those of you for whom all this change seems like a shock to let this fresh crop of writers, most of whom still haven't received their proper rookie hazings - Seidman, go out and find me a left-handed bat-stretcher, pronto! - find their voices as well.

All of us at BP are committed to busting our asses to give you great content. The changes Kevin outlined above are a renewal of that commitment. It's on us to live up to that, and I have no doubt we'll be able to do it. I hope you'll stick around to be part of it, because it's gonna be a whole lotta fun.

Jan 04, 2010 15:53 PM
 
Greg Ioannou

The fun factor is important. I think it is why Ken Funck won the BP Idol thing -- his pieces were the most entertaining, the best written. The most fun. Joe and Christina are the other two writers you had who are always just fun to read. I love how Christina plays with the language in her pieces. Her content is usually interesting and the bits of cleverness make me smile. The one thing I'm not seeing you focus on in the SotP pieces is what you are intending to do to raise the quality of the writing. I think bringing Tommy on board will help with that.

I wish you'd focussed on finding a really experienced managing editor to raise the general standard of the writing rather than assigning the role to a writer with no apparent editing experience. The skill-sets are really different, and as far as I can see John P. is going to have to be learning the new skills on the fly. You pretty much just decided to convert your center fielder to a pitcher because he seems to have a strong arm -- and you're doing it without giving him time in the minors to get some coaching.

Jan 05, 2010 06:55 AM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

It's not like John P. is some rookie writer so I'm not sure he needs "minor league" time. Also, his articles have been consistently clean and accessible, so I think he'd have some good insight to bring to others.

Jan 05, 2010 07:10 AM
rating: -3
 
Greg Ioannou

As a writer, he's no rookie. As an editor, he sure seems to be. Very different skill sets.

Jan 05, 2010 08:44 AM
rating: 0
 
JoshuaL

It seems trite to say "ditto", but I agree in principle with most of the "Joe is leaving!?" comments left so far. I will most certainly continue to give BP a chance (since my subscription runs through the summer), but I have my doubts about whether the articles - sans Sheehan - will be able to hold my interest. Prove me wrong. (Please.)

And to Joe Sheehan: you rock, and, as a fellow Yankee fan and great writer, will be missed.

Jan 04, 2010 10:07 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Joshua,

I appreciate the comment, and that's really all I ask for from anyone in your position. Give us the chance to prove you wrong, I strongly believe we will.

Jan 04, 2010 10:21 AM
 
lynchjm

BP would be better off forgetting trying to develop new metrics all together. It's always funny to see Christina try to use FRAA or similar BP-branded metric that has long been forgotten due to better data emerging.

Losing Joe isn't an issue with me, I've read 90% of his pieces on the site and in the past 12-18 months it's all become the same. I don't need to read Joe to know what he thinks about something, he's hammered his thought process home and I know where he will land.

I also much prefer Kevin, Christina and Steve's qualitative writing over the recent 'Prospectus Idol' trend of what seem to be auditions for a job as a high school statistics teaching position. Those writers are talented and the pieces seem well researched and well writen, I just don't really care to know which player gained 3 runs over the course of the season by being able to block the catcher's throw to second on attempted steals.

I'd probably stick around just for the TA's and Future Shocks but I don't read nearly as high a percentage of stories as I used to. The deal with Cot's sounds great and Christina spending more time writing is great news too. I can promise you that the one thing I don't need is a 5% improvement on QERA. I'd rather read Joe's 51st rant on the Marlins not spending revenue sharing then get another metric that is just telling me almost the same exact thing that 5 other sites have developed at the same time.

Jan 04, 2010 10:10 AM
rating: 7
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

"I can promise you that the one thing I don't need is a 5% improvement on QERA. I'd rather read Joe's 51st rant on the Marlins not spending revenue sharing then get another metric that is just telling me almost the same exact thing that 5 other sites have developed at the same time."

Lemme try to sell you on why that 5% improvement may be important.

The thing to remember about baseball metrics is that most of it is really, really easy to figure out. Is Albert Pujols a better hitter than Neifi Perez? It really doesn't take a sophisticated metric to figure that out.

Of course once you've handled the easy stuff, what you're left with is the hard stuff. That's where you tend to see those small, incremental improvements. But what you end up getting is not a case where everyone's numbers end up getting incrementally more accurate. Those players that you've already assessed correctly - you don't get any improvement there. So the small improvement at the group level is really concentrated in a smaller subset of players.

Do you need that incremental improvement? It depends. For a typical player, no. But for one of those guys that's been consistently over or underrated because of something that's been overlooked? For those players, it's absolutely the difference between understanding that player and not understanding that player.

Now some people are very interested in the "how" part of that process, and others really aren't. I personally find that sort of exploration and discovery a lot of fun and I try to share that with readers. I have no doubt y'all will let me know how I'm doing on that score.

But I certainly do think that "5% improvement" is something worth working towards and that it adds something significant to our understanding of baseball and baseball players. I think the big lesson of sabermetrics isn't the importance of OBP or the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the intentional walk. It's the idea that none of us are ever going to know everything there is to know about baseball - there's always something more that we can learn. I think that's exciting, and I hope I can get you excited about it, too.

Jan 04, 2010 11:21 AM
 
BP staff member Eric Seidman
BP staff

Exactly right. When Matt and I set out to work on SIERA, the goal was to fix a problem in a stat currently offered on the site, which was causing issues in specific areas that were, as Colin mentioned, over- or underestimating pitchers. It was not a matter of us simply saying, "hey, let's change one little thing and market it as a brand new stat" like you might see in pharmaceuticals. If that were the case we would have simply said we fixed one quirk in QERA. But when so many have come to rely on the accuracy of certain metrics, it is really important to present that which is most accurate. Sure, Johan Santana will still look better than Matt Belisle, but the metric will more accurately model what Santana and Belisle contribute within their control.

Jan 04, 2010 11:46 AM
 
Juris

I would surmise that QERA (QuikERA) came to be more widely used (at least on BP) than Nate ever intended. It's very name spoke of stat that Nate could calculate on the back of an envelope, so to speak (i.e., which in modern times means in 1 minute on a spreadsheet).

So it's very appropriate that that stat be modernized, taking additional information into account and being more sensitive to context, even if it loses its back-of-an-envelope character. (For example, QERA made no park adjustments -- those didn't fit on the envelope.)

The proof of SIERA, however, will be how it stacks up against other ERA estimators in common use, not QERA which is an easy target, so to speak.

Jan 04, 2010 11:53 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Eric Seidman
BP staff

Yep, and when Matt and I put our articles up, you'll see how it fares favorably to the other ERA estimators.

Jan 04, 2010 12:00 PM
 
Dr. Dave

Eric, we won't know how it fares vs. other metrics until we see how it fares in the future. Backcasting, it's very hard to tell a better predictor from an overfit. (For more than you ever wanted to hear on this subject, see the recent vitriolic mess concerning predicting runs from offensive components at insidethebook.com ...)

Jan 04, 2010 15:07 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Eric Seidman
BP staff

Dave, I will say that we set it up to test the future as well as backcasting to avoid this type of issue, so we know how the general formula works on the dataset it was derived in works as well as how that formula works on a subsequent year or two as well. But of course, you're correct in that we'll need a few more years of forwardcasting.

Jan 04, 2010 18:26 PM
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

Oh sure we can. The trick is simply to test the result on something other than the sample from which it was derived. "The future" certainly matches that criteria but there are other tests we can use. I can't speak specifically to SIERA (I haven't examined it in-depth yet), but methodologically we can certainly make some conclusions about its accuracy.

And I don't think the discussion from Tango's blog you're referencing bears on this discussion the way you think it does.

A quick recap, for those coming into the middle of this discussion - there can be issues when you run a regression of batting stats against team runs scored. For instance, typically your teams that hit a lot of doubles also hit a lot of home runs. So regression estimates of the relative value of a double versus a home run are going to be misleading. (The technical term for this sort of behavior is "collinearity.")

Is this a problem? That really depends on what you're doing with it. If you're simply using a regression on team runs scored to predict team runs scored, it really isn't a problem. The problem is when you attempt to apply the results to a data set that doesn't share the same features - applying a regression against team runs to individual hitters, for instance.

I don't see any reason to think that similar concerns exist for SIERA - I can't speak specifically to the dataset that Eric and Matt used, but broadly speaking you don't see a lot of collinearity with individual pitcher stats the way you do with team batting stats.

Jan 04, 2010 22:13 PM
 
sockeye

Dr. Dave,

Not necessarily. The model validation can be performed by applying it to a fraction of the data NOT used to generate the original model. There are also other methods. Not familiar with the insidethebook.com issue, but this is a problem (and solution) in many other arenas, especially ones that do not lend themselves to experimentation.

Jan 04, 2010 23:06 PM
rating: 0
 
ddanyc
(837)

These are remarkably tone-deaf responses. The customers complain that too many articles are like homework and the authors patiently explain why homework is good for us, using the word "model" as a verb no less. As if people spending time and money reading BP are opposed to advances in baseball knowledge. What I and others have been trying to get across here is that the internet is full of excellent sites (free ones) that offer endless analysis and debate of the latest insights. What once separated BP from the pack, and no doubt led some of us to pay for it, was the lively and witty commentary from a group of widely-read and broadly focused authors who understand advanced statistics, but realize that a point can often be better made by a reference to European military tactics or Casey Stengel's experiences with the Boston Braves.

Jan 04, 2010 12:21 PM
rating: 30
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

The word model is a verb. It's what models do. They model things. Using model as a verb is not new to BP nor to science nor to supermodels.

There seems to be a lot of anger directed at new statistics, largely because the information of their existence arrived at the same time that Joe departed. Naturally, no one thinks that Joe leaving BP makes it better, but the metrics aren't replacing Joe. That's just something that is being added by some of the remaining and new part-time writers at the same time that another writer departs.

That said, there seems to be a lot of movement towards a feeling that current statistics are "good enough." The Mariners went 61-101 in 2008 and 85-77 in 2009 under new GM Jack Zduriencik. If the Mariners thought that the current metrics available were good enough in 2008, they would not have seen that kind of improvement. There's a lot to be learned about statistics and it's imperative that the site that writes the very best articles about baseball be staffed with the very best statistics.

Jan 04, 2010 21:03 PM
 
lynchjm

If that is true then why have the statistics been neglected for years? If what you are saying is true then the articles can't have been the best in the past, because there is really no rational argument that can be made that the stats have been the best.

Jan 05, 2010 08:33 AM
rating: -2
 
lynchjm


I don't see how improving QERA by 5% benefits me or BP. There are loads of great analysts doing this work for free on places like Fangraphs. Why would BP take my subscription money and funnel it towards stats that already exist in the public domain? It's like when Homer says a great invention is when you take something and add a clock.

I'm not even a Sheehan fan but he adds a lot more value to a subscription then another defense independant pitching stat that might be 0.1 runs more accurate.

Jan 04, 2010 11:54 AM
rating: 1
 
Juris

I'm with Colin and Eric here. As a social scientist who works very hard to account for an additional 5% of the variance in my explanatory models, I am very symathetic to the need for constant improvement in our measuring instruments as well as our statistical models.

BP should always do its best to set the standard -- or at least meet existing industry standards -- in the sabermetrics industry. The new crew of writer-analysts is probably the largest and strongest addition to the BP staff in any year since its founding. I look forward to following both the process and the product of their work.



Jan 04, 2010 12:03 PM
rating: 6
 
lynchjm

The improvement is great. It's just already been done. It's a duplication of efforts. I know we are just the customers but we seem to be pretty unified in the opinions posted on the this article and Joe's.

Jan 04, 2010 12:17 PM
rating: -1
 
Juris

I don't buy this argument. It's sort of like saying "We already have many car models, why invent another one?" Well I'm sure my present car partakes 98% of the "carness" of the past, but the new 2% is fabulous. And it's the competition between car makers that brought this option to market.

You can't ever settle for existing technology because frankly life itself changes, new information (and data and methods) comes available, new problems present themselves to engineer around.

Jan 04, 2010 12:25 PM
rating: 6
 
Mountainhawk

You are just the vocal ones. BP has many, many subscribers, not just the ones that comment. Joe leaving has about as much impact on my subscription as who gets elected President of Turkmenistan has on my life. There are many people here because they want to see more statistical-driven type articles.

Jan 04, 2010 17:35 PM
rating: 4
 
sbnirish77

Agree whole-heartedly. My interest is primarily in the statistics and historical looks at those numbers with respect to how the game has been played.

Frankly I've found a lot of the opinion at BP to be terribly biased in an attempt to support 'sabermetric' organizations - the very point Joe was making in his last article.

In that sense, Joe's goodbye should be a wake-up to all of the other BP writers.

Jan 05, 2010 06:38 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Weren't you the same sbnirish77 accusing Joe of groupthink? Change of mindheart?

Jan 05, 2010 06:42 AM
rating: 0
 
Tarakas

I'm a PhD/Professor, and increasingly, articles in BP are reading like the stuff I read for work. I mean that in ways both good and bad. It is careful, thorough, tweaking, or the answering of more marginal questions. Which is a lot like much academic research in the publish or perish world of academia.

I started with baseball and stats with the early work of Bill James. It opened a new world of baseball to me. When BP came along, a lot of what they did simply were better versions of those same lessons. But significantly better. Some, like PECOTA and Pitcher Abuse points, were pretty cool and totally new, and they did change how I looked at the game. And people wrote about how these effected what was happening in the game, and that had major implications for how I looked at players, trades, teams, managers, etc.

I understand that a 5% improvement of QERA is useful. I'm not opposed to it. But it really doesn't change how I look at baseball. It doesn't really change how I view most trades, etc.

However, when I read on BP the line that Milton Bradley could do three things--hit, play center, and stay healthy, but only two at a time, I laughed, and I told a dozen friends. And as the season went on, I continued to appreciate it.

When I read about a 5% adjustment to a pitcher's QERA, I didn't really think about it again. I told no one. I didn't look at any pitcher particularly differently.

As an academic, I appreciate this incremental improvement. As an every day fan, it is not that exciting.

Jan 04, 2010 17:36 PM
rating: 31
 
BurrRutledge

As my thesis advisor would say back in the day, "Always ask yourself 'so what?' If you begin your conclusions and in two sentences can't answer 'so what?' then the research isn't all that important to begin with.

