keyboard_arrow_uptop

This is a bittersweet column for me, as I write now to announce to the
Baseball Prospectus readership my departure from the writing fold. On
January 2, I joined the front office of the Toronto Blue Jays, working for
General Manager J.P. Ricciardi on matters of player evaluation.

For me, this marks the end of one of the more unusual journeys into the
world of baseball analysis. For BP, I hope this marks but the first of many
graduations into full-time positions in the baseball world.

The fanaticism I’ve brought to the BP school of thought on player
evaluations masks how little time has passed since I first was introduced to
the core concepts. Unlike the other BP authors, I didn’t read anything by
Bill James in the 1980s, and was raised to believe in the RBI, the won-lost
record, the save, the clutch hitter, and the importance of bunting. (Phil
Rizzuto hammered that last one into me, but it’s hard to bear a grudge
against the Scooter.)

My conversion came as a direct result of the 1994 strike, oddly enough. When
Judge Sonya Sotomayor threw out the owners’ declaration of an
impasse–perhaps the only Sotomayor decision with which I’ve agreed–I
headed to the bookstore to buy something to prepare me for the upcoming
season. Scanning the shelves, I noticed a slim volume called 1995 STATS
Minor League Scouting Notebook
, by Eddie Epstein. Feeling quite
confident in my knowledge of the major leagues, I flipped through a few
pages while standing in the aisle at the Braintree, Massachusetts Barnes &
Noble. Then I flipped through a few more. Twenty or so pages later, I was
hooked.

Eddie did for me what Bill James did for most of the other BP writers, and
probably for most of you: He put the basic principles of player evaluation
into a form that almost immediately convinced the reader of their value. The
center of the game is the strike zone. Tools are worthless without skills.
The stolen base is overrated. Power arms have the highest ceilings. Did I
mention the strike zone?

After reading the Notebook a few times, my thirst for more writing in
a similar vein led me back online, over to the
rec.sport.baseball
discussion group and to the old Davenport Translation files. These included translated
stats for hitters and comments by all measure of r.s.b readers, some of whom
are now in the BP fold. I bought the first edition of Baseball
Prospectus
(The White Album) and offered to use my publishing industry
knowledge and scant contacts to land the team a contract. I started writing
in the fall of 1996 and never really stopped, moving from fantasy analysis
to baseball economics.

My new job is an indication of the respect that BP has earned in the baseball
community. The annual books and the Web site are both regularly read by
members of about a dozen front offices and by sportswriters from around the
world. At the winter meetings last month, I was floored by how many of the
people I met immediately offered compliments to the BP crew on the work we’ve
done. (A list of the people who had never heard of us would probably
surprise none of you.)

Baseball Prospectus has always been bigger than any one contributor,
and I walk away from it confident that the growth of the book and the site
will continue unabated, particularly as more and more of our friends in the
mainstream media use us and promote us through their work. To all of them, I
offer my gratitude for amplifying our small voices across the country. To
the front office people who have registered their approval with us, letting
us know how much they value our work, I thank you for your encouragement and
support.

To all of our readers, I thank you for making my time with BP such a rewarding
experience. Especially to those readers who have taken the time to challenge
my views, to offer more evidence on a subject I’ve covered, or to just say
you liked the column, I thank you for making me a more effective writer and
debater, as that experience has already proven valuable in my new role.

And finally, to the members of the BP team, I offer my deepest gratitude. To
Gary, for bringing me into the project when I was just a name and an e-mail
address; to Joe, for tireless editing and for fixing that one horrid team
chapter I handed you for BP99; to Chris, for your partnership on business
matters and your acumen for steering the ship in the right direction; to all
of the BP authors, for allowing me to write alongside some of the most
talented, witty, and curious minds ever to attack the game of baseball and
all of its false idols. You may rest assured that the small voices of BP
just got a little louder.

Keith Law is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by
clicking here.

You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe