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March 1, 2011
The Genuine Articles
Baseball Prospectus rests on a foundation laid in large part by dissecting baseball numbers, but we’ve rarely turned the same inquisitive statistical eye inward. That’s as it should be, since despite our occasional delusions of grandeur, we know that you come here to consume the sausage, not to see it made (the sausage, in this case, being baseball writing). Still, in light of our recent roster additions and ongoing Wayback Machine series, I thought it might be fun to see how far we—and by "we," I mean the site, since I haven’t been around all that long—have come by looking back at our article publication trends and most prolific authors since our online incarnation went live in 1997.
All told, we’ve published 12,500 pieces of writing on the site—a number that will have been eclipsed by the time you read this sentence. The discrepancy between that total and the recent article ID numbers that show up in our URLs can be attributed almost entirely to unpublished drafts. (For those of you hoping for a Great Lost BP Album, forget it—most of them are blank.) At last count, 195 souls have gone far enough wrong somewhere in life to receive their own Baseball Prospectus bylines (most recently Alan M. Nathan, who by all accounts is quite a respectable fellow in other respects).
The most important message I want to impart (if you’ll forgive a brief digression into infomercial territory) is that we’re providing far more content now than we have at any other point in our existence. The following graph shows a 10-day moving average of the number of pieces published per content day on the site throughout the years:
Granted, we’re not currently running weekend content, which brings the average down, and I am including blog posts in the tally. (While not every blog post has been or should be as meaty as the typical column, some investigate important mysteries or run 8,000 words, so it wouldn’t be right to exclude them entirely.) Even so, it’s clear that BP is a much busier place than it used to be.
The graph reveals a substantial boost in average posts per day early in 2003, when Baseball Prospectus Premium was launched, followed by a plateau for several years before a steep climb in the last year that might qualify as a “breakout” in baseball terms. Along the way, both the introduction of fantasy-oriented material in February 2005 and the arrival of the blog system in April 2009 served to bolster the site. It’s also interesting to note the cyclical nature of BP content—we tend to hit our yearly low during annual season (known to much of the rest of the world as “the holidays”), before ramping up our readiness concurrent with the players (albeit with considerably less physical activity) and maintaining a high level of production throughout the season. If past performance is any guide, we're likely still on the upslope this year, despite the recent influx of articles.
In fact, although we’re a subscription-based site, one happy byproduct of the overall article increase is that we’re publishing at least as much free content (including this article) as we were during the days when BP Premium was just a figment of the founders’ imagination. Here’s the same display as above, restricted to free offerings only:
So who’s responsible for writing all of these articles? The following table lists the BP Top 40 (in the article-count sense). I’m crediting articles with multiple authors to each of the authors involved, including blog posts in the counts, and excluding over 500 articles credited only to “Baseball Prospectus,” which were produced by the staff’s collective hive mind. Here’s the list:
For a complete list of contributors, click here. The list will be outdated by the time this article is published (for one thing, I’ll have moved into a four-way tie for 28th place), but it serves as a useful refresher. Of course, any baseball analysts worth their byline know that counting stats don’t tell the whole story, but in the absence of an authorial replacement-level baseline, determining value will have to wait.
Before we conclude, let’s visualize some of these authors’ contributions, in descending order of overall article count. The following image plots each article by the top 20 authors listed above on a timeline beginning in September 1997 and ending yesterday, allowing us to see how each writer amassed his or her article tallies and when they overlapped. It should be easy to spot the lone author on the list who spans BP’s online publication history. (One additional note: the rightmost square in Gary Huckabay’s record owes its presence to his recent turn as our Wayback leadoff batter.)
That's where we've been; we hope you'll join us or stick with us as we maintain our forward momentum, in the process shaping future iterations of the images and tables above. At this rate, the next 12,500 articles won't be quite as long in coming.
*Edit* I wanted to include this originally, but technical difficulties prevented me from doing so until now. We keep track of how many internal links (in other words, links from other BP articles) each BP article receives; you can see this information displayed at the very bottom of each applicable article page. Here’s a list of all BP articles with at least ten internal incoming links, in descending order of links:
Thanks to Colin Wyers and Rob McQuown for research assistance.