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June 21, 2009

Prospectus Idol

Round Five - History Week

by Dave Pease

Hello, and welcome to another exciting week of Prospectus Idol, where we pit a gaggle of promising contestants against each other in a quest to find our next feature writer here at Baseball Prospectus. I'm Dave Pease, and-say, have you lost weight? You're looking great this week!

Our remaining contestants were looking great this week as well-or at least they were looking the way they wanted to look. (Hopefully there's some relationship between the two.) There were fewer constraints than normal on them this week, and we're hoping you find they took advantage of the format.

This week's format, from the virtual pen of judge and managing editor Christina Kahrl:

For your next topic, you're being let of the leash a bit, having put all of you through a programmatic ringer in terms of writing Player Profiles. We want you to show us-and the voting public-what you can do when you're doing things your way, but with one limitation:

From baseball history from the 19th or 20th centuries, pick a player, team, event, season, or issue on the subject of major league baseball, and do whatever you please with it. If you pick a player as the object of your focus, say to talk about his Hall of Fame case, or to do a Goldmanesque retrospective, do not pick an active player.

As usual, there was a soft 2000 word limit, and contestants were encouraged to include any charts or graphs they needed and to think outside the box.

Speaking of thinking outside a box: I'd like to take a question from last week's voting intro article by taking a question or comment you have about the contest and answering it in this article. Please do submit anything you'd like to be considered for next week's article in the comments section. Let's start it up:

BP, another vote to get all seven of these guys on staff. Sign 'em up!-BurrRutledge

We anticipate working in the future with several of the non-winners of this contest. Things are in progress. We agree, this is a great idea. And Richard, I don't know, is that really the right way to solve your problem?

Enough with the preliminaries though, right? You're all here to see, in addition of the ads from our generous and attractive sponsors, the entries to Prospectus Idol: Anything Historical Week. Click here to visit the Prospectus Idol page. The judging panel has been joined by baseball history maven Steven Goldman of "You Could Look it Up." Be sure to vote by Tuesday, June 22 23, at 8:00 p.m. Pacific, and allow a few minutes for our server's fluttering clock.

(Just kidding-I just synced the clock.)

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

Richard Bergstrom
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I'm guessing you mean the "NEW COMMENT" suggestion thing when talking about my problem, because I do have quite a few problems, some of which are more obvious than others, but still, there are other, hidden, deeper-down kinda problems that you might not have noticed, merely guessed at, or just kinda hoped I had, but I can't be sure because even if I think I know what you might think my problems are, I am sure that if I knew what you think you knew about me, you'd think the knowing would be a problem too but problems shouldn't be treated in a vague or superficial manner because some problematic people have real feelings and some real people still have problems like the idea that I could keep this sentence going for another few hundred words or so, but I'm eager to start reading and commenting on this week's submissions but I hope you don't think that's a problem.

*slaps himself in the head*

I'll just use a "Match Case" find, and it's good to hear that there will be opportunities for the non-winners too.

Jun 21, 2009 11:34 AM
rating: -10
 
ostrowj1

I suggest everybody try to include the word "NEW" into every comment :). This week I am expecting my NEW laptop to arrive. With my NEW laptop, I should be able to make a lot of NEW insightful comments on this website. I like NEW things... How many NEW COMMENTs do you think people will write today?

Jun 21, 2009 14:31 PM
rating: 6
 
Richard Bergstrom
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I wish I had a NEW iPhone so I don't have to be near a Starbucks Wi-Fi to post a NEW COMMENT.

Jun 21, 2009 16:06 PM
rating: -4
 
Randy Brown
(189)

any thought to adding an "Ignore User" interface to the comments? or as it would henceforth come to be known, the "Richard Bergstrom Button"?

Jun 21, 2009 14:38 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

I don't know is that really the right way to solve your problem?

Jun 21, 2009 15:04 PM
rating: -3
 
Evan
(47)

It is interesting that Richard is probably the guy who's accumulated the most fame from BP Idol.

Jun 21, 2009 17:00 PM
rating: 6
 
Richard Bergstrom
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Tough week. Talk about history versus current events...

Jun 21, 2009 13:39 PM
rating: -6
 
Richard Bergstrom

Evan, judging from all the negative feedback I get, it's probably infamy :(

Seriously, it's not like I go about swearing, calling people names, misspelling words left and right and hopefully I don't come across as a complete moron... I try to put time and thought into my comments in an effort to help the writer get better. Yet, I don't even get "disagreed with" that from other votersoften in regards to BP Idol, just a negative feedback flag and forget so I don't even know what I could do differently.