Jan 04, 2010 20:15 PM
rating: 2
 
BurrRutledge

... and, substitute 'conclusions' with 'hypothesis' and you can save yourself a lot of trouble... this was one of my criticisms for the early BP Idol entries, too.

Jan 04, 2010 20:17 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Tim Kniker
BP staff

Another point that I might add to Colin and Eric. Sometimes these stats are the building blocks to greater understanding whether it be articles by CK, John, etc. or further "research" articles.

While I sort of fall into the "not another slight improvement article" camp, I get excited when those are used for other areas of research that really do help us understand the game better. It's sometimes required to use these stats to better understand bullpen management (sorry for the tooting my own horn), or using improved fielding stats to understand teammate effects in defense: are a great 2nd baseman and shortstop combined greater than the sum of their parts or not.

Many times we need a stronger foundation to build and I applaud those doing that type of work whether it be here or at other sites. Personally, I'm excited that BP has made a commitment to improving its statistical foundation!

Jan 04, 2010 12:07 PM
 
lynchjm

No offense but if BP really cared about furthering the conversation the past few years with respect to valuing defense there wouldn't be articles posted all over the site using FRAA and Rate.

It's perfectly acceptable to try and build the brand using your own stats, but let's not try and pretend it's about knowledge and not business.

Jan 04, 2010 12:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Dr. Dave

Just to follow up on this: I think a lot of the negative reaction you're getting to the new stats is a perceived hubris. You've been behind the times in various analytical sectors (defense, pitching). You also haven't been participating in the public debate about how best to measure these things. Now, suddenly, you announce that you have not only caught up, but you will be publishing new metrics that are better than the "open source" ones already out there.

That would be great, but you can understand a certain skepticism on the part of the audience at this point.

Jan 04, 2010 14:59 PM
rating: 11
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Jay Jaffe always makes fun of me for overusing this quote, but here I go: as Abraham Lincoln supposedly said, if this is the kind of thing you like, then you will like this kind of thing. We have a large readership. Some of them are very interested in this kind of tinkering, and internally we're interested as well, because one of the things that separates BP from random opining and the mooing of the sports-radio masses is that we make every effort to support our arguments with facts. Whether I'm talking about Tim Lincecum or Bob Gibson or Walter Johnson, if Eric or Colin or Clay can get me that much closer to being sure that my argument is solidly grounded, I want to hear what they have to say.

For those that are less interested in stats research, we're never going to forget that good writing and analysis is a key component here. That's something that Christina imparted to me from my very first day here and it's an ethos that she and I will continue to carry forward in the books and John will maintain on the web site as well. Heck, that's what made me reader before I was a contributor. Reading this discussion I know that's what brought many of you here, too. We're very aware of that, and it's not something we're ever going to get away from.

These two components go hand in hand here at BP. The stats work fuels the analysis and vice-versa. When the stats guys do something new, those of us on the pure analysis side try to apply it. When we ask a question, they endeavor to answer it. It's that exchange of ideas that helps make BP what it is.

Jan 04, 2010 12:09 PM
 
ddanyc
(837)

Steve: Are you saying that in the absence of this new SIERA (just typing that forced acronym is wince-inducing) stat that you would be unable this summer to offer an informed analysis of who the Yanks should be using as their emergency starter or to tell a funny story about how-such-and-such reminds you of something that happened in the 1922 World Series? If so you are surely underestimating yourself. I'm guessing that the old BP Stats, or Fangraphs or Tommy Tango could provide you with a wealth of analysis-fueling data that would allow you to continue your READABLE and WITTY columns.

Jan 04, 2010 12:48 PM
rating: -3
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

What I'm saying is that you never know what is going to point you towards a story worth telling. Yes, I might find a reason to write about the 1922 World Series on my own, so I don't REQUIRE new research for that, but if statistical research provides new insight into what happened there, then I have a much stronger reason for doing so. My goal is always to write something you haven't read before. Sure, you've read about 1922, Babe Ruth and the gang, but maybe I can find a new angle in it. Stats can help me do that, and then I can bring both elements together - I can tell you something about Carl Mays' personality, and then I can also use the stats to give you a better picture of what kind of pitcher he was.

All of that said, I think the larger point here is that these two avenues of endeavor are not mutually exclusive. BP has always done both of these things, has always done numbers, always done storytelling, and at its best has done both at the same time. The changes to the cast discussed above do not mean that we have moved away from that or are any less committed to it than we've always been.

Jan 04, 2010 13:16 PM
 
Tarakas

Steven,

When I first came here, I normally read the stat articles like this: First I read the introduction. It explained why this was important. I'd agree. Then the stat part would start. Often, I'd decide that it wasn't worth my time to figure all of that out. So I'd skip over that, and there would be this really cool conclusion. Often, I would tell friends about the cool conclusion.

Over the last year, increasingly, I will start a stat piece, and after reading the introduction, I'll say "This might be interesting." Then the stat part starts, denser than ever, and I skip to the good part at the the end. But there isn't one. It's like "And thus, this formula is three runs better."

Whatever. I don't call up my friends and say "Jeff Suppan's QERA was actually off by 2%. Now doesn't he seem different!"

The stat pieces are not like they used to be--that has changed.

And I agree, the two camps (stat and non-stat) are not mutually exclusive--you can have both beer and tacos--as the saying goes. But the BP restaurant seems to have cut down on the beer menu selection, and quite frankly, the tacos aren't as spicy as they used to be.

Jan 04, 2010 18:33 PM
rating: 15
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

You're assuming that we're not still tinkering with the recipes, and that what has been discussed here is the end-all be-all of what we'll be offering. As Kevin said, there is more news coming. And as I said elsewhere in this thread, we know the value the readers place on incisive commentary, and there are no plans to abandon that.

Jan 05, 2010 00:02 AM
 
Tarakas

Steven,

I guess my comment is not so much about the coming year post as much as that I am worried about the past year. I've been reading BP for a decade. Up until this year, I read every stat piece. Over the last six months, I've stopped reading them. As research goes, they seem fine enough, at least when I read them. As pieces of writing, not so much.

Bill James was not the first, or necessarily best, baseball statistician of his time, but he was the most readable, and that is why he succeeded. BP used to be carrying that torch. It doesn't seem to be doing it so well anymore.

Lately, I don't find much on the site to read. It's not that its bad, as much as it is narrow. The stat stuff is mostly not for a general audience anymore. Will and Kevin are great, but my interest in any given piece of theirs is contingent on the players they are writing about--I'm simply not interested in the Cleveland Indian's ninth best prospect. That's just the nature of that sort of work. I used to read everything on the site. Now, I read very little. Part of that is the number of offerings have expanded. But part of that is a move away from the type of pieces I like.

Jan 05, 2010 05:09 AM
rating: 19
 
Mike Kastellec

Not directly related to this thread in the discussion, but I just wanted to chip in that it's amazing that we're *having this discussion*. The addition of comments is the best new feature on BP in years and it's wonderful that the site's oner/authors are actively engaged in a dialogue with their users.

Jan 06, 2010 14:55 PM
rating: 7
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Let's look at this another way:

.300/30/100

This is a lot of information. If I tell you that I have a hitter I would trade to your team who hit .300/30/100 last year, that's a lot of information. That's not a bad baseball player. What we don't know is he walks a lot or doubles a lot, or if he's a hack whose only extra-base hits are home runs. Whether that guy hits .300/.400/.580 or .300/.330/.490 is relevant, and I think that's why you all subscribe to BP instead of relying on your local beat writers for statistical analysis. You know better.

However, Eric and I have done some research that lets us know even better than that. There are holes in some metrics that are biased towards some players and away from others, and using the wrong ones is the difference between knowing what everybody else already knows and knowing what smart front offices do to be better teams. You subscribe to BP because you want to know better. There are lots of great baseball writers out there. It's our national pasttime. You subscribe to BP because you want to know better, and these are not cosmetic changes to statistics. I think Kevin is dead on when he says we're going to rock your socks off. If you don't want to read Eric and my statistical analysis of why SIERA is the best estimator of its kind, that's fine-- but when Christina waxes poetic using SIERA, you'll know she's not only entertaining the hell out of you-- she's not tricking you with anything but the best information that she communicates clearly. If you do the math, we charge something like three cents per article. You don't need to read every one to get the bang for your buck that you need to make your subscription worthwhile. It's to be expected that some people will subscribe to BP for Christina and Steven and others will subscribe for Eric and me. That's what a bundled product is rather than charging per article. As a unit, we try to be accurate with our math and clever with our words. I'm better at being accurate with my math, but you subscribe to BP because snark using W-L and RBI isn't good enough. The benefit of using OBP over AVG probably wasn't obvious at first either. We want to continue to lead the industry in baseball analysis, and especially with Joe leaving, we can't rely on momentum to keep your readership.

Jan 04, 2010 21:08 PM
 
pbconnection
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Why don't you and Eric just work on your writing skills? We used to get the best of both worlds as BP subscribers. Now, you and Eric are bringing poor writing to the site, which was never a complaint until now.

Jan 05, 2010 05:43 AM
rating: -19
 
Tarakas

Matt,

I am in no way critical of the quality of your or Eric's research. I'm an academic and publishing research is part of my job, and quite frankly, the stuff I publish as a professor is dry and of interest to a fairly narrow group of people. I see nothing wrong with that for me or for you. I have nothing against your work being on this site.

My concern is, I guess, two-fold:

1. The stat-based pieces seem less accessible to a general audience than they used to. Once upon a time as a teenager I bought a Bill James Abstract and Thorn and Palmer's The Hidden Game of Baseball. I couldn't put Bill James down until I finished it. I quoted it to friends. Loaned it to every fan I knew. Meanwhile. I skipped large sections of Thorn and Palmer and still never finished it. And I spoke of it to no one. The difference was not the quality of the math or the nature of the questions they were addressing. Or the impact of their conclusions. This is what I am talking about here, and I am troubled that the replies of the staff seem to be missing this point.

2. Maybe it is the time of year, but lately, the material on the site has not been as compelling. I don't have to read everything, but I'd like to read something. A stat heavy piece, a piece on the Pirates' top prospects, an interview with someone I have not heard of, and a piece containing a rehash of something I read in the Post-Dispatch 2 days earlier. None of those are bad work, or inappropriate to the site. But they lack the one big, exciting, entertaining piece.

By all means, keep up your work. Whether you want to move toward a more accessible style is a question for you and your editors. The stuff I publish as a professor is dry and narrow, but I publish in journals where that is the norm. BP is a very different beast, and a dry stat piece sticks out when posted next to a witty, snarky piece by Christina, and it will frustrate someone who logged in during a break at work and was really needing a witty, snarky piece right then, but only has the dry stat piece to read.

I'm just asking for more of other things--not less of you.

Jan 05, 2010 06:04 AM
rating: 13
 
Richard Bergstrom

I'd have to respectfully disagree here. Throughout the Idol competition and since Matt became a regular writer, he's brought a lot of new, varied ideas to the table. I haven't seen anything that he's written that falls into the "3 runs difference over a season" trivialness. On that note, most anything can appear dry compared to a CK piece. They have different voices and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Take Rob Neyer, who introduced me (as well as many others here) to sabremetrics. I loved his writing voice, past-tense, but as I've learned more about sabremetrics, I'd rather read Matt or Eric or one of the other writers here.

It would be great if a writer could be amazingly accessible and amazingly informative all the time, but no superhuman can do that. Throw in the idea that people are working on the Annual and that it's the offseason (so there's less "fresh" material to inspire conversation) and I like the job BP's done so far this offseason.

Jan 05, 2010 06:17 AM
rating: 1
 
smallflowers

I just want to say that I'm here for KG & CK. The site is better than when I joined, and I'm happy CK is writing more. My only suggestion is that the sortable stats be made more universally sortable (like, why can't I just have access to *every* stat that there is, advanced or otherwise, through a selection process, on one page?).

Oh, and can CK write a book in which she Greil Marcus's Earl Weaver? Please?

Oh, and can we have 3 Future Shock Top 10's this week? Please?

Jan 04, 2010 10:10 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Greil Marcus! Another good comp.

1. TONS of changes on the stat presentation, more than we've mentioned here. I've seen alpha builds, and I'm really excited about it and think you'll love it.

2. As for Future Shock, December was a perfect storm (or imperfect one, I guess) both within BP and away from it. You'll get Seattle on Wednesday, Tampa on Friday with an outside chance of Texas by the weekend (Monday at the latest).
The good news is that the storm has subsides, and Top 11s will come at a very brisk pace beginning next week, with 3/week as the minimum.

Jan 04, 2010 10:24 AM
 
fandamage

"Oh, and can we have 3 Future Shock Top 10's this week? Please?"

Seconded. These (and other Futureshock columns) are the main reason I come to BP. Joe leaving? CK writing more? Whatever. Just keep the KG coming.

Jan 04, 2010 12:05 PM
rating: 5
 
FRL

Thanks for the update Kevin. I am grateful for the improved content in recent years. The addition of contract info is very exciting. I think BP is headed in the right direction as a one-stop shop for my baseball news and analysis needs. I know the site has statistical roots, however the news and commentary articles are of more value to me nowadays. I will miss Joe's chats, but not his pompous Yankee-centric commentary on the league.

Two items on my wish list:
1. Mobile app
2. A biography section on the site with contributors' backgrounds, interests, favorite teams, etc.

Jan 04, 2010 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

On No. 2 -- You'll see that soon.

Jan 04, 2010 10:25 AM
 
cordially
(917)

I had thought this update would be a little more, I dunno, dramatic. It seems like a shuffling of the deck chairs.

Jan 04, 2010 10:23 AM
rating: 0
 
ephinz

I agree there doesn't seem to be "fun" writing on the site anymore. To me, the articles look like BP stats in search of a story rather than a story that utilizes stats to make it better.

So much on the site seems forced into this method. I can't read the fantasy articles at all and the newer things appear to be efforts to produce statistics that have no practical meaning.

I hope this is just temporary like SNL biding time between quality casts. Where is you Eddie Murphy?


Jan 04, 2010 10:23 AM
rating: 4
 
dianagram

I'd look to submit my resume for "fun", "quirky" writer. (seriously)

Jan 04, 2010 10:28 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

You have my email address.

Jan 04, 2010 10:38 AM
 
woodruff11

Give dianagram a shot KG! Always has good comments and chat questions.

Jan 05, 2010 09:12 AM
rating: 2
 
dianagram

Thanks Woodruff!

Jan 05, 2010 17:10 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Ken Funck is excellent at fun. Perhaps, you could loosen his reigns and let him run in that direction.

Jan 04, 2010 20:25 PM
rating: 2
 
stinkypete

It's going to be a strange spring, reading BP without Joe and watching BBTN without Gammons. I really hope I don't spend the entire month of March staring wistfully at two very big pairs of empty shoes.

Jan 04, 2010 10:36 AM
rating: 3
 
JC

1. I will miss Joe immensely. He, and Kevin are the main reasons I subscribe.

2. Love the content here and appreciate the work you folks are doing to provide more. I echo the need more "good reading" sentiments, hopefully you guys are listening.

3. The main issue I have with BP.com is the website presentation and layout. I appreciate the fact that the site looks basically the same as it did when it first started (free of side clutter and ads w/in articles) but the usability has suffered immensely because of it IMO. Why is it such a pain to search and look at stats here? You mentioned new searchable Pecota cards which sounds great but frankly they're late. I've been a subscriber for several years (reader for longer) and plan on renewing again but my use of free sites, esp fangraphs and baseballreference have increased this past year and prob will continue simply because of their presentation of stats and ease of use (esp. sortability). Speed is an issue as well the articles are free of clutter but why do they take longer to load? I understand I talking about waiting 5/6 seconds more to load a page but it speaks to the general utility of the site from my POV. I could go on and on but my basic point point is- please update the website. The content here has never been and hopefully never will be the issue.

Jan 04, 2010 10:54 AM
rating: 4
 
JC

whoops- lots of typos and mistakes but wanted to clarify..

I meant "He, Christina and Kevin..."

Jan 04, 2010 10:56 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

JC. With all of these new content layers, the current UI can not stand. So you'll definitely see a new look.

Jan 04, 2010 10:57 AM
 
JC

Great to hear. Maybe you can elaborate during the chat. Keep up the great work.

Jan 04, 2010 11:04 AM
rating: 0
 
deep64blue

I hope you keep the clean, simple look and not go down the trap of glitz / flash.

Jan 07, 2010 11:57 AM
rating: 2
 
Clemente

Thank you Joe for many insightful articles. Good luck!

Thank you remaining BPer's for a great site. Keep working on it.

I reiterate many readers' point that interesting reading (SG, KG, CK, et al.) is one of the main attractions here, so please keep it in mind. I also, however, like the additions (PizzaCutter, Colin, Eric, Matt) as I think there is still lots to be revealed stats-wise. Lots to do in pitch-by-pitch analysis and defense.

I think John Perotto is head-and-shoulders above 'wire service', by the way. And Matt and Eric have the writing chops---give them time to develop.

Jan 04, 2010 11:20 AM
rating: 4
 
Sal T

A lot of the fun left with Jim Baker. Not saying that BP hasn't remained interesting and informative but a little more whimsy while doing both would be welcomed.

Jan 04, 2010 11:44 AM
rating: 8
 
OldBean

Ah, so Jim Baker WASN'T just a figment of my imagination. Whatever happened to that guy? He was one of my favorites.

Jan 04, 2010 12:19 PM
rating: 2
 
thsaladboy

Jim Baker was awesome, but a good 60-70% of the fun quotient at BP left with Derek Zumsteg. His articles were often hilarious and usually had insightful things to say. I loved his article on beer.

I remember one BP annual where the player comments in the Indian's chapter was so funny throughout that I became convinced they written by Derek Zumsteg. No other BP writer had that level of biting sarcasm. I never found out one way or another, but I' still sure. For a few years there, I'd try to guess which chapter's were Derek's--basically, which ones seemed most written by a smartass.

Jan 04, 2010 15:30 PM
rating: 5
 
Scott D. Simon

The comment by Tarakas is up to +43 as I write this, so I know BP readers want to see more well-written "big picture" pieces.

BP sees what we want. I'm looking forward to finding out if the new hires and the new website format can deliver it.

Jan 04, 2010 11:53 AM
rating: 0
 
The Crawfish Boxes

No more Joe Sheehan? I guess I'll have to get my daily allotment of snark and passive aggressiveness somewhere else.

Jan 04, 2010 12:03 PM
rating: 1
 
achase

Say no more, but amen.

KG and Will Carroll and Pecota are the main calling cards for me, and a lot of the changes sound great. Look forward to them.

Jan 04, 2010 13:10 PM
rating: 3
 
devine

KG,

Thanks for the update. I'm excited about Cot's, and really excited about an updated player-card interface. I'll second the thought that I'd pay $60 for a subscription that has the player comments integrated.

Change is always tumultuous, and always invokes protests. We know how good Joe has been, we don't yet know how good the new blood is going to be here.



Jan 04, 2010 12:05 PM
rating: 2
 
ofMontreal

BP staff, who all seem to be on board for the big announcements:
This is great news! I find it all very exciting as I have felt for a while now that BP was losing it's edge on the competition, at least a bit. Becoming an even more rounded enterprise is the right path. Not to compare to loathsome big box stores, but one stop shopping is the way to go. I look forward to seeing it come on line.

As for Joe, it's his time to move on. I will miss his antidote nature as well, but surely he will appear elsewhere and still be our friend. I wish him the best and hope to read him in the highest profile locations possible.

Change is good. ;-)

Jan 04, 2010 12:17 PM
rating: 1
 
Mike W
(830)

Many others have covered my thoughts, but I wanted to add something here. (I too will miss Joe, though I'm sure he will pop up somewhere else we're familiar with anyway.) But the thing I want to bring up is the difficulty in finding a direction for BP and other sites in 2010 and beyond. A lot of the basic questions of statistical analysis in baseball have been, for lack of a better term, 'solved' for some time now. There are closer approximations here and there for hitters and pitchers, etc., but we have very good data now where we didn't 25 years ago. Furthermore, applications of this data have ranged far and wide. I think what many people here are complaining about, and which I agree with, are the often pedantic, squeezing-blood-from-a-turnip approaches to maybe suggesting an answer to a tiny question that comprise many articles here at BP. I used to read every. single. article. here, but now I often take a quick look and skip over to the next one. It’s not that I can’t handle the math – I love me some math - it’s that it’s not worth it. I’m a scientist; I understand that knowledge progresses by tiny incremental steps, but one still has to be interesting.

I think what most BP readers tend to find new and exciting are two things: One, fundamentally new additions to the available data, and their applications, foremost among them these days being Pitch f/x data. I would also count among these being able to look in detail at defensive statistics, and also added depth in contract and payroll analysis which has taken off in the last couple years, at BP and elsewhere. Will’s continuing evolution vis a vis his changing focus as an analyst of the meaning and significance of injuries and treatments is an excellent example of what BP ought to be doing more of. It seems to me that Kevin’s missive addresses these points more or less satisfactorily, though I would like to see one or two people at BP doing full-time Pitch f/x work. The second thing I believe BP readers want is good writing. I think that while we all justifiably scorn the ignorant, pot-stirring nature of much sports ‘journalism,’ we still like to read someone with strong opinions. The difference is that BP (or Fangraphs, or THT) readers will expect the opinions to be backed up with data. Joe carried much of this weight and it is for this reason that he was probably more important to whatever balance BP had than any other single writer. Hopefully the incoming people, and perhaps the existing writers, can cover for this absence, but his loss represents a weakening of BP’s already biggest weakness.

I expect that my $40 will constitute money well spent for 2010 and years to come, but I would ask that the BP staff constantly think about what it means to be in the forefront of baseball writing. It seems to me that by and large BP is doing a good job of things, but often tends on the statistics side to just kind of throw some pedantry up on the website until there’s a comfortable amount of number-crunching present. Numbers in the service of ideas, guys. We’re here for the ideas, the numbers come second, and sometimes need not come at all.

Jan 04, 2010 12:25 PM
rating: 23
 
McNulty

Good lord, give it a chance people.

Jan 04, 2010 12:29 PM
rating: 14
 
sunpar

I'm excited.

Jan 04, 2010 12:45 PM
rating: -1
 
Andrew
(38)

Kevin, with all this talk of fun and readability-clutchy-ness, can I make a plea to bring back the Prospectus Triple Play?

It would be great to have during the season every weekday (with a set schedule), a 3-team article, with capsules from TA (Christina), UTK (Will), notes (John), fantasy (Mark) and trends with a statistical slant. Let's capitalize on this cross-functional, cross-commenting trend, with a bit of aggregation, humor and style, by gosh.

Just my 2 cents, which can come from my premium subscription.

Jan 04, 2010 13:08 PM
rating: 10
 
Faust

I second this. It's before Kevin's time, but the Triple Play had the virtue of focusing some minimum of attention on every team, even the small-market, "boring," out-of-contention ones. Most of us are ardent fans of some particular team, and face it, we crave attention to our teams, no matter how humble they are. And it turns out that even "boring" teams aren't necessarily boring when you take a close look at the issues they face. I don't give a rat's ass about the Royals, about as boring a team as you could imagine - but if Rany or Poz have something to say about them, I want to read it. Because I know it won't be boring, and somehow, when those two are writing about them, the Royals aren't boring either. It's miraculous.

A completely unrelated anecdote: a few years back, without a subscription to mlb.com or Extra Innings, I used to watch ESPN's Baseball Tonight with some regularity. Sure, you had to put up with John Kruk's insightful thoughts about David Ortiz's clutchness and the like, but somewhere in a 60-minute show they'd always show highlights from every game played that night. Even if they weren't featured in a fluff piece or an intellectual debate between Kruk and Reynolds, you'd get to see a little bit of your guys, even if it was only for 15 seconds. But largely because I was guaranteed that 15 seconds, I'd sit through the whole show, or tape it and wind up watching much more of it than I intended, because one thing or another happened to catch my interest.

Then one day, the formula suddenly changed. I watched an entire BT and my A's, who I grant weren't doing much of interest at the time but who nevertheless were keenly interesting to me, never made even a hint of an appearance, despite having played a game that night. In order to cram in yet more imbecile fluff, BT was no longer showing even a begrudging 15 seconds from the lesser-tier games that lacked even the minimum quotient of redsoxness or yankeeness.

From that day to this, I've never tuned in to Baseball Tonight again. Not out of spite (although I am spiteful enough), but because that tiny guaranteed connection with my own team was disproportionately important to my decision to watch in the first place.

Jan 04, 2010 20:25 PM
rating: 13
 
jtrichey

Oh, and Ken Funck, the BP Idol winner, can definitely be a fun writer. I would love to see him take over BP Today or something like it. Nobody here has mentioned him, and I think he was a very deserving winner of that competition. Use him!

Jan 04, 2010 13:08 PM
rating: 7
 
Peter Benedict

I'll miss Joe, and I hope we hear something about where he's going.

That said, BP has found new voices over the years to keep me interested in the site; Will Carroll made me interested in sports medicine, Goldman made me (much!) more interested in the minors, and Perrotto made me more interested in the kind of writing I avoid elsewhere. All three came along when I was feeling a little bored with the site; I have faith that the site will continue to pique my interest in new ways.

Jan 04, 2010 13:13 PM
rating: 1
 
drmboat
(754)

What? A Goldman/Goldstein confusion that goes un-noticed?!? That's enough to make me cancel my subscription immediately!

Jan 04, 2010 17:09 PM
rating: 7
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

They NEVER go unnoticed. Kevin and I discussed it off-line. I believe we've figured out a solution: I will continue to be Steven Goldman, but he will be legally changing his surname to "Skippy."

Jan 04, 2010 23:16 PM
 
pbconnection

Steven, I'm REALLY sorry about calling you Kevin at the Yogi Berra Museum a couple of years ago.

Jan 05, 2010 05:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

That's okay... It was a nice switch from people confusing me with Kevin Smith.

Jan 05, 2010 07:22 AM
 
Matt Kory

Wait! You're not Kevin Smith? I always thought "Steven Goldman" was a clever pen name.

Jan 05, 2010 12:38 PM
rating: 0
 
Michael
(736)

I thought Joe was the best writer here. Joe has a distinctive voice, something that takes quite awhile sometimes to develop. I may learn more from other articles, but on the days that Joe posted, I generally read his article first.

I'm pessimistic about new statistics being developed within the closed BP community. The baserunning statistics developed by Dan Fox and housed here are the best on the Internet, but that tends to be the exception. Much more typical is that writers quote FRAA five years after play-by-play fielding metrics are available elsewhere. Surely, Russell, Eric, Colin, Tommy etc. are aware of this.

Kevin wrote: "Our goal is to overwhelm you with information, and keep you returning to the site several times throughout the day." Ugh. I'd rather visit the site once a day and be able to print or read all the new content quickly without having to check a series of blog entries that don't print right. I want quality analysis, not to be overwhelmed with information. Whether I'm in the majority or minority of your readers in this regard, I don't know.

My sense is that John does not replace Joe. His writing is competent but I don't think he resonates that well with your readership. He certainly doesn't seem to draw as many chat questions, and his writing seems similar to what I can get for free elsewhere.

Anyway, even though I'm grumpy hearing about Joe's departure, there is plenty I do like about BaseballProspectus.com. I've been a subscriber since you switched to that back in 2003 or so and hope that I keep finding it worthwhile to renew. Please make the most of my time and don't just deluge me with more articles written for ESPN.com readers.

Jan 04, 2010 13:24 PM
rating: 12
 
RayDiPerna

I've been a BP follower since the beginning, and a subscriber since the site went to pay. I've turned many people on to this site, having highly recommended it for years, precisely because of Joe's contributions. But now with Joe gone, unfortunately, I won't be renewing. He was the one person left on the site that I still read.

Jan 04, 2010 13:29 PM
rating: -2
 
dianagram

Not to give you a hard time, but if you have been a subscriber since the site went to pay, why do you have such a high account number? I believe the lower the account #, the longer you've been a subscriber.

(Just curious)

Jan 05, 2010 08:52 AM
rating: 4
 
John Collins
(110)

Busted!

Jan 05, 2010 21:56 PM
rating: 0
 
sandriola

Just to play the other side...Unintentionally lapsed subscription?

Jan 06, 2010 21:44 PM
rating: 1
 
Eugene

I'm sorry to hear you won't be following the site anymore. I know you've been active in the sabremetric community for years.

Jan 06, 2010 19:03 PM
rating: 0
 
Russell A. Carleton

Alright, a fair number of you have suggested that BP would do better with less of this or that in our articles. I ask you as a real live BP writer, and in a spirit of actually wanting to deliver a better product to the customer, what exactly is it that you are looking for?

I can understand not wanting to read things that sound like academic journals. What would you rather it sounded like? More snark? More Miley Cyrus references (oh yeah, I totally would)? I want to put the emphasis on the word "more" though. More looking at recent events? More looking at history? More work explaining how WXYZQQFJLDAs work? More application to individual players/teams?

If all I hear is that we want less of something, I soon have nothing to write about. So, start your sentences the way that Britney Spears would "Gimme gimme more..." I can't guarantee that I can give you everything you hope for, but if you've got an idea and it makes sense... well then I'd be a fool not to take it.

Jan 04, 2010 13:35 PM
rating: 8
 
dcarroll

I would like to see more articles that present arguments on topical issues, preferably written in a lively and witty manner. I would like to see the arguments buttressed by statistical information where appropriate, but I am more interested in the point of view and the writing than the statistics.

Jan 04, 2010 13:57 PM
rating: 5
 
pbconnection

I have been highly critical of the extremely statistical columns posted recently by Eric Seidman, Matt Swartz, et al. However, I LOVE statistics! Baseball stats are one of best things about the sport, from my perspective. It's just these recent articles often lack a conclusion.

Let's take Matt Swartz's article from today as an example. He certainly is heavy on tables and statistics, but when you skip to the bottom, the conclusion doesn't provide a REAL analysis. Why did I just read the article when these stats can't be usefully applied? He only used one year of data, so he only took a snapshot of a moment in time anyway. Is this the advanced use of statistics that I should pay for?

The only thing he really concludes is that it's easier to win by spending more money. We all know this is true, and it should have been a near assumption going into the article, NOT the lame "conclusion." This kind of article is an insult.

Why not wait until you find something interesting to report from stats? I'm tired of reading articles that start with a possibly interesting statistical premise and end without anything relevant being gleaned.

Joe Sheehan's writing was great, but not by virtue of being less statistically oriented. One of his best attributes as a writer was that he started from a place of strong opinion and went through a discussion of his original premise where he continually reevaluated those opinions in relation to the facts.

I'm not sure if you'll find that helpful or not, but perhaps you'll see my point in there somewhere.

Jan 04, 2010 14:22 PM
rating: 7
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

If that's what you got from my article, I see why you didn't like it, although I can't quite see why you'd be insulted or hurt. No one needs to get value from every article to get value from the site, and we clearly have more statistically inclined and less statistically inclined readers as well as other subsets of readers within each group. However, I would suggest you read the article a little more clearly because the conclusion is specifically that no team got enough wins from free agent eligible talent nor cost-controlled talent alone in 2009 to make the playoffs. Given the previous article on free agents declining during even the second year of their contracts, the idea that you rebuild by scouting and development and not by signing free agents for the sake of gradual improvement seems relevant and seems like a lesson many teams have yet to learn.

Jan 04, 2010 20:51 PM
 
surveyzas
(119)

Matt - i don't mean to speak for mssr. connection, but i believe his point is that your article is hard to read more clearly and the conclusion is obscured by the way your ideas are presented within it.

this, in a nutshell, has been my complaint with the more analytical articles published on the site as of late. it's not the subject matter, or the stats, or the tables/charts/graphs - it's that the accompanying writing makes it more difficult to extract the author's point than less.

i mean no offense and don't want to start a fight, this just seemed to be a good example.

Jan 05, 2010 06:06 AM
rating: 8
 
BurrRutledge

Russell, I'm glad to oblige. Most of this is a summary of the other 'more' comments above. I've been reading only for the past 5+ years, but I don't believe I've ever been dissatisfied with my subscription. I believe I read more content in 2009 than in any previous year.

As to what the readers desire, I hope BP learned a lot about itself from the BP Idol competition, and the feedback that readers provided, in abundance. Those aspiring writers and researchers seeking a position at BP were asked over and over to give us informative and entertaining information about baseball. Several delivered it - and I'm happy with that result.

So, for 2010, I expect more articles that tell me important things about the game that I don't already know. Mostly, this is-the-field information - players and teams, MLB of today and tomorrow - delivered with humor and intelligence.

Regarding the statistical underpinning of BP and its analysis, I repeat what many other have already mentioned regarding the "extra 5%" of information to be derived from incremental improvements of certain metrics. While it's important and informative, it's not necessarily as informative to the whole audience to grasp the "Big Picture" of baseball. Do I want it? Heck yeah. But not at the expense of continuing to learn more about "big picture" aspects of the game.

Consider wringing out a dry towel. With a lot of hard work, you may get a few drops of water. But what we could really use is several analysts and writers to grasp the wet towels in BPs locker room - pitch F/x, play-by-play defensive metrics. These are still soaking wet and will yield water as soon as they're picked up, for example.

For fantasy pusposes, I loved Marc's contributions this year. Sounds like he's on course to deliver some more great content leading into the 2010 season. I always rely on the PECOTA-based Player Forecast Manager. Anything that can be done to improve it is very much appreciated! For instance, adding a defensive stat to the PFM (Fld%!) seems easy and valuable to those of us in leagues that include this metric.

I am disappointed that Joe's leaving, but confident that I will enjoy BP-2010 and beyond.

Best, Burr

Jan 04, 2010 14:22 PM
rating: 7
 
strupp

I want a BP writer who will be willing to give me an informed opinion about something that is occurring in baseball. I want that writer to be able to make the article I'm reading entertaining, interesting, and not seem like a graduate level stats course that I passed on the first time around. I want a BP writer that isn't afraid to try new things, but be willing to explain how these new things are MORE relevant than the things I already have at my disposal. I want a BP writer who is also willing to say "you know what, the last thing I wrote was wrong" or "I absolutely missed on that the last time, but here's why I think it happened rather than how I expected it to happen". I want a BP writer that can laugh at themselves, and not take themselves too seriously, while at the same time, presenting themselves to me, in the written word, as someone who is actually an expert in this field. I want a BP writer and website that continues the trend of changing the way *I* look at baseball, and how *I* take in a game, either live or on radio or on television.

I want more BP writers that have a love of the game itself, and not just as a means to get published or be a writer. I want more BP writers that can tell me why Team A and Team B are doing as well or poorly as they’re doing, because maybe I’ve missed something. I want BP to challenge the mainstream thinking MORE, even as the mainstream has adapted more thoughts from the BP community. I want more BP writers that are willing to engage in debate over why their ideas or thoughts might not make sense or might not be true in the grand scheme, but be willing to explain why they are right without being pompous about it (and this goes likewise for BP commenters as well).

Looking back over the last few weeks, I, personally, have found that I’ve read less and less things from BP. The worst thing that happened was that I didn’t check the site one day, and realized that it’s ok, I probably didn’t miss anything. And I didn’t. As baseball has become a year round sport, so has the analysis. That’s missing. I want MORE of that. And yet, I want more BP writers to use BP as an outlet to entertain.

Now, I’m speaking personally; there’s a reason that Normandian, KG, SG, CK, and Joe were *my* favorite writers. Mostly because I feel they have FUN with how they present things, especially in their respective niches. Conversely, I’m not a fan of Perotto and Will (this is NOT meant as disrespect to either writer, I think they do what they do VERY WELL), their writing just doesn’t do it for me.

So, if you want a simple answer, MORE personality.

Jan 04, 2010 14:24 PM
rating: 9
 
accies

I would simply like to say that I find myself very much in agreement with the comments raised in this post. It seems to me as though there's less reader engagement in the past few months of some (not all) BP writing. I'm a big fan of BP (and hope to stay), but I'm aware that I'm spending more hours on other sites. Best of luck to Joe Sheehan in his future endeavours.

Jan 04, 2010 14:59 PM
rating: 0
 
Asinwreck

For me, BP took its cue from Bill James. Bill's greatest strength has always been his writing. The man can tell a story, be irreverent, impart historical perspective, and interpret statistical evidence in ways that enhanced my understanding and love for baseball a quarter century ago. The first edition of the Historical Abstract managed to include hundreds of pages of statistical analysis with lovely decade-by-decade socio-cultural portraits of the game (including stadia, demographics of players, and even how uniforms looked).

Past BP writers (among them Rany, Joe, Gary, Jim Baker) tried to keep this in mind. Several current writers certainly do as well, Christina and Stephen in particular. Keeping this emphasis is crucial. The ability to craft a compelling narrative is something Bill James never forgot. I hope it remains a priority here going forward.

Jan 04, 2010 14:47 PM
rating: 11
 
surveyzas
(119)

i want to see more articles like the ones below:

http://baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=5199
(Lies, Damned Lies 6/15/06 - Justin Verlander)
one of my favorite BP articles ever. this is one of the most well-presented analysis articles i've digested in my life, it's a well-reasoned piece that features a considerable amount of data and a few charts, but the takeaway is what the article was looking at.

http://baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6947
(6-4-3 11/21/07 - ESPN & MLB)
an article that's basically an op-ed on the state of the sports giant, filled with reasoned criticisms. i dunno whether this particular piece was the last one published of its kind on this site, but it feels like it's been forEVer.

http://baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1294
(The Numbers Part 1 12/7/01)
really, i'm just linking here because it's something by Doug Pappas. we could use more examinations of how baseball does business, something that BP doesn't really examine anymore. Doug was the best of the best, and while we can't expect the same quality, there's a void going unfilled presently. more by Maury and Neil!

that's just a few off the top of my head, but let me second the comment about Jim Baker leaving...his bits were always a blast to read, and more in that spirit would be a welcome addition.

Jan 04, 2010 14:53 PM
rating: 7
 
surveyzas
(119)

sorry, i should clarify my statement about 6-4-3. should've read: "i dunno whether this particular piece was the last one published of its kind on this site, but it feels like it's been forEVer since we saw a reasoned criticism about anything other than a player signing or player management."

Jan 04, 2010 14:56 PM
rating: 0
 
pbconnection

I went back and read that Nate Silver article that you mentioned. This has led me to conclude why I am disliking the current BP "statheads" so much.

They are not Nate Silver. They aren't even the poor or impoverished man's Nate Silver.

I got spoiled on having Nate Silver, Sheehan, CK and a host of other great authors. Unfortunately, BP has lost a great deal of it's best talent over time. And over that time, the quality of free content on sites like fangraphs, etc has become better. It's becoming increasingly hard to justify spending any amount of money to be a BP subscriber...

I'm sad to see Joe go. Much more sad than I would have been years ago, since then he was one of many great writers. Now he's one of just a few employed at BP.

Jan 04, 2010 16:57 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

From what I understand, a lot of the newer writers on BP were the cream of the crop on fangraphs and similar sites. Am I wrong?

Jan 04, 2010 17:00 PM
rating: 2
 
Russell A. Carleton

Pbconnection, I also rue the fact that Nate and a lot of those first generation writers have either cut back or moved on. But give us newbies a chance. You might grow to like us.

Jan 04, 2010 19:11 PM
rating: 5
 
Richard Bergstrom

As an addendum, I don't even find Bill James that insightful/enjoyable anymore on the rare times he still writes.

It's hard to always be new, interesting, funny, thought-provoking, etc, but fresh blood can sure help get some new ideas/perspectives/voices on the plate.

Jan 04, 2010 21:54 PM
rating: -3
 
andrewhume

Bill James isn't writing "rarely" now; he's updating his site nearly everyday. I still find his prose insightful/enjoyable.

Joe Sheehan's voice reminds me of James's: energetic, chiseled, skeptical, bold, devastatingly funny. Here's hoping the new BP contributers have writing skills far above replacement level.

Jan 05, 2010 09:37 AM
rating: 4
 
John Carter

I agree about James. He doesn't do very much applicable sabermathematics for public consumption any more. He is employed by the Red Sox, afterall. However, he is still fun and/or insightful. Responding to a question by Tampabob in "Hey Bill" (http://www.billjamesonline.net/DisplayAnswers.aspx) recently (Dec. 29) about parallels between the development and evolution of the conventional wisdom in criminology with that of baseball, James tied his observations beautifully with real life. He also discusses his writing style which is applicable to this conversation here at BP:

"There are parallels in how people think, and in the systematic errors that we make. We always think that we know more than we know; we [are] always more confident than we should be that we have found the truth. People buy quite seriously into generalizations about crime and justice that are, when you think about them, fantastically sloppy.

The crime book has no baseball, no statistics, and no math--and yet it is my belief (and my hope) that if any of you picked the book up at random, not knowing who wrote it, you would recognize it immediately from the way of thinking about the problem. But this isn't a 'parallel' between baseball and crime; it is just the way of the world. There would be similar issues in any field."

Jan 05, 2010 10:45 AM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I didn't know James had a blog to be honest. I was just referring to his published books like the Gold Mine, etc.

Jan 05, 2010 15:43 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

To expand on Russell's comment, I'd encourage anyone on the staff, and everyone in the audience, to look at the first few articles written by anybody here in the entire history of Baseball Prospectus--me, Joe, Dan Fox, Nate Silver, anybody. It was often rough, it was sometimes ugly, and nobody--nobody--becomes good overnight. Writing is a muscle, and the more you work exercise it and develop it (within reason, pre-empting Will), the more it can deliver. This team, these people, the men and women here, new and old, they are our team. I take it as a privilege to be a teammate to any and all of them, and to be counted among us here. Similarly, I'd encourage everyone out there to see us as your team too. I think you're going to enjoy the end result, and speaking for myself, I know that I'll enjoy the work as we make it so.

