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March 1, 2011

Overthinking It

The Genuine Articles

by Ben Lindbergh

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between that total and the recent article ID numbers that show up in our URLs can be attributed almost entirely to unpublished drafts.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:

Author

Article Count

Joe Sheehan

1508

Christina Kahrl

1197

Will Carroll

1190

Kevin Goldstein

1028

John Perrotto

640

Jay Jaffe

486

Marc Normandin

456

David Laurila

413

Jim Baker

350

Derek Zumsteg

288

Steven Goldman

282

Alex Carnevale

246

Nate Silver

218

Eric Seidman

190

Rany Jazayerli

161

Caleb Peiffer

159

Dayn Perry

141

Gary Huckabay

135

Matt Swartz

112

Dan Fox

104

Jonah Keri

96

Keith Law

95

Tommy Bennett

95

Bryan Smith

93

Craig Brown

88

Keith Woolner

86

Clay Davenport

80

Dennis Cleary

79

Derek Jacques

79

John Erhardt

79

Ryan Wilkins

78

Ben Lindbergh

78

Dave Pease

76

James Click

74

Jeff Erickson

70

Colin Wyers

62

Rob McQuown

61

Ken Funck

59

Jeff Euston

53

Shawn Hoffman

51

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:

Title

Column

Author

# of Links

Date

Link

Opening Day

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

67

3/3/08

Link

The List

Top 50 Prospects

Rany Jazayerli

52

2/22/05

Link

Millstones and Milestones

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

42

4/25/08

Link

The Doctor is…Gone

Doctoring the Numbers

Rany Jazayerli

41

8/15/00

Link

Small-Sample Theater

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

37

4/11/08

Link

Three True Outcomes, 2005

Aim for the Head

Keith Woolner

36

1/24/06

Link

The List

Top 50 Prospects

Rany Jazayerli

36

2/20/06

Link

July 30-31

Transaction Analysis

Christina Kahrl

35

8/1/04

Link

Welcome Back

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

35

4/18/08

Link

Walking a Fine Line

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

35

5/9/08

Link

A Mulligan on Guzman

Lies, Damned Lies

Nate Silver

32

10/12/05

Link

Overwhelmingly Neutral…

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

27

5/2/08

Link

The List

Top 50 Prospects

Rany Jazayerli

25

2/24/04

Link

The Best of the Best

Top 100 Prospects

Kevin Goldstein

24

1/31/08

Link

About EqA

BP Basics

Clay Davenport

21

2/24/04

Link

Top 100 Prospects

Future Shock

Kevin Goldstein

20

2/21/07

Link

The Hitters

The Class of 2006

Jay Jaffe

16

12/12/05

Link

Does Voros' Theory Work…

MiLB BABIPs

Clay Davenport

15

4/18/05

Link

PECOTA Projects the…

Lies, Damned Lies

Nate Silver

14

3/21/05

Link

Introduction

Positional Health Rep.

Will Carroll

14

2/12/07

Link

Chicago White Sox vs. Chiba…

Battle of Champions

Dave Haller

13

1/4/06

Link

How Much Control Do Hurlers…

Pitching and Defense

Voros McCracken

12

1/23/01

Link

PECOTA Breaks Hearts

Lies, Damned Lies

Nate Silver

12

3/29/06

Link

Saying Goodbye to the Expos

Au Revoir, Mes Amours

Jonah Keri

11

3/9/06

Link

Playing With the Lineup

Crooked Numbers

James Click

11

2/17/05

Link

The Draft

Doctoring the Numbers

Rany Jazayerli

11

5/13/05

Link

The System, Explained

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

11

8/30/05

Link

Wins and the Quantum

Schrodinger's Bat

Dan Fox

11

4/6/06

Link

Secret Sauce

Lies, Damned Lies

Nate Silver

11

9/20/06

Link

NL Staff Picks, 2005

Preseason Predictions

Baseball Prospectus

10

4/1/05

Link

Week of October 2

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

10

4/2/07

Link

Simple Fielding Runs Version 1.0

Schrodinger's Bat

Dan Fox

10

1/24/08

Link

Strange Times

Prospectus Hit List

Jay Jaffe

10

5/16/08

Link

Thanks to Colin Wyers and Rob McQuown for research assistance.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

MichavdB

I try to read most and at least browse every article on BP. Lately this has become a problem because of the increased content. I love it! But, is there a support group for people whose productivity is waning and/or are stressed out about all this reading material?

Mar 01, 2011 08:15 AM
rating: 4
 
Marc Normandin

The support group is here, at BP. There is no escape.

Mar 01, 2011 08:34 AM
rating: 0
 
Michael
(736)

I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I don't love the volume. Turn off the fire hose is my feedback. That's plenty of quantity on the Internet at large. I'm looking for the best content here, although I'm starting to figure out which authors' articles I can safely skip.

Mar 01, 2011 08:57 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Michael, for what it's worth, we're certainly not interested in offering more content solely for the sake of offering more content--we're doing our best to maintain (or increase) quality while increasing quantity. Of course, not every piece will appeal to every reader--that's always been the case, but with more articles running, each reader will likely experience more misses as well as more hits. Fortunately, the upcoming site redesign should make the elevated content stream much easier to navigate.