I like participating in this competition but if people think I'm too spammy, offensive or dumb, I can find other things to devote my attention to.

+ this if you want me to keep commenting
- this if you want me to stop commenting

Jun 21, 2009 17:27 PM
rating: 15
 
Randy Brown
(189)

For my part, it is not that I want you to stop commenting. Just not so much. My opinion is that the sheer volume of your comments has often detracted from advancing a conversation instead of promoting it. Relevant or insightful comments (from you and from others) sometimes simply get lost in the torrent of words. Let someone else get the last word in once in a while, and every little thing is gonna be all right.

I feel like a bit of a jackass already for acting like the BP Idol chatroom police this evening, so I'll be quiet now. Just my two cents.

Jun 21, 2009 18:21 PM
rating: 12
 
Richard Bergstrom

Randy, I give you kudos for at least saying what you don't like. I try to keep in mind that I post a heck of a lot, and it can be overwhelming, which is why I tried responding to each week's entries later and was trying to post the Hit Lists as late as possible. I do like a good discussion and there are many comment threads that I enjoy reading, but don't participate in because I have nothing to contribute. I'm also sorry if I give the impression that I try to get the last word in. I don't think I am doing that, but I'll try to be more sensitive to that in the future just in case.

Anyway, I don't think you're a jackass and thanks for taking the time to reply. The only way I can change is if I learn about what I'm doing wrong to generate all that negative feedback and I appreciate your thoughts on it.

Jun 21, 2009 22:17 PM
rating: 3
 
John Carter

I appreciate your comments, Richard. They are usually among the most well thought out. However, I have no idea why you ranted at the top of this week's comment section and the subsequent silliness regarding use of the word "New". That I could have done without.

Jun 22, 2009 07:36 AM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

I didn't realize it came across as a rant, I meant it as a bit of a joke/satire on how I ramble... that'd explain the negative feedback since I didn't intend to flame... I thought I was rambling.

The NEW thing was in response to Dave Pease writing "And Richard, I don't know, is that really the right way to solve your problem?"

I guess I was trying to get across the idea that my "NEW COMMENT" suggestion was much ado about nothing. In other words, the suggestion was probably a ramble in itself.

Jun 22, 2009 12:14 PM
rating: 1
 
John Carter

I didn't get it because it appeared at the top of the comments section away from the paragraph and link that it was referring to - which I hadn't read. I figured you were probably joking around about something, but had no idea what.

Jun 22, 2009 15:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The link had changed a few times apparently. When I first saw it, two sentences were highlighted blue and it went right to my comment. Still wasn't a good joke though.

Jun 22, 2009 16:50 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

Sorry about that--there was a coding error. Now it looks the way it's supposed to.

What I really meant to do here is encourage people to come up with another idea for finding the new comments in comment threads. If there's anything else anyone has seen on other sites--like, say, a link for each new comment that one could click to head directly to it (kind of a comment 'table of contents')--we could have a look and see if we could implement it here.

Jun 28, 2009 08:08 AM
 
R.A.Wagman

I haven't voted yet, but I have read and scored each of the articles this week. I do take all past articles into consideration, which I feel gives me a better grasp of what the particular writer will have to offer BP. Also, doing this allows me to view the writer's ability to grow with the role and/or settle into a comfortable style. Ken Funck has a lightness of style that helps the reader stay with things. Matthew Knight likes to incorporate "back-of-the-envelope" statistical exercises to test a hypothesis, Brian Cartwright has heavy and deep statistical leanings. I'm not sure I can nail down something quite so distinct with the other three, besides general quality of writing.

But I wanted to make a case for Brian Oakchunas. I have yet to see the perfect article from him yet, but over the last three weeks, his articles have always left me thinking about his topics, much more so than any of the other pieces. He has tackled different areas, challenging topics and walked away with a point-of-view extremely different from anything that could be rendered mainstream. His voice may not yet flow within the writing, but his thinking and overall process have been extremely impressive.

Jun 22, 2009 11:26 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I think I had Brian Oakchunas's Initial Entry rated the lowest starting out and each week since he's written about something I find entertaining and/or interesting and he has improved. He might not knock my socks off, but he has been enjoyable, and I'm glad he's stuck around.

Jun 22, 2009 12:20 PM
rating: -2
 
Evan
(47)

It didn't really feel like a weak week while I was reading, but when all was said and done I only voted for two articles this week.

My notation system is such that I'm effectively giving each article a score from 0-3 each week, and then voting for any article that scores 2 or higher. These are my average scores for each of the remaining authors:

2.40 - Brian Cartwright
2.20 - Jeff Funck
1.80 - Tim Kniker
1.40 - Brian Oakchunas
1.40 - Matt Swartz
0.00 - Matthew Knight

The eliminated authors would place 1st, 4th, 8th, and 9th if I were to include them.

Jun 22, 2009 14:57 PM
rating: -2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Does this mean you had Brittany ranked higher than Matthew Knight?

Jun 24, 2009 12:03 PM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

I "grade" each article on a percentage basis (0-100). I keep each preceding score in my system throughout, downgrading its significnce as we move forward. So for this week, the initial entry was divided by 6, the second entry divided by 5...last week by two. I vote for everyone but the bottom scorer. The scores get closer every week, due to a combination of the minimizing influence of earlier weeks, the weeding out of weaker contenders and the improvements made across the board by all contenders. That said, two contenders are still trailing by healthy margins.

Matthew Knight got my vote, but will need to make a much stronger effort to continue doing so if he survives another week. His back-of-the-envelope entries are nice, but lack the punch I seek from BP. I want heavier analysis, and he hasn't done enough in that regards (in my estimation) yet. He can write, and he is very thoughtful, but that won't cut it in the big time.

Brian Cartwright did not get my vote. He knows what he's talking about and he can take the numbers to places I can't fathom, but his big downfall, and it's one I'm becoming more and more convinced he cannot overcome, is his writing style. The numbers are the stars of his show, and the words just connect them. Baseball, in my humble view, works best when the reverse is true. The game is played, we can describe what happened with words, and then use numbers to back that up. He has alot to offer, but it's not enough for me. Not this week.

Jun 22, 2009 16:21 PM
rating: 1
 
Evan
(47)

I disagree. I think Brian's writing style - which you've described accuratelly - serves baseball very well.

This is why I miss Dan Fox so much. And Michael Wolverton. And I wish Clay would write more.

Jun 24, 2009 09:50 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I love Dan Fox and I had no problem following his statistics or his writing. Eric Seidman's my current favorite. In regards to the competition, Kninker and Swartz have statistics that I have been able to enjoy and follow.

I wish I knew. It's not that I dislike Brian C's articles... maybe it's a combination of topic and presentation... I'm just nonchalant about it. Which is weird because I find his commentary concise and insightful.

Jun 24, 2009 12:00 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I've been evaluating the overall competition qualitatively. This is not a hitlist and is only a reflection of how much I liked the articles this week..

Ken Funck
Brian Oakchunas
Matthew Knight
Matt Swartz
Brian Carwright
Tim Kniker (worst article of the week, but still by #1 overall)

I ended up voting as I went, which was a bit of a mistake since I ended up voting for everyone and don't want to flip-flop on someone I previously voted for... but not quite a mistake because I like all the writers to one extent or another.

Jun 22, 2009 17:06 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

The Week 5 BP Idol Hit List!

This week's articles weren't quite as strong as last week's and it has been mentioned people spent more time applying modern stats to historical events than talking about history itself. So, I thought I'd fill the gap by yanking a quote from baseball history that I felt fit either the author or their article for the week. The hard part about the ranking is that the top people from last week's rankings (with one exception) didn't do as well while "the pack" had better Week 5 articles... which causes the gap to shrink slightly.



#1 Tim Kniker (= #1<-#1<-#2<-#1<-#3) - "But god-damn, to think you're a .300 hitter and end up at .237 in your last season, then find yourself looking at a lifetime .298 average - it made me want to cry." - Mickey Mantle

This week was Tim's freebie. Ken and Matt have caught up to you though.


#2 Ken Funck - (+ #3<-#3<-#3<-#3<-#1) - "God watches over drunks and third basemen" - Leo Durocher

Loved the article. It brings you into a virtual tie with Matt and the jump to #1 just got narrower.


#3 Matt Swartz - (- #2<-#2<-#1<-#2<-#4) - "People think we make $3 million and $4 million a year. They don't realize that most of us only make $500,000.00." - Pete Incaviglia

Again, great commentary to clarify an article that was unclear to me at times. Didn't really slide as much as Ken made a nice jump and he's still a good leap above Matthew Knight.