Jan 04, 2010 21:57 PM
 
copperfield

That's certainly true, and who can contest that writing is developed by practice? Maybe some people seem to be complaining about writing style, when they really mean a sort of narrowing of vision. I think part of the reason that I will miss Joe's contribution is the scope of his vision. I care about any percentage improvement in statistical accuracy, but a "big picture" writer is the type of thing I can read to my friends who don't. It is not just a question of access for the already initiated, but for those just starting to see it through a different lens. I really have no leverage, the idea that I would stop reading BP, or the silliness of threatening to do so, is simply laughable. It does make me wary of sending friends to the site or recommending it as a gift to people who like baseball and numbers but aren't yet initiated. I always remember the intro to the Bill James historical abstract describing baseball as something that always welcomed you, whatever your interests, while so many other pursuits set the bar so high to entry as to dissuade us from ever starting. I enjoy BP immensely, but will certainly miss that Joe really did embody that ideal, even at the risk of being repetitive.

Jan 05, 2010 03:55 AM
rating: 4
 
pbconnection
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

CK, I would be much more optimistic about the progression of the writing of Matt Swartz and Eric Seidman if they seemed at all receptive the litany of criticism that they are receiving about their writing abilities.

I've read many of their articles and been left wanting for a legitimate conclusion or an interesting opinion, and commented as such. The few replies that I've received were essentially that "their work isn't going to please everyone." It's clear that it's not just a small sample that dislikes their writing style (or lack thereof) when a criticism like the first by Tarakas in this post gets a rating of an unprecedented +100.

Jan 05, 2010 10:08 AM
rating: -6
 
Juris

At this point, pb, you're just piling on. The message has been received here, and it will be up to the writers and their editors to make appropriate adjustments.

I think Pizza Cutter gets the argument about the desirable relation between form/style and content. Earlier, I commended to him -- and to others -- the way that Dan Fox and Nate Silver presented a series of articles on some fairly technical subjects. Both of those authors understood the need for a compelling setup or problem statement, good execution (with graphics when possible), and applications (tests and illustrations), and conclusions and implications.

Look at Nate's series of 3 or 4 articles on "Elo" and his 4 or 5 on media markets ("moving the Marlins"). Look at Dan's series on baserunning metrics and on Pitch f/x.

To anyone seeking to write compelling sabermetric analysis for a "mixed" audience (BP's subscribers, for example), figure out what was compelling about the topics, the methods, the narrative, and the writing.

Jan 05, 2010 11:04 AM
rating: 2
 
sockeye

PB,

I think its unrealistic for you to expect the writers to engage you in an exchange on their writing in this kind of (public) forum, especially when so much of the feedback is rough and raw.

If you really want to effect change, consider sending them a well-developed and articulate email that gives useful and constructive criticism. Anything negative said on here about their craft is just kind of painful to read, and seems like it's unnecessarily kicking the new guys in the teeth, in public, when it's already become clear that other people think they have big shoes to fill.

Jan 05, 2010 19:50 PM
rating: 8
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Pizzacutter, it's abundantly clear that the readers want us to be soft and cuddly... with lots of firepower. So hop to it, man!

Jan 04, 2010 15:54 PM
 
Juris

@Jay: Soft and cuddly is good.

But the distinction that I would make is illustrated by a comparison of "Baseball Between the Numbers" and "The Book."

These two books came out at almost the same time. Guess which one had huge sales? IMO, this wasn't just because of the publisher (BBTN had Basic Books; "The Book" was self-published, a mistake from a marketing perspective). Rather it was because "The Book" took a formalized, logically interconnected, textbooky approach to presenting a system for evaluating baseball decision-making and performance; while BBTN identified a set of analytic "problems" that a far wider range of readers might find compelling. Each of the chapters of BBTN illustrated what sabermetrics could do to answer these key questions, but without reading at all like a textook.

Now I should say that I enjoyed both of these books a lot, and read them from one cover to the next. But I had to read "The Book" like a textbook, starting at the beginning and progressing slowly to the later chapters; while I could read the chapters in BBTN in almost any order and still learn a whole lot about baseball analysis.

I think what a lot of readers of "BP The Website" want is to be able to dabble, and learn and enjoy what they read; they aren't interested in reading scientific research or a textbook. They want the BBTN-type of articles, not "The Book."

But many of the BP-com writers -- especially those with a strong statistical bent -- want to write to a standard that's akin to peer review. In fact, they think of their audience as not only including BP-com readers but also extending to the larger sabermetric-producer community, including statistically inclined college professor-types who aren't going to look kindly on an author taking shortcuts or making dubious assumptions. To satisfy such a "peer review oriented" community, they need to be aware of and cite research that has already been done, they need to be finicky about the details of their methods and the quality of their data, and they need to try to add value to the existing "science" -- not just write things that the average subscriber to BP.com will find interesting.

I think the challenge to the stats-geek writers on BP.com is thus to find a way to satisfy both types of reader. The best stats-based writing on BP and other sabermetric sites is going to do just this. It has done so in the past, and several examples have been cited by me and others already in this comment section. Sometimes it means deliberately skipping over details (or offering the details as a downloaded appendix -- perhaps in spreadsheets, or formulas, or R code -- for the interested reader).

But what it always should mean is that the goal of the author is to write a narrative -- to tell a story that readers will find novel and compelling, while advancing or using the science in order to do that.

Jan 05, 2010 15:20 PM
rating: 7
 
modred

I can deal with academic journals. I can deal with them because more often than not the articles have a, if not compelling, well-thought introduction on why I should care about the information that follows. And it ends with a solid conclusion of why the information was important to the field it applies. Too many of the stats articles lack a hook and finish and in general need to have the writing tightened up - too many throwaway words, voice issues, etc.

Tell me why a 5% improvement is important. Make me want to care about that 5% improvement. Convince that it isn't just noise. Conclude something - if it is inconclusive say that, don't go for the wishy-washy "seems."

Jan 04, 2010 17:27 PM
rating: 3
 
Tarakas

Exactly.

Jan 04, 2010 17:37 PM
rating: 0
 
Juris

I for one like an "academic journal" lite approach, one in which you fairly consider plausible alternative hypotheses or explanations, and in which you fairly consider the advantages and disadvantages of certain data. Be didactic without being pedantic.

Frankly, I've seen this approach work well with only a couple of the BP authors. Take a good read of Dan Fox's series of articles about baserunning (read them in order) or about pitch f/x. We always learned something about how to think from his articles.

The same is true of many of Nate Silver's articles. Take a look, for example, at his series of articles about media markets (leading up to the idea of where the Marlins might move). Again, read them in order. There are several other good examples in his writing.

Both of these authors were excellent researchers and teachers, and both write very well.

Jan 04, 2010 18:45 PM
rating: 1
 
John Carter

Perhaps, the pressure to write "more" is the problem. . . Perhaps, too many articles of inconclusive stat stretching are the result of writers/editors forced to spit out content before anything worth writing several hundred words about has been fathomed.

If I knew what you should be writing about, I'd be happy to share it or write it myself. Having something compelling to say is the first ingredient to a compelling article. I wish your staff well in finding it, but if they are all too busy writing pulp, then they will be less apt to find something amazing.

P.S. One technical improvement I would like to see is that comments pasted in these comment boxes come out as intended rather than with their quotes and apostrophes converted into gibberish.

Jan 04, 2010 21:23 PM
rating: 0
 
thegeneral13

My thoughts exactly. I like the statistical work that's being done, but much of it seems like it should be happening behind the scenes until a full article or series of articles is warranted. Some of the stats articles over the past 6 months or so are basically working papers - a first glimpse at something potentially useful or an interesting hypothesis that is tested on too small a data set to be conclusive. I would rather one important question be answered conclusively and written about formally than 10 be explored in articles with no/limited/statistically meaningless conclusions. I suspect that BP views publication as a measure of productivity, but the comments in this thread suggest that the decreased signal-to-noise ratio is putting off a fair number of readers.

Perhaps these working papers should be labeled as such, or put in a "statistical sandbox" area where they are understood by readers to be rough ideas or preliminary statistical work. Many of your readers would skip these entries entirely, but some would actively engage in the discussion and probably generate some good ideas for further research/refinement.

Jan 05, 2010 11:26 AM
rating: 5
 
Matt

What I like about Joe's writing is the focused critique on how baseball teams run their business. I like concepts like MORP. I like insight into how front offices run. I like to hear how decisions are made.

I am really looking forward to SIERA and revised fielding metrics, and all the other statistical analyses you have to offer. But I hope you balance the micro-analysis with more macro-analysis. Please don't shy away from the cultural/business aspects of the game.

Jan 04, 2010 22:29 PM
rating: 0
 
staplescenter

Allow me to interject a brief explanation of why the widely decried trends towards more arcane stat development and pigeonholed niche writing styles seem to be unstoppable.

I think baseball analysis / sabermetrics / whatever you want to call it is over the hill. Up until the 1980's it was a mega-business that was often being run like a flea market stall. There were massive inefficiencies in the market and that created great opportunities for those willing to take a more informed approach. Every Bill James Baseball Abstract annual throughout the decade introduced new, game-changing metrics and concepts that had immediate, real-world applications.

As we enter the tweens, this dynamic has shifted dramatically. We have reasonable estimations of value for almost all quantifiable aspects of the game. Decades of work by inspired minds has given us imperfect but acceptable answers to the majority of big-picture questions posed by James et al in the 80's. Advanced analytics are a major part of every MLB organization and this 'private sector' is now directly utilizing many of the best minds and researchers out there.

Enjoying baseball as it is played, evaluating personnel decisions of the past and present, and historical writing of a nostalgic or researchy bent will always be a wonderful thing to do. There are still important advances to be made: better defensive evaluation, trustworthy college / semipro league translations, and pitchFX and its cousins are all interesting fields of work, just to name a few.

But in the big picture of the development of baseball analysis, the majority of the work still to do is around the margins. Things like improving QERA by 5%. Those who were only invigorated by the huge, fast leaps forward have changed their focus. Bill James stopped writing his annual long before he was hired by the Red Sox. Nate Silver moved on to other work after creating a workable PECOTA system. Moneyball became a bestseller and a screenplay.

I'll always read BP and as much baseball writing as I can find time for, and I'll enjoy it as much as I ever have. But I recognize that the field as a whole is different than it was 20, 10 or even 5 years ago and have different expectations accordingly.

One quick additional comment about BP vs Fangraphs and other sites. First off, both sites are great. Second, as long as BP costs 40 dollars and Fangraphs costs No dollars, picky BP customers will expect the difference in quality between the sites to be proportional to the difference in price between the sites. Dividing by No dollars poses a problem, thus there will be an endless stream of "FG is a better value" comments.

I think the new developments at BP sound perfect. Use your subscriber base, funding advantage, and reputation as industry leader to hire everyone talented you can get your hands on, and let everyone do what they are best at. Dry sciencey writers, do your thing, do your research, contribute to the stats end of things, and I can read your abstracts when I'm in the mood. CK, your dense thickets of prose will always be unique, and always be my first read. Perotto IMO is a boring writer but will probably be a fine editor. Overwhelm us with content and stats, but make the presentation manageable and the UI simple. And if you want to really make people happy, get on the front of the internet intellectual property cost curve, and cut your price in half while you double your content.

Jan 04, 2010 14:51 PM
rating: 14
 
Dr. Dave

I have to disagree somewhat. These End of Science proclamations get made periodically, and they're always wrong. As one level of knowledge matures, new frontiers open.

An obvious one, already mentioned several times in this comment thread, is the use of PitchF/X data to revolutionize our understanding of the dynamics of pitcher/batter interactions (and umpiring). When is it a good idea to challenge a hitter, and when to nibble? When should you just flip a coin? How much difference does it make? These questions were always out there, but now we might actually be able to start to answer them. BP could be in the forefront of that, if they concentrate on it.

Business strategy is another. Being able to forecast production/value isn't the end of the question for a GM; it's a necessary prerequisite to being able to formulate a rational business strategy. How to do that goes way beyond MORP, or "where in the rebuilding cycle am I?". Doug Pappas (rest in peace) is not with us any more, but this is another area where analytical rigor would be useful. I'm delighted to see that BP now has a qualified psychologist on the team, since this sort of Decision Analysis depends as much on psychology as it does on optimization.

No, there's no end of fruit still to be picked, even if it isn't quite as low-hanging as the fruit that fed Bill James. The question is, can BP both pick the fruit, and tell the tale of it in an entertaining way? Reading any random Gary Huckabay article from days gone by makes it all too obvious how far we've come from the halcyon irreverent days of BP past.

Jan 04, 2010 17:35 PM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

If I had that copy of BP -- I think '01 -- I'd like to know how many of Keith Woolner's Hibert questions have been sufficiently answered.

Jan 04, 2010 17:58 PM
 
BP staff member Colin Wyers
BP staff

It's on the site as well, actually.

I guess the answer depends on how you define "sufficiently."

Jan 04, 2010 18:30 PM
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Sounds like material for a few worthwhile challenges. ;)

Jan 04, 2010 18:34 PM
 
bajohnso

Joe Sheehan not only was my favorite writer at BP, but my favorite writer period. His wit and humor combined with analyzing my favorite sport made me look forward to reading each and everyone one of his articles. I'll still remain a subscriber to BP for now, but he was the #1 reason why I pay a fee for BP.

Jan 04, 2010 14:52 PM
rating: 2
 
ashitaka

Are there any non-obscure reference to 16th century Belgian military tactics?

Kidding aside, I am really excited about the blog portion. It basically sounds like you will use it the way people use Twitter, except you keep it on your site. For the life of me, I cannot understand why other web services use their content and hand over traffic to Twitter.

Jan 04, 2010 15:28 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

I suppose it's time to talk about Maurice of Nassau (more a Dutch figure than Belgian, but the concepts of Holland and Belgium were just all sorts of blurry relative to the present), and try to explain why he's a need-to-know historical figure you need to know. After all, who doesn't like a theorist with a practical foundation in real-world applications? Someone who stressed the virtues of initiative and training? Are we sure he isn't Mike Scioscia's bench coach?

Jan 04, 2010 15:41 PM
 
ashitaka

well played

Jan 04, 2010 15:55 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

I'd read an examination of the writings of Hugo Grotius, whom Maurice imprisoned, and today's international draft.

Jan 05, 2010 07:52 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Wow, a ton of comments... and I've never seen any comment get a +96.

My take on the cacophony... I liked reading Joe because he always had an interesting, and at times, controversial perspective on things. He definitely had a unique voice. Yet, it seemed he was getting a bit burned out/bitter judging from some of the comment threads. I like him and I miss him, but I'll also wish him well.

As far as the value of a subscription goes, I can't read most of the content/columnists on ESPN.com nor many major or minor newspapers such as the New York Times, etc. I like the quality and variety for the price here. Of course, there are free statistical analysis sites out there, but if subscription models become the basis for internet business, I'm not sure how long those sites (or more importantly, the authors) will last as independents.

I am glad Christina will be writing full-time. Though she had a hectic job wearing both hats as a writer and as an editor, this should allow her to focus more on the writing side of things (and perhaps, free her from having to respond to typo complaints).

As far as the whole statistics vs style debate, I don't care as much about the "3 runs difference" question as I do about finding new ways to look at, analyze, compare baseball. Hit f/x, pitch f/x, heck even metrics like The Good Face. :) I love Eric's work primarily in that vein, and the works of some of the new authors like Colin and Russell, and our favorite Idol contestants. Shawn Hoffman's written some neat stuff too. It'd be nice to see a Silver or Rany piece once again, though.

Here is what I do care about though. If 2009 was a successful year for PEV, then why is the Baseball Prospectus 2010 clocking in at 24 less pages than 2009's Annual and $3 more expensive? 600 pages is the smallest annual since 2006 and even in 2009, the annual didn't even have an index. We've added all these new, wonderful writers to the site but they weren't invited to write anything? I liked the days where I could enjoy reading about EqBRR or MORP and 600 pages just seems a bit too small if there are as many new writers and new ideas at BP as is suggested...

Jan 04, 2010 16:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Richard, as I write this we are still working on Baseball Prospectus 2010. I do not know what the final page-count on the book will be, so I'm pretty sure you don't either. If you're referring to the page-count listed at Amazon, that's an approximation that is supplied by the publisher, not something we're bound by. So don't worry: given the way the manuscript has looked so far, I'm fairly certain that this will be yet another bulging compendium of baseball, possibly the longest we've done yet. Judging from the raw word count, we've had more to say than ever. Just about all of that additional length has gone into the player comments, which have achieved an even greater depth than usual this year.

You've also made an incorrect assumption about the new writers not being invited to participate. In addition to old-guard types like Jay, Kevin, Christina, Clay, John, and myself, there have been extensive contributions from the new crew, and I hope you will be as pleased by their work as we have been.

Finally, we DO NOT set the price on the book. That is something the publisher does. Still, I'm looking at Amazon and it goes for $16.47 there, $16.83 at Barnes & Noble. I buy a lot of books--it's an addiction--and I think it is not unfair to say that in this day and age less than $20 for a massive tome like the Baseball Prospectus annual is one of the better bargains out there.

Jan 04, 2010 23:59 PM
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

As an addendum to my own comment, last year's book was an outlier as far as pages. No other annual had been longer than 602 pages, and the average for the entire run is 551. That said, I would caution against judging how much material you're getting by page count, as changes in layout and other alterations to the way the book is constructed can swell or restrict the number of pages. In any case, I have little doubt we'll be closer to last year's figure than to 551.

Jan 05, 2010 02:34 AM
 
JParks

Steven - I'm sure this has been discussed elsewhere but an index is a huge help. Hoping the 2010 edition has one. Thanks for "You Could Look It Up" - haven't heard it mentioned much in this thread but for entertainment value I think it's one of the best things on BP. Baseball's rich history is one of the best things about the sport IMHO. Your work helps to spotlight it here where it seems to be overlooked at times in pursuit of the almighty statistics.

Jan 05, 2010 05:21 AM
rating: 7
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Thank you, JParks, it means a lot to get feedback like that. I hope to bring more of my style of looking at things to BP this year, be it historical stuff or more current-events-type pieces.

I should have mentioned the index in my original response. All I can say is (as I believe we said at the time), it will never, never happen again. It wasn't something we chose but that events forced on us. We're not in that position this year, and part of my job is to make sure that we're never in that position again. BP 2010 WILL have an index, and if I could put it in flashing pink neon, I would. Not having an index was like walking around with your fly open -- for a year.

Jan 05, 2010 07:02 AM
 
pbconnection

I would like to see more of your work on BP, particularly on current events. I read The Pinstriped Bible often, and I generally prefer that to You Could Look It Up.

The main reason for this is that I often talk to more casual baseball fans, and BP has offered me much less over the last year that I can use in casual conversation. Often Sheehan and CK were the only BP authors publishing articles that could be distilled in a few sentences and resonate with casual baseball fan. Generally,the works of Matt Swartz and Eric Seidman are either so esoteric, arcane, or unreadable that they don't provide any discussion among even my most stat-oriented friends.

Your Pinstriped Bible work always takes on relevant topics to Yankees fans such as myself. This always gives me that much more ammunition to use when arguing against the inane misconceptions of many baseball fans. That ammunition was one of the best reasons to be a BP subscriber, and I would like more of that content for my money.

Jan 05, 2010 09:18 AM
rating: -2
 
devine

Just to balance this a little. Or to try.

I'm the casual fan, too.I also love the Pinstriped Bible. I also will miss Joe, although it is pretty clear that he was in a bit of a rut here. I do not have the chops to really follow some of the heavy lifting in Matt and Eric's articles.

But I am glad they are here, and writing, and I like seeing that they have posted new articles and I read them and sometimes I learn something. Sometimes I can't. But I don't need to get my dime back for those articles I don't understand.

Matt and Eric are Not A Problem. At least for me.

Jan 05, 2010 11:04 AM
rating: 5
 
John Carter

For pure entertainment, I like "You Could Look It Up" the best of all the regular features.

Will's UTK and THR are indispensable for managing my fantasy teams. Some new injury watchers are popping up, but Will's work still appears to be the most informative.

TA is the most entertaining way of figuring out what each team is up to and who those call-ups are. However, CK's writing style is more like high quality candy, while a good SG piece is more of an overall satisfying light meal.

KG does an amazing job of keeping us up-to-date on prospects and he writes terrifically. He alone renders Baseball America of only marginal use.

I enjoyed Joe's writing and wish him well, but he wasn't as indispensable to me as those three. Stephen is still aboard for pure entertainment - and I believe Ken, Tim, and others can contribute good purely entertaining pieces as well.

Having a contracts guy is a great idea.

Perhaps, I overlook JP's contributions. Considering I stay thoroughly up-to-date with Rotoworld, I didn't notice anything new in his news briefs, but the tidbits in his what-scouts-say section were wonderful.

Only when I really feel like killing a little time do I read quotes and interviews, though, that is not very often. However, Alex and David do a fine job.

Marc's Player Profiles have even more substance. While we all tend to get a little bogged down in player ratings looking at just a few statistics from each player, it is healthy to make a more in depth look at a few players. You see how amazingly unique each player's path to success is. Unfortunately, I just don't often make the time to read these thoroughly.

The Fantasy Beat, though, just doesn't do anything for me as a Scoresheet player.

Jay's contributions also fall under the entertaining-if-I-feel-like-killing-time category. Baseball is different things for different people. The Hall of Fame is not the Hall of Excellence. Probably like most of us, I wish it were, but I try not to fret too much about what I have no control over. The same is true of my favorite team's position on the Hit List or standings. That's why I became a Scoresheet player instead of depending on the Detroit Tigers or Toronto Blue Jays to do what I think they should do.

As far as the statistical breakthroughs, I have nothing more to add beyond what has already been said.

PECOTA and Team Tracker are incredibly useful bonuses for a Scoresheet player such as myself. (Though, I wish they'd allow a greater choice of stats - specifically BABiP for batters.)

As Richard mentions here somewhere (and I accidentally minus-ed his comment instead of plus-ing it - I wish we could change our votes) what is really great is that we can discuss each article openly AND get feedback directly from the authors!

As someone else here noticed - what a great collection of commenters we have - and I agree that is a reflection of the quality of our writers. This interaction between the readers (including myself) and the writers is another huge plus.

Jan 05, 2010 12:21 PM
rating: 5
 
Richard Bergstrom

Steven, thanks for the explanation. My comment was based on the Amazon "estimate" so I ended up jumping to conclusions that if last year's annual was the largest (yet didn't have room for an index), that this year's annual would crimp a bit on the essays. Thus, my line of thinking continued that if there were less room for essays, then fewer new writers would be writing those essays. This erroneous thinking was probably a bit exaggerated by my assumption that the Annual had already been sent to the publisher since the delivery date is about a month away.

Either way, I immensely enjoy each Annual I've bought and I've reread each of them multiple times. I even said last year (when talking about the missing index) I don't mind paying extra money for the Annual. I think it (and the BP subscription) are a great value to me.

Jan 05, 2010 06:01 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Again, it wasn't that we didn't have room, but that other logistical problems prevented its inclusion. That won't happen again.

Now, we have cut back on the back-of-book essays this year, because we wanted to spend the space on the teams and players themselves. Emphatically, it is not a shorter book. It's probably a longer one, we've just allotted the space a little differently. Our feedback has been that the essays in the rear were not very well read but for Kevin's top 100 list which remains (although in the spirit of his Top 11 Prospects, it is now the Top 101) and that these journal-like, research-heavy pieces were better located on the web.

After this year's book comes out, one thing I intend to do is ask you, the readers, for very specific feedback as to what you like and don't like, what you'd like to see more of, what would make it a better book for you. I look forward to having that conversation.

Finally, I'm gratified that you've re-read them; all of us really work hard to make it a BOOK first and foremost, something that you can learn from and be entertained by. Some people call the annual a fantasy guide, and sure, it can be used that way, but our ambitions are always far greater than that.

Jan 05, 2010 07:12 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

... so, I was correct that there would be fewer essays (or essay space).

That aside, the thing I like about the Annual is that it fits whatever timeframe I might have. Am I on a lunch break? I can read a team's essay and entire player comments. After work? I can read through a few teams. Someone asks me my opinion on a fantasy trade and I can flip right to the stats and come up with my opinion. If I'm busy at work for a week, I can put the book down and get to the next team once I get some free time without "losing my place". I don't really use it as a fantasy guide, per se, but as a baseball book that's darned fun to read. Generally I tote it around my car for a few months after I get it, put it down for a few months, then pick it back up around the trading deadline.

Overall I read each annual (though not always the back-of-the-book essays) 5-6 times. The team essays are probably my favorite parts.

My biggest pet peeve in past annuals were the player's fielding metrics not synching up with the player's comments.

Jan 05, 2010 07:23 AM
rating: -3
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Two things at work in the player comments as far as the fielding metrics: Christina and I encourage the writers to debate with the stats (all the stats) where appropriate. Second, I'm not really satisfied with any one fielding metric and consult a range of them, and I know the others do the same. Until a grand unified theory of fielding stats comes along, that is going to be an area where what the writers see and what the stats say aren't going to match up every time.

Jan 05, 2010 07:59 AM
 
Michael
(736)

Steven,
That's not what happens in practice regarding fielding metrics.

In analytical baseball stories elsewhere on the internet, too often there is a tendency to site just one source as authoritative. However, the better articles acknowledge that play by play fielding metrics are better but that there still is considerable uncertainty and to avoid measurement errors one should consider multiple years of data when possible. At BP, the default is to use FRAA.

Sunday's John Perrotto column contains this example: Jason "Bay, despite getting knocked for his fielding, finished with -1 [FRAA] in left [field]." No mention that UZR has him at -13 for 2009 or that Fielding Bible agrees and has him at -1 for 2009. No mention that FRAA, UZR, and Fielding Bible all had Bay as significant worse than average with the glove in 2007 and 2008. No mention of the difficult of evaluting leftfielders in Fenway Park. Perotto cites FRAA and implies that those who knock Bay's fielding are uninformed.

Jan 05, 2010 10:16 AM
rating: 4
 
Michael
(736)

John Perrotto's discussion in today's (January 6) column of Jason Bay's fielding is completely different. Perhaps he reacted to my comment above but in any case I should acknowledge that his use of fielding statistics to evaluate Bay's defense was much improved.

Jan 06, 2010 18:01 PM
rating: 3
 
philly

"Our feedback has been that the essays in the rear were not very well read"

And your response was to cut them back. Another response would have been to make them better. I wish you had taken the latter route.

I'd say this is quite analogous to the reception for BPs stats over the last few years. The feedback you were getting is that they were no longer cutting edge and good enough. You decided, thankfully imo, to make them better. The same could have been done with the end of the book essays.

I will still occasionally see references to old Woolner back of the book essays and from time to time I've gone back to re-read them. Without those kind of quality essays that can be referenced, I think there's a real danger that the annual quickly becomes dated, very much a book if its year.

It may be fun to go back and look at some old player comments (although they're on the site anyway) or team essays, but I never have. And just off the top of my head I think only a minority of the team essays would really stand out of the time in which they were written.

Jan 05, 2010 08:53 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

This is a pejorative way of looking at our decision. You assume that we cut back because of negative feedback, but the issue wasn't the quality of the essays, but that they were not always a good fit for the book. Whether you like or don't like pure stats essays, and some of them were very good, they took resources away from the main stem of the book. We've been straining at our limits, wanting to write longer and more in-depth comments, but you can only make the book so big before it becomes a cost factor. No matter how much the essays could be improved, they aren't going to rival the player comments as the book's main feature. Thus, we made the call we did.

That doesn't mean that those essays are gone for good. If we have a really great piece to present, we can always bring them back. They also can be, and have been, subtly integrated into the team essays where appropriate. In the meantime, there's already a venue for these kinds of pieces here at BP.com, and I suspect that sooner or later we may find a way to devote a separate publication to that kind of material. In the meantime, please don't assume that we ran away from some kind of challenge. It was not a paucity of quality material of that kind, but a surfeit of quality material for the rest of the book.

Jan 05, 2010 10:21 AM
 
bflaff

My appreciation of BP's work, and my willingness to pay for it aren't contingent on whether or not Joe Sheehan is writing here, just for the record. He was a major part of the site, but so was Nate, and so were all the other major parts that left before them. They haven't been replaced by junk, and I look forward to seeing what BP has in store for 2010. Maybe we can relax with the rending of garments and "It'll never be this good again" hysteria until we actually see what a post-Sheehan BP looks like.

