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Thursday, June 15, 2017

How Baseball Prospectus Stumbled Into Its Uncertain Future

Just before the 2016 MLB playoffs, Baseball Prospectus emailed its staff and contributors to tell them that they would not be paid for work they did in August and September until January 2017. The costs of a website redesign and the collapse of daily-fantasy ad spending, the email explained, led to the payment freeze.

Within the company, there was more than just frustration over the missed payments—there was fear that BP could be headed toward bankruptcy. The beloved baseball analysis and statistics company has always run on a shoestring budget, but two months of delayed payment was new territory for the company, according to many current and former BPers. And while pay for work done between August and October of last year was in fact added to checks that went out this past January and February, the delay did nothing to lessen BP employees’ deep distrust of ownership…..

It’s not a stretch to say that BP has totally altered the baseball landscape, and that its influence on the game, both in front offices and in the media, is bone-deep. It’s also fair to say that this influence has created the conditions for its own obsolescence.

The proliferation of BP’s values has made the site far less revolutionary than it once was. The use of statistics in both front offices and the press is now the norm, not a subversive approach to the sport. Not only does the site have a significant direct competitor in FanGraphs, which also offers projections and prospect coverage along with a statistical inventory similar to that of Baseball Reference, but every mainstream outlet at least nods in the direction of analytics.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 15, 2017 at 04:31 PM | 87 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball prospectus, media

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   1. Dock Ellis Posted: June 15, 2017 at 04:46 PM (#5476954)
BPro started turning me off years ago. Maybe my sense of humor started changing but it seemed like their wit turned into snark, which was off-putting. Not to mention the work they were doing was far less engaging than Fangraphs across the street, and Fangraphs wasn't charging me $10 a month. It definitely hurts the publication that the writers were so successful that they were hired away, and any new bright folks doing excellent work will get snatched up as quickly as Mike Fast did, so I'm not sure there is any long-term hope for their business model.

I stopped subscribing, stopped buying the poorly-copyedited annuals, and I don't miss it one bit. Once upon a time BPro brought me great joy and helped me love/appreciate baseball even more, but I feel like I've evolved faster than they have.
   2. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:04 PM (#5476969)
I still buy the annual, as I need some kind of annual book. It would be sad if the company went under.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:05 PM (#5476972)
I find the local BP Kansas City site to be pretty good, but I wonder how uneven the quality of content is for each of the local sites.
   4. villageidiom Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:06 PM (#5476975)
BPro started turning me off years ago.


How about this?

They've done sports content as a business for many years. By any standard they're one of a small number of people to do it successfully outside the mainstream, they've played most of the roles one can play and holy god they're sick of listening to you act as if you've had 1% of the success the people you criticize have had. How about you grant that they might know what they're talking about, given that sports content has been their career, without them having to make a business case to someone with no standing to ask for one?

Stop jumping in here and cheap-shotting a business that you've never comprehended on your best day.
   5. villageidiom Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:09 PM (#5476977)
(For those who don't get the reference in #4, go to the comments here.)
   6. jmurph Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:18 PM (#5476979)
(For those who don't get the reference in #4, go to the comments here.)

Oh man, I forgot about that.
   7. PreservedFish Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:19 PM (#5476980)
SPORTS CONTENT
   8. villageidiom Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:22 PM (#5476981)
Oh man, I forgot about that.
Well of course. We've been stripped of our spark.
   9. SBB, Live from the Alt-Center Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:25 PM (#5476984)
Well, that's a shame.
   10. Dock Ellis Posted: June 15, 2017 at 05:51 PM (#5476998)
ok
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:33 PM (#5477016)
(For those who don't get the reference in #4, go to the comments here.)


Wow....I never saw that, and that was harsh... Joe Sheehan being an utter and total ass to Tango? If it was MGL, I could get the attitude, but Tango? And of course Sheehan just grabbed one comment on a much longer thread, and didn't really read the whole thing including that Tango was not the one cheapshotting the website.
   12. Dock Ellis Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:39 PM (#5477019)
I never saw that either and just wasted some energy being uncomfortably annoyed at villageidiom.

Sorry, man.
   13. Jesus Frankenstein Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:42 PM (#5477021)
Is there a bigger ass in the little world of analytics than Sheehan? And unfortunately, when I think of BPro, I think of him.

I'm sure this story gives Jim Furtado the sads.
   14. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:42 PM (#5477022)
I never saw that either and just wasted some energy being uncomfortably annoyed at villageidiom.

Sorry, man.


Don't sweat it. He's got plenty of ballwashers in these sycophant-laden fora.
   15. cardsfanboy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:44 PM (#5477026)
I never saw that either and just wasted some energy being uncomfortably annoyed at villageidiom.

Sorry, man.


At first I was like...."What in the hell did Dock do to villageidiom".... I was really surprised because I can't think of anything either of you have done to piss other people off to get a response like post four.(mind you, I barely remember names and events from thread to thread unless they keep repeating the samething...see YR, Walt and definition of a position or a few others--but I couldn't even tell you which Red Sox fans hate me or other specific crap about a particular poster unless it's repeated in multiple threads)
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:48 PM (#5477031)
From that link.

BP should buy baseball-reference.com and link it up with Cot's Contracts and PECOTA. That would provide unequaled player/team information and give context to PECOTA's projections.


This comment made me afraid, very afraid, Sean's site has gone downhill a bit as it's making more and more money, but it's still one of the most important baseball sites out there, this would be the end of it as a viable commodity.
   17. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:50 PM (#5477033)
I used to read BPro, and then they started charging, and no one else did, and so I read Gleeman's blog and Primer and USS Mariner and a million other things. In short, BPro was good at first and then it went too far.
   18. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:56 PM (#5477038)
Wow....I never saw that, and that was harsh... Joe Sheehan being an utter and total ass to Tango? If it was MGL, I could get the attitude, but Tango? And of course Sheehan just grabbed one comment on a much longer thread, and didn't really read the whole thing including that Tango was not the one cheapshotting the website.

Wow, I had never seen that either. Zero chance that I ever subscribe to Sheehan's newsletter ever again. What a petty little ####.

Is there a bigger ass in the little world of analytics than Sheehan? And unfortunately, when I think of BPro, I think of him.

Aaron Gleeman? That is, the current editor-in-chief of this sinking ship.

BP was great back in the day, but it's been nearly a decade since they were regularly producing most-read stathead content. And it's gotten considerably worse in the past few years since Ben and then Sam departed for greener pastures in recent years. But if that article is accurate that they've been undercompensating their writers, then it's really no wonder that they've had difficulty retaining talent.
   19. Jesus Frankenstein Posted: June 15, 2017 at 07:01 PM (#5477042)
To be fair, small niche businesses are hard to sustain, particularly when there's competition. Even a conglomerate like espn falls on hard times.
   20. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: June 15, 2017 at 07:22 PM (#5477052)
Is there a bigger ass in the little world of analytics than Sheehan? And unfortunately, when I think of BPro, I think of him.


Aaron Gleeman? That is, the current editor-in-chief of this sinking ship.


Wait, Gleeman has a reputation as an ass? This is news to me.
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 07:27 PM (#5477055)
BP was great back in the day, but it's been nearly a decade since they were regularly producing most-read stathead content. And it's gotten considerably worse in the past few years since Ben and then Sam departed for greener pastures in recent years. But if that article is accurate that they've been undercompensating their writers, then it's really no wonder that they've had difficulty retaining talent.


Almost immediately when they went behind a paywall, the quality of the material dropped, I had it for about a year, but I was paying for nothing that rivaled what they did in the annuals or even what they did on the site before going behind a paywall. As mentioned their snark meter went way up, they were always snarky, in a good way for the most part, then it just kept getting meaner....(and they got the memo, almost all of it was gone from the last two annuals which made them a rather dry affair...it was a fine line they were treading and they used to do it very well)
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 15, 2017 at 07:28 PM (#5477056)
To be fair, small niche businesses are hard to sustain, particularly when there's competition. Even a conglomerate like espn falls on hard times.

I think small and niche is OK. It's when you take the next step its tough. My sense is BP grew too big, with too much overhead.

Small and lean works. Big with economies of scale works. It's in the middle that you get crushed.
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 07:29 PM (#5477057)
Wait, Gleeman has a reputation as an ass? This is news to me.