Mar 01, 2011 12:41 PM
 
Michael
(736)

Ben,

Thanks for the reply (and I did enjoy today's article, which was fun in a nostalgic way).

My perception differs from yours. A year ago, during one of the long comment threads after Joe Sheehan left, Kevin Goldstein was quite clearly bragging that BP was going to drown its readers with a fire hose. The metaphor came from Kevin. There seems to be an intentional focus at increasing quantity.

Anyway, as I said originally, I'm confident that I'm in the minority, so certainly no need to react to my feedback if it is isolated. Furthermore, many of the newer writers seem like excellent additions to me based on prior writing at other websites that I've read.

Mar 01, 2011 13:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Thanks. I didn't mean to imply that we're not trying to up the quantity--those new writers weren't brought on board by accident. I just wanted to reassure you that we're doing our best to ensure that article quality doesn't suffer (and ideally, improves) in the process.

Mar 01, 2011 13:56 PM
 
Sean

Completely agree that a site redesign will help by categorizing the content. I both love all the new content and feel a bit overwhelmed by how much there is, so I can sympathize with both views in this thread.

Mar 01, 2011 15:41 PM
rating: 5
 
Michael
(736)

Perhaps a 14-day (or other multiple of 7 days) rolling average would make the graph more smooth given that the weekend sees fewer articles throughout the website's history.

Mar 01, 2011 08:58 AM
rating: 1
 
fgreenagel2

I love data like this. Glad to see someone is doing in-house research at your own process.

Mar 01, 2011 11:48 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

All, please note that I've added another giant (and hopefully informative and fun) table to the end of the article.

Mar 01, 2011 12:16 PM
 
Michael
(736)

I would have guessed that Woolner's article on catchers' defense would have made the list.

Mar 01, 2011 13:50 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

I see five internal links to Keith's CERA article from BP1999, which was subsequently published online.

Mar 01, 2011 14:03 PM
 
Jason Wojciechowski

Does the table at the end count the links in this article? Or do we actually have to increment the entire list by one?

Mar 01, 2011 13:55 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

You're right--like the rest of the tables and images in the article, those data became a bit outdated as soon as they were published (I meant to mention that). So yes, now that I've linked to all of them once more, those counts are all one short.

Mar 01, 2011 13:58 PM
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Unfortunately, I suspect the graphics and the tallies aren't entirely accurate. I really don't think we went dark for a stretch in 2002-03, which is what the author-by-author tables seem to suggest.

Mar 01, 2011 15:13 PM
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Interesting. I was going to say "yeah, that happened," but while output in that time was extremely low, the site wasn't dark. A search of those months specifically (10/02 - 1/03) turns up air.

So it's some kind of database issue, I presume. I wonder if stuff was lost in the transition to Premium.

That was a very slack time, though.

Entertaining research, Ben and Colin.

Mar 01, 2011 15:39 PM
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

There does appear to be a gap between late September of '02 and late February of '03, not just in these images, but in the database and archives. As Joe indicated, that was probably something of a fallow period, what with annual season and the migration to BP Premium, so if the numbers above are off, they likely aren't off by much. Colin and I are looking into it--maybe that Great Lost BP Album is out there, after all.

Mar 01, 2011 16:05 PM
 
Michael
(736)

Apparently more than one person's keyboard was broken!

Mar 02, 2011 04:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steph Bee
BP staff

There is also the time prior to 1997 to consider...

Mar 01, 2011 17:08 PM
 
R.A.Wagman

This article confirms what I have long believed - BP needs more Goldman!

Mar 01, 2011 14:23 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Thank you! Goldman has been here pretty consistently--he just keeps disappearing to work on books. That will happen less in the future, though, as I am being cloned.

Mar 01, 2011 22:42 PM
 
elm
(41)

"At last count, 195 souls have gone far enough wrong somewhere in life to receive their own Baseball Prospectus bylines"

I don't know. One of the proudest days of my life was when I saw my name on a BP byline. I think maybe the birth of my first kid will eclipse it, but I'm not completely convinced of this.

Or is this feeling just confirmation that my life has gone seriously off-track somewhere along the way?

Mar 01, 2011 16:02 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Let us know if you still feel that way after you get out of the delivery room. I'm not saying you won't--I can't speak from experience, having had the byline but not the baby--just that if you do, you probably shouldn't tell your wife.

Mar 01, 2011 16:09 PM
 
elm
(41)

On another note, I wonder why Christina's 2004 trade deadline piece is cited so frequently. I mean, it wasn't even a particularly memorable deadline day, what with Nomar's trade being the highlight.

Mar 01, 2011 16:14 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

If you go to the article page, you can scroll down to the "Incoming Article Links" section at the bottom and see where it was cited. Looks like over half of the links to that piece showed up in the first month after its publication.

Mar 01, 2011 16:18 PM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

So, what do I win for being BP's biggest linkslut?

Mar 01, 2011 19:15 PM
 
Darsox64

You should post a graph that doesn't include unfiltered posts since they are barely content. It might help convince long time subscribers they are getting more. Cough.

Mar 02, 2011 01:17 AM
rating: 3
 
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