Jan 04, 2010 16:51 PM
rating: 10
 
R.A.Wagman

Improving the accuracy of the stats is a wonderful thing. And I think many here are thinking that there will now be more articles about stats. The stats will remain on the stats pages. The analysts will still be analyzing. The stats that they are using in that analysis will be better and more telling than in the past.
Some recent articles were a bit descriptive in the stats explanations (as opposed to analysis of same), but that is necessary when new concepts (and some of these are very new concepts - the economics angle is fairly fresh) are introduced. I trust the process.

Jan 04, 2010 17:45 PM
rating: 1
 
braden23

Will BP continue to contribute to ESPN.com? The reason I ask is Neyer, Law and Grey are a pretty good 3, 4, 5 in the lineup and with BP articles sprinkled in, how is that not a better option at the same price?

I am debating making a switch, not enough time to keep both and isn't this setup the best of both worlds?

Jan 04, 2010 17:45 PM
rating: 1
 
Mountainhawk

This is a good point. Maybe BP subscribers can have access to Neyer and Law over at ESPN?

Jan 04, 2010 17:56 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I'm sure that ESPN would be happy to give us access to a couple writers making six figures for pennies.

Jan 04, 2010 18:01 PM
 
Mountainhawk

Then explain to us why BP is a better value than ESPN if BP content is available to Insider, and the costs are nearly identical.

Jan 04, 2010 18:06 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Because when you measure out 2010, the amount of BP content being syndicated by ESPN will be measured with a percentage in the single digits.

Jan 04, 2010 18:18 PM
 
cordially
(917)

Yeah, but it's the top shelf stuff. You're not submitting some graph/chart article to ESPN, which I don't bother reading at BP.

Jan 04, 2010 19:08 PM
rating: 0
 
cordially
(917)

Wow, you just let an opportunity to be condescending go by can you? Apart from Sheehan leaving, you're the number one reason I'm not renewing.

Jan 04, 2010 19:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

BP has somewhere on the order of 60,000 unique subscriptions over its history, judging by user #s. ESPN frequently gets more people to comment on a Page2 survey in a single day. It is in BPs best interests to reach that audience - and in its subscribers' interests, too.

If just an itsy bitsy percentage of the new audience reached by cross-publishing on ESPN.com comes here and reads and eventually subscribes to BP, that miniscule amount is a significant number in comparison to the existing BP subscriptions. These new subscriptions help to pay for a lot of the added writers and researchers at BP.

I'm all for it.

Jan 04, 2010 20:44 PM
rating: 2
 
cordially
(917)

My guess is that 60,000 is registrations, not subscriptions.

Jan 05, 2010 00:29 AM
rating: -1
 
Deelron

Most definitely it's just another form of advertising to reach a far larger audience. I'd imagine that the increased subscriptions make up for the ones they lose who are happy with the few articles on ESPN and ESPN insider, otherwise it wouldn't be done.

Jan 05, 2010 11:44 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Clearly, the site re-design is going to have to wait so it can be Tablet ready ...

Jan 04, 2010 18:00 PM
 
Rowen Bell

bflaff's comment above (which I couldn't directly reply to, for some reason) is exactly on point.

I've been a diehard BPer since my Strat-O-Matic league commissioner (C. Kahrl) convinced me to buy a copy of the very first BP annual. BP has always been, and will always be, a collective. There's a reason they don't put authors' bylines on the team comments, people; it's to emphasize the fact that BP is a collective.

I'll miss Joe; just as I missed Nate, and Gary, and Rany, and Keith Law, and Derek Zumsteg; and just as someday I'll miss Eric, and Colin. BP is dead; long live BP.

Jan 04, 2010 18:06 PM
rating: 0
 
markjstachura

Is Nate Silver going to publish any articles going forward or is he strictly working on 538 now?

Jan 04, 2010 18:15 PM
rating: 4
 
Cardinals645

It seems I'm way behind on throwing in my two cents, but if anyone is still reading here it is, in brief:

1. It's redundant, but I'd be remiss not to mention how much I've enjoyed Joe's writing over the years. He'll obviously be missed.

2. More than I care about upgrades in some of the stats, and I'm not saying they're not important, I'd like to see a change in the structure and presentation of the stats currently available (and the site as a whole as well).
I think DanUpBaby of VivaElBirdos.com put it best:
"How useful would these BP stats be if their website wasn't designed and hosted in some wormhole that connects 1998 to 2009?"
I think I read above that this is being addressed and is, by far, what I most look forward to seeing.

3. Maybe I speak in the minority here, but one of the primary reasons I began subscribing to BP was for PECOTA projections. I'm glad to hear it's being moved out of EXCEL, and I hope many improvements will follow. That's the other thing I would most like to see.

I appreciate the open honesty and, while reserving judgement, I look forward to seeing the results of these changes.

Jan 04, 2010 19:05 PM
rating: 6
 
BurrRutledge

Yes. Any improvement to PECOTA is worth the effort. Finding a way to add in new information about line drive rate, for instance, or overcoming the Ichiro effect.

I'd also love to see Brian Cartwright's Oliver analyses side-by-side to PECOTA's and explanations of significant divergences in the projections. I'd love to see that! Would pay more for it, too...

Jan 04, 2010 20:32 PM
rating: 3
 
Brian Cartwright

Thanks for the mention.

I admit it's an unusual emotion to see all of my ex-colleagues from StatSpeak not only working here, but pretty much running the stats section.

As for myself, immediately after the Idol competition ended I was contacted by another prominent site about running their stats, and I have been coding a greatly expanded Oliver (batting, pitching, fielding, baserunning, etc) ever since. It's about 98% done, so hopefully the public rollout will be soon.

There are basically three things I've been trying to accomplish - contribute to the body of knowledge, become famous, and make some money! (ranked from easiest to hardest) I may be a bigger fish in a smaller pond by not being at BP, but I think it's a good deal for me and I believe I will provide content that baseball fandom can appreciate and learn from. Most every article I've written, from SeamHeads to StatSpeak To FanGraphs to BPro describes a concept or process that will be part of the new Oliver.

Jan 04, 2010 23:27 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Brian,

I'm glad things are going great for you. I'll admit I am still hoping to see an essay of yours in some BP Annual and I always enjoy your comments. I'll look forward to new Oliver :)

Jan 05, 2010 06:21 AM
rating: -1
 
ChinMusic

I don't have any stake in BP or know any of the parties personally, but I am comfortable making the statement that if anyone can produce a writer of the quality being discussed (Silver, Sheehan, etc.) that will work full-time forever under the revenue model this site operates with, I'm sure BP will be happy to hire them. Seriously, for $35 a year, how much money do you think is here for these guys to split up? (I don't think the subscriber number is public and I don't think it should be. It's not our business.) These guys are at or near the top of their profession and should be compensated that way - even if they need to go somewhere else to get it. I would much rather lose the occassional writer to opportunities that improve their lot than have the BP team not reinvest in their product. If the departing writer wants to write about baseball, we will see them somewhere else anyway. I can go out on the weekend and spend $35 faster than Joel Zumaya can say "kegstand", so for 50+ hours a year of entertainment, I say it's a heckuva buy.

In summary, I don't hold BP's management team responsible for things they may not be able to control, only what I know they can control. I'm excited to see the forthcoming changes.

Jan 04, 2010 20:18 PM
rating: 15
 
Matt Kory

I agree for $35 BP is a great deal, but I don't think that subscriptions are the only revenue BP generates. Theres ads on the site, book revenue, and the associations with ESPN just off the top of my head. Nothing against any of that (well, I hate ads, but what ever), I'm all for BP'ers making as much as they can.

Jan 05, 2010 15:21 PM
rating: 3
 
Andrew

While I'm bummed to see Joe go, I'm excited about the influx of new talent to BP and the expansion of articles, writing styles/etc, and new/more accurate statistics and analysis.

Also, I can't wait to see the site redesign--a mobile friendly version of the site and/or iPhone app would be great to see!

Jan 04, 2010 21:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Russell A. Carleton

Let me see if I can sum up the responses, and correct me if I get something wrong.

1) Most of you would like to see us inject a little bit more of our scintilating personalities into the work, so that BP doesn't start reading like the Journal of Applied Statistical Science. Extra credit will be given to obscure references to 16th century Belgian military history. Fair enough. (Note to self: go to library this weekend.)

2) People prefer applied topics or at least, as my grad school advisor liked to say, a good story to go along with your table. OK. Connect things in so that they are relevant. Sound advice for any writer.

3) People here aren't stat-phobic, cuz ummm, that's kinda the whole point... anyway, it seems that most people don't mind if we break out the major numerical nerdiness. (Y'all know that there are some writers who are more prone to that than others. Personally, I know that I look for excuses to pull things out of my statistical tool belt.) It's not everyone's thing, and that's cool. But it seems that people are hungry for more than just tweaks in the methodology, or at least to know what difference it makes if we tweak the formula for WXYZ42BNL makes a difference.

In other words, after the digit gymnastics, we need to be able to answer the question "So what?"

Jan 04, 2010 21:16 PM
rating: 16
 
Richard Bergstrom

I guess I fall into the "What's in it for me?" category. Part of the problem is, I follow some of the statistical discussion (but not all) and the statistics/models are naturally imperfect so there's always room for error. So, if there's room for error, does a 3 run difference or 5% difference matter as much to me? Not really.

But give me a new way to look at things, think about things, and I'm hooked. Personally, I'm intrigued to see the new defensive metrics since the old BP ones used to frustrate me especially when paired with player comments... "He's a horrible fielder" but his FRAA is -1 or some such.

Jan 04, 2010 21:58 PM
rating: 0
 
sandriola

Russell,

I support your second and third points completely. I like the applied stat articles. I also like the hardcore math-driven stat articles. However, I really don't care if the articles have this "fun" element to them. Good writing doesn't need to be fun. It needs to be engaging, thought-provoking, and complete. That's not to say that I don't like fun writing, but rather fun writing should not be the main goal of every article.

I enjoy the product immensely, and I look forward to these changes with great anticipation. I did feel that the content had been a little stale lately. However, it is the dead of the offseason. Shouldn't this be the time to try out some new ideas? I trust that things will be better for the site in 2010.

Jan 05, 2010 11:41 AM
rating: 2
 
fishtaco

Joe is an excellent writer but over time I enjoyed his tone less and less. As someone mentioned earlier, his views became predictable and while he work was always thought-provoking, I found his writing to become increasingly arrogant over the past few years. I can't say BP will be better off for Joe's departure but there are many writers still here who make a subscription worth keeping in my view.

I do wish Joe well but I hope he can reintroduce more of a sense of fun into whatever he chooses to do next and discards some of the sarcasm and disdain that seems to shine through on anyone who dares disagree with him.

Jan 04, 2010 21:32 PM
rating: 3
 
xnumberoneson

Does Tim Marchman have a full-time gig these days? He's an entertaining writer with a good grasp of the advanced metrics. He'd be a good fit for BP IMO.

Jan 04, 2010 22:07 PM
rating: 1
 
Al Skorupa

Frankly, I like the more blogs idea.

I would love to see BP become more like fangraphs - well written, intelligent blurbs on what is going on. Ive never cared for Transaction Analysis or Hit List. The format is the issue - not Christina's writing style. They give me nothing I cant get elsewhere. Break it up into little pieces easier to digest and get them out quicker. Ive usually ready three or four analyses by the time TA is out. BP needs to stop being reactive and start being proactive again.

Jan 04, 2010 22:48 PM
rating: -2
 
sockeye

Couldn't disagree with this more. I could care less if BP gets things out a little slower than other sites, who seem to base their whole identity on the timeliness of a 140-character outburst - what I care about is that they leave the loudest reverb once the noise has stopped being made.

And comparing the writing here to that at Fangraphs? That's just silly.

Jan 04, 2010 23:23 PM
rating: 4
 
Al Skorupa

"I could care less if BP gets things out a little slower than other sites, who seem to base their whole identity on the timeliness of a 140-character outburst - what I care about is that they leave the loudest reverb once the noise has stopped being made."

Right now theyre doing neither.

If it was quality or original writing, sure. When I see something that's the same thing everyone else said a week after everyone else had it - no thanks. That's what Transaction Analysis and Hit List, etc... have become. Neither quality nor quick. You want jokes about wine and subtle wit? That's great. I want quick, enlightening analysis of what's going on in the world of baseball. Frankly, I much prefer RJ Anderson, Tom Tango or Dave Cameron to what I get at BP these days.

Fact is, there is nothing special about much of the product BP is giving us these days. If they want me to pay for it they could at least get that part out faster and make it easier to digest. As for in depth articles - I would love them, but the ones we've been getting arent original or interesting. New ground IS being broken in Sabrmetric fields... just not here.

I pay my subsription for Future Shock and PECOTA, essentially. Everything else here is tired, uninteresting and definitely lacking in quality. I much, much prefer the fangraphs types of articles that ask questions and then explore answers. BP used to be more like that and it was far better for it.

Jan 05, 2010 03:03 AM
rating: 0
 
slackerjake


Not to go all Shakespeare on you, but the writing's the thing.

Look at the quality of the writing in the comments...this is a crowd that is intelligent and who, for the most part, can figure out how to put the peg from noun A into the slot of verb B. And those are only the subscribers who comment! Imagine the overwhelming majority who are just taking it all in without commenting.

Look, most are here for good writing about baseball, whether it's a style piece or a stats piece, whether it's the game, or the injuries, or the prospects, or the finances, or the history. If you write well, readers are engaged and want more. Even if they don't agree with the writer's point of view. Even if they don't understand the math. Even if they root for a small market team that will break the North American professional sports consecutive-losing-season mark this year and see yet another article about the blah, blah, blah effect on the Yankees' blah, blah, blah unless the Red Sox can blah, blah, blah. Ahem.

So there you have it-- if it's well written, we'll come and read it and enjoy it. So write well.

In that regard, I think having a professional writer turned editor in John Perrotto will help. Even good writers rarely get very far without good editors. And good editors make mediocre writers good and good writers great.

Finally, I'm glad there will be site changes. This thing looks and handles like something a sophomore computer nerd wastes time on in study hall. Circa 1998. Good lord, my 8 year old daughter's blog is smoother and crisper and more accessible. Gotta work on that, and I'm glad you are.