#4 Matthew Knight (= #4<-#5<-#5<-#8<-#6) - "The kid doesn't chew tobacco, smoke, drink, curse, or chase broads. I don't see how he can possibly make it." - Richie Ashburn

Very good week, but not great. You've got a lot of potential, and you have improved, but it's a big jump to The Show.


#5 Brian Oakchunas (+ #6<-#7<-#7<-#5<-#10) - "One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something." - Nolan Ryan

Surprising entry lifts you out of the cellar of a very tight race. However, time is running out quick.


#6 Brian Cartwright (- #5<-#4<-#6<-#4<-#5) - "It ain't the heat, it's the humility." - Yogi Berra

I reread each of Brian Oakchunas's articles and Brian Cartwright's articles. I wish I could apply Cartwright's methodology to Oakchunas's topic choice and writing style. In the end, though I found both authors' articles interesting, I found I enjoyed reading Oakchunas's articles more (except for Cartwright's Sandlot article).

I think Brian would be a great addition to Baseball Prospectus. I think he has some great thoughts and is very active on the boards. But I don't think this BP Idol format plays to his strengths. Worse yet, I'm not sure if all the feedback is helping him improve, or if it is damaging his style and his strengths. From some of his comments, he seems to feel rushed too. I don't want to see him damaged. I'd rather he take a break and get back to properly researching topics he wants to write about then parlays those ideas into a consolation prize of a five to ten page quality, nonrushed essay in the next BP Annual. That's not a bad idea, right?

Jun 22, 2009 17:20 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

I appreciate the time and effort Richard puts in on this and his comments (though I seriously wonder what his employer might think.) That said and without giving anything away, he's never been in line with the voting with his rankings. Not once.

Jun 23, 2009 08:13 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I telecommute in the mornings and run a lot of code so commenting stops me from falling asleep at the keyboard. I'm taking next week off for some family functions so I won't be at the computer as much.

And I'm actually glad my rankings aren't in line with the voting since I didn't want to be accused of dominating the perception of each author. Also, as I said from the start, the rankings are based on my personal preference alone and not my "feeling" on who everyone likes the most... I also kind of hoped that by putting out a list, it'd set a tone for commentary and critique that didn't degenerate into namecalling.

Though I am curious (and I'm sure I'll never really know) how far I am off on my rankings... all I can really tell is if I have the last ranked person correct or not and I was wrong on Byron for Week 1.

Jun 23, 2009 08:22 AM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

Interestingly, Brian's Sandlot article is the only one he's written for which I did not vote. I think it was his weakest piece.

Brian Cartwright is generally my favourite of the contestants, and is only ever surpassed by Ken Funck.

Jun 24, 2009 09:52 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I don't know if Tim's my favorite per se, but he's been the most consistent and most well-rounded. Swartz seems to have very rich topics that have a lot of extra angles and side discussions. I liked Ken the most after his Initial Entry but some of his articles just rubbed me a bit wrong.

Jun 24, 2009 12:03 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

By my scoring Ken had caught up to Tim last week. With this week's entry has passed him into the no. 1 spot.

I actually liked Brian O.'s article much better last week, but have to admit this week's stirred up the most interesting controversy.

I'm not as sold on Matt's work as Richard and many others are. He's only had one entry that was a home run in my estimation.

That is a little more than I can say for Brian C. and Matthew, but I will feel badly to see either one of them Xed. Both have been making steady improvements in their writing. Both are very generous with their post article commentary. Knight is the better writer. Cartwright has the more significant content. (And contrary to Richard's opinion, I thought Brian C. had a better article this week than Matthew - and most of the others.)

At this point the commentary has been so divided over Ken's work, that in my only power to keep him safe, I have only voted for Tim and him - passing on the knife to the rest of you.

Jun 22, 2009 20:53 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

This is going to be a weird week for voting.

Ken was my favorite from his Initial Entry but I didn't quite catch the vibe on the rest of his articles for awhile. I can say with confidence that Ken, Matt and Tim have each had at least one article that a lot of people considered a home run and while Matthew, Brian O and Brian C have been good, I don't know if they've produced an article that quite "nailed" it for everybody.

I do agree that, this week, Brian C's article was better written than Matthew's, but Brian C's topic wasn't as interesting to me and once Matthew got going, I really enjoyed it.

Darn shame someone has to go.

Jun 22, 2009 21:19 PM
rating: 0
 
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