Looking forward to the season and to good writing from BP...

Cheers!

Jan 04, 2010 23:10 PM
rating: 10
 
havens


My goodness. I think people need to remember that we're paying under $40 a year for this site. We're paying like $3 a month. Something like 10 cents a day. While seeing Joe Sheehan leave is genuinely disappointing, I think people need to take a step back and realize that, while Fangraphs, etc is a great value for $0, Baseball Prospectus continues to be a great value for 10 cents a day.

Jan 04, 2010 23:19 PM
rating: 5
 
surveyzas
(119)

because it doesn't cost much, we should be unconditionally satisfied? "gee, this Schlitz beer tastes like it was brewed in a dirty diaper, but look at how cheap it is! i'll stick with it because it's a great value, even though there's equal or better-tasting beer out there for free."

i think you may be missing the bigger picture - our comments and opinions give the authors an opportunity to see what it's readers want, and potentially allow them to increase readership and subscriber count by addressing those comments and opinions. in the meanwhile, we get better content, along the lines of what we feel we've been missing it's a win-win situation, and everyone ends up drinking better beer.

Jan 05, 2010 06:21 AM
rating: 4
 
Richard Bergstrom

That is an important point. Subscribers do care about BP enough to provide feedback and commentary on what they'd like to see. Even if this thread has gotten a bit testy at times, I'm sure BP prefers seeing the feedback to none at all. And, something to keep in mind, I can't think of many sites, paid or free, where the staff reply in the comments so actively.

One thing I really like about BP is that, though I might not have the statistical chops, I feel I'm collaborating by questioning and discussing ideas that BP authors can further investigate.

Jan 05, 2010 06:25 AM
rating: 5
 
havens

I'm not saying that you should be unconditionally satisfied, and there's nothing wrong with providing feedback to the BP decision makers. But to try and suggest that you aren't getting your $40 worth based on what is provided by the site right now is insane.

Jan 05, 2010 11:58 AM
rating: 0
 
sockeye

I think one things that stands out in the above comments is that everyone really wants to see the quality of the writing remain high. I supervise/hire statisticians and analysts myself, and am painfully aware that finding an analytic mind that can also write is like discovering gold. What most impressed me the most about BP and led to my subscription was how tremendously accessible the writers made their analysis. Some of the articles by Nate Silver could easily have been used as examples of accessible analysis in graduate level courses.

I don't share as many of the concerns about the internal movements at BP, as long as BP realizes that it would be a mistake to sacrifice writing ability for statistics. Keep the analysis coming at a high level, but please stake your name on the ability to make it accessible and interesting.


Jan 04, 2010 23:20 PM
rating: 2
 
Al Skorupa

Frankly, I care way less about writing than I do about seeing some original and interesting ideas. If BP's readers do indeed favor writing over ideas these days, then perhaps that is why this place is stagnating.

For instance, Perotto is a good addition, but I dont want more of just random opinion articles. I can get some guy's opinion on trades lots of places these days! Give me some interesting statistical analysis! That's what this place was really about when it was breaking new ground and creating buzz.

Jan 05, 2010 03:08 AM
rating: -2
 
Eugene

I seem to fall on the opposite side of the spectrum from most commenters here. The reason I subscribe is so that I can read about cutting edge sabremetrics. While I loved reading Joe's pieces, baseball writing is ubiquitous. Stats articles are too, and it was getting to the point where I no longer felt BP was at the forefront of analysis. However, with the influx of these highly respected names for the first time being paid to work together, I am highly optimistic about the future of this website.

Others may be less likely to renew now based on the changes that were mentioned, but consider me one of the counterbalances.

Jan 05, 2010 05:25 AM
rating: 3
 
JoshC77

Sad to see Joe go, but I have been sad in the past to see some of the other writers leave and BP keeps going on. This is my favorite website and it is one of the pleasures of my day to read the new content (or the old, try going back to some of the TA articles from several years ago; it is a blast to read analyses for deals and then have the advantage of hindsight).

I am reading a lot of negative comments about the site here and it disturbs me for two general reasons. One, we are talking about baseball; even when it is bad, it still pretty good. Secondly, the game has so many different angles to view it through that no one is going to love everything posted. I have read articles that have made my head hurt from all of the stats, but I am sure others loved it. I am also sure that I have read other articles that I adored that others hated. It is just human nature.

I have also seen comments about how certain statistical analyses do not provide a conclusion. Is that not the nature of stats? Sometimes, stats do NOT tell the story. Sometimes they are inconclusive. But a snippet of information from one study plus snippets from other studies can sometimes be put together to give you a conclusion. The pitch f/x studies earlier this year (I am still waiting for more) were wonderful (in terms of how the location of the pitch, release point, etc. all contribute to the effectiveness of the pitch). Sometimes you can’t get the whole story looking at just one angle.

Jan 05, 2010 05:38 AM
rating: 4
 
Tarakas

Josh,

I publish research for a living, and some of it is statistical. When I don't have a good conclusion, my stuff gets rejected, or it is sent back, with instructions to write a better conclusion. I also review articles for publication, and one thing you are told to review for is the quality and significance of the conclusion.

Some of the pieces here actually do have a conclusion, but they need to be made stronger--more clear and more developed.

Basically, some of the stat pieces have gotten odd. As pieces of entertainment writing, they seem dry and academic, but if you know academic writing, they aren't really always acceptable as that, either. BP needs to figure out what these things are supposed to be and edit them properly. I don't blame the writers. This is an editing problem.

Jan 05, 2010 06:16 AM
rating: 9
 
MightyMoGreen

What a lot of sound and fury. It's all a part of the new rush to judgment that is endemic throughout society. The new UI hasn't even come out yet, the new stats are unseen, and already people are writing 1,000-2,000 word comment screeds ripping it. Get a grip, people. You'll just have to wait and see. If this comment board were a class it would just be a bunch of people who are totally in love with the sound of their own voice, no matter how ridiculous or illogical their point. And seriously, edit yourselves. Blah blah blah

Good luck Joe - all of your fans here will find you wherever you write. That's another thing for all of you hand-wringers, you'll be able to find Joe. So you'll have more content, with BP blogs etc. AND Joe wherever he lands. Breathe in, breathe out. It'll be o.k., I swear.

Jan 05, 2010 06:09 AM
rating: 0
 
jamiedodd7

Oh, please. We're readers voicing an opinion about a product we care about. Get over yourself.

Jan 05, 2010 13:05 PM
rating: 12
 
JeffZimmerman

After working with Tommy since he came onto BtB, I knew that he would be moving on up. His writing is heads and tails better than just a couple people out there. He will be a great addition and it will different not working with him.

After acquiring Marc and Tommy from BtB, who is next to join the BPro, Harry?

Jan 05, 2010 06:48 AM
rating: 2
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Agree with MightyMoGreen above...while I do appreciate the passion and sincerity evident throughout this comment thread (seriously...I've been riveted, I think its been great), I feel its important to remember two things.

First, that Joe leaving BP and new authors/statisticians joining BP are not necessarily intertwined events. Just because they are both happening around the same time does not mean that one decision caused the other.

Second, we haven't seen the changes yet. Kevin has stated that he believes we'll be impressed. It may not be a very BP-like thing to say, but I for one am willing to take him at his word. He and others have earned that level of trust from me over the last 12 years.

Rather than just take KG's word for it though, for what it is worth to people, here is a post from Tom Tang
o on the recent additions to the BP lineup:

"I love PizzaCutter as much as a virtual saberist can love another virtual saberist. Colin is great and I knew that Jeff was a perfect match for someone (BPro, B-R, or Fangraphs), and Idol or no Idol, it was a given that both these guys would make it to BPro if that’s what either wanted. Tommy is great and is a cross of Neyer and Phil. Eric has been excellent wherever he was. This is about as good as a Tango-approved team that BPro could have brought on board." (http://www.insidethebook.com/, blog post Jan 4. 10:43 am)

Now, my impression of Tango is that he is unafraid to be critical of front offices, other saberists, farm animals, and little old ladies if he feels that the criticism is warranted. So for him to endorse the new authors means something to me.


Jan 05, 2010 07:35 AM
rating: 10
 
Richard Bergstrom

Tango was pretty critical of BP for awhile too, so it's nice to see he likes the changes.

Jan 05, 2010 09:40 AM
rating: 1
 
Mike Smith

Is the new beer vs tacos debate?

Some of us want hard core, stats development/refinement articles that explore new terrain or nail down the nth decimal place.

Some of us want content-driven articles that are supported by relevant statistics.

Both have their place on BP, as both have driven my support of BP over the years, as I think is true with many of us.

But, I do second (or is it fivehundredthirtyeighth at this point?) the motion for the stats-only articles to have a better presentation. As said before, these articles do need an introduction, solid analysis, followed by a true conclusion. The intros and conclusions have been lacking of late.

All that said, I still love BP, and do hope the BP team take all the comments in this thread as they are meant, which is constructively.

Jan 05, 2010 08:41 AM
rating: 7
 
dianagram

OK folks .... raise your hand if you would buy a BP-logoed hat, shirt, jacket or similar item.

I know I would like to provide some free advertising for this site, and show my (financial) support for it as well.

Kevin ... can this be fit into the Prospectus Entertainment Ventures business plan?

Jan 05, 2010 08:42 AM
rating: 7
 
JasonC23
(97)

I actually have a Baseball Prospectus shirt from way back when.

Jan 05, 2010 09:30 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I have a Baseball Prospectus hat courtesy of CK. Pretty suave looking.

Jan 05, 2010 09:38 AM
rating: -1
 
cordially
(917)

i have a bp shirt from back in the day. unfortunately it was cut really f'd up. the left side was way longer than the right side. (and not that's not a metaphore.)

Jan 05, 2010 19:10 PM
rating: 0
 
tbraxton34

The challenge for BP is to avoid what already appears to be a balkanization of the user base. Right now half the content seems to cater exclusively to the newer, less statistically-oriented users who have found BP as it has grown in fame. I put John's beat reporting, Kevin's scout-quoting and Marc's fantasy content here. Another bloc of writers seem to cater primarly to the really hard-core stat guys who seem interested in the stats for their own sake.

The middle ground is where I consider my interest to be. Intelligent use of statistics to make an interesting point is really what has kept me coming to BP. It's what Joe was best at and why he will be so powerfully missed. Christina, Steven and Jay are also very good at it, but their time commitments to the book have kept them off the site, to its great detriment. BP has to find new voices, or to increase the exposure of the ones it has, in the middle ground between the stat-heads and the drop-ins to keep its content fresh and unique and worth reading.

Jan 05, 2010 10:22 AM
rating: 9
 
Richie

My unsolicited 2 cents. Some structural editing would be useful. Briefly mention your conclusion upfront, then statistically how and why you arrived at it, then finish with why the conclusion matters. It's easy for the guy who did all the research to shortchange the front and back parts. An editor can and ought to provide a useful check on that. Style editors are plagues. Structure editors return great value.

A certain percentage of your readers are angry that Brian Sabean is GMing the Giants and they're not. Joe fed into that anger pretty well. Those readers loved it when Joe ranted and raved about idiot baseball management, he spoke for them. I personally can do without that, very well, thank you. But if I were runnning PEV, I suppose I'd be looking at serving that part of my customer base, and refilling that emotional void somehow.

Jan 05, 2010 11:23 AM
rating: 3
 
jimnabby

The question being raised here is this:

What are (and what should be) BP's core competencies?

If developing advanced stats is a core competency, then BP needs to invest in that and make sure that the stats they develop are better than those available for free. This is difficult, since there's a lot of competition, requires a significant investment, and does not allow for any period of neglect. I personally don't care as much about who's doing this job or the details of the stats - I just want to know that the stats are sufficient to the task for which they're being employed. But this is a case where if you're not going to invest in being the clear leader, then you should consider getting out of the business.

If providing informed commentary on current goings-on in baseball is a core competency, then BP needs to invest in writers who are informed, have a grasp of the relevant stats (wherever they may be developed), are good, engaging writers, have strong opinions, and are willing to write these kinds of pieces on a regular basis. This is what Sheehan did (and why he'll be missed), and what I enjoy most about BP. The danger here is that there are many many places throwing out opinion pieces, and you have to work hard to differentiate yourself, in BPs case by actually having brains.

Currently, BP appears to be trying to be a one-stop shop for everything - we have the injuries guy, the prospects guy, the contracts guy, the transactions gal, etc. - and that's fine, but comes with certain risks. There's a huge advantage (to me) that I don't have to click around to multiple sites to get all my info. On the other hand, it's impossible to stay "the best" at everything when you spread yourself thin - someone with a narrower focus can eventually beat you out in any particular specific area. And of course you'll alienate people who come here with a particular focus - the stats folks, for instance - and don't find the differentiation they're looking for.

It seems to me that some people want you to be "Science" and others want you to be "The Economist". None of us want you to be "Newsweek" or, God forbid, "ESPN The Magazine".

At the moment, I'm not convinced BP knows what it wants to have as its core competencies. Hopefully, they'll sort it out. Either way, I'm here for the duration, as I have been since rsb back in '89. Good luck.

Jan 05, 2010 11:41 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Are you just trying to sound smart, or did you have a point to make? I'm fairly certain they didn't just arbitrarily decide to make these changes, or that Joe became the antichrist.

Jan 05, 2010 15:06 PM
rating: -6
 
emanski

Considering everyone here will have a chance to renew or not renew when the time comes, it just seems to me like while there has definitely been some interesting conversation here, an awful lot of the comments here are toying with some odd kind of Internet-age straw man.

I was a little surprised to learn BP writers are on contract rather than just salaried. I guess it gives both parties a little added flexibility.

Jan 05, 2010 13:18 PM
rating: 3
 
rotoman21

BP needs a serious upgrade to the fantasy side. Norm does a good job but its not enough.

Jan 06, 2010 04:46 AM
rating: 5
 
duanstokes

am I wrong in thinking the Joe Sheehan has had a sabbatical/break/change of gear from BP.com before and that it kept turning?

Jan 06, 2010 08:28 AM
rating: 0
 
Andrew Wick Klein

So sad to hear that Joe is leaving. Please let us know where he turns up next.

Jan 06, 2010 13:46 PM
rating: 0
 
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