Not speaking for 6-4-3 but I think he was just pointing out that Gleeman is the current editor in chief of B-pro and should be thought of as much as b-pro as Sheehan...
   24. madvillain Posted: June 15, 2017 at 07:30 PM (#5477058)
BP forever lost me as a subscriber when I had to quarrel with their support team to get a sub properly removed from my credit card. They were billing me even after I cancelled and it took some convincing to get them to refund me. The ended up giving me 6 months free I believe but the damage was done.


More broadly their site isn't as user friendly as Fangraphs and they have lost a ton of talent over the last decade.

What they need is a benefactor.
   25. Jesus Frankenstein Posted: June 15, 2017 at 07:42 PM (#5477068)
22 -- good points. I know scaling up can defeat a robust small business.
   26. McCoy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 07:46 PM (#5477070)
My company has a reputation of falling in love with small businesses and grinding them into dust with expectations and business demands. These small guys get visions of turning into big guys and they get buried under the boom.
   27. Zach Posted: June 15, 2017 at 08:01 PM (#5477079)
I haven't heard anything bad about Gleeman, either.

When you think about it, the original BPro staff was probably too good to be supported by one little baseball annual and a website. An awful lot of those people have higher profile jobs now, or work in baseball, or have had other opportunities come by that eclipsed baseball writing. I know Rany Jazayerli recently stopped writing about baseball so he could devote more time to his thriving medical practice and young family. Nate Silver has 538... those guys were only writing about baseball as a hobby.

They've actually done a fair job of replacing the early talent -- I really liked Mike Fast, for example. But it's the same problem as before -- the really impressive people are going to have other opportunities.
   28. McCoy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 08:03 PM (#5477083)
delete
   29. Leroy Kincaid Posted: June 15, 2017 at 09:05 PM (#5477132)
I get the annual every March. I enjoy the player comments, except for the pitchers. Dunno why, just find them less interesting. The sense of humor goes over my head more as I get older and the references more current. They don't seem to make as many bold statements like referring to Endy Chavez as a waste of roster space or something.
   30. cardsfanboy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 09:31 PM (#5477160)
This is the first time I haven't gotten the annual since 1999. I just didn't care for last years annual, normally I read the Cardinals section first, then the rest of the central, then the articles, then the whole book..... last year I don't think I ever made it to the articles, or if I did, it was one on catchers pitch calling or something and then another, and that was it. I might have looked at a couple of individual players for other teams, but not much more, it was the first time I haven't eventually read the book cover to cover.... and even at $17 or so, it wasn't worth it for me to buy it this year.
   31. Cargo Cultist Posted: June 15, 2017 at 10:15 PM (#5477185)
In short, BPro was good at first and then it went too far.


Great Marge Schott reference! Not sure if anyone else got it, though.
   32. Cargo Cultist Posted: June 15, 2017 at 10:18 PM (#5477190)
BP used to be great. Turnover killed them, and the changing market killed them, and now sophomoric humor is killing them. I was a member once, but I don't even read their site any more. If I wanted that kind of humor, I'd read cracked.com.
   33. Stevens Posted: June 15, 2017 at 10:20 PM (#5477195)
I'll always think of Prospectus' heavy handed cease and desist letter in reference to whether it or Primer showed first when you typed in their URLs in a browser. Oh those simpler times.
   34. Shibal Posted: June 15, 2017 at 10:24 PM (#5477198)
It went downhill once Will Carroll left.

   35. cardsfanboy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 10:30 PM (#5477204)
I'll always think of Prospectus' heavy handed cease and desist letter in reference to whether it or Primer showed first when you typed in their URLs in a browser. Oh those simpler times.


I never knew the full story of this, I knew there was some issue between the two sites, but never really heard what happened.
   36. bigglou115 Posted: June 15, 2017 at 10:34 PM (#5477206)
One thing I haven't seen mentioned, is that while most places were moving towards stuff you could figure out, like FIP and WAR, and even if you can't do it yourself UZR, BPro went further and further towards black boxing all of their stats. This community isn't the kind to just accept that VORP is better than WAR just because one website tells us so.
   37. cardsfanboy Posted: June 15, 2017 at 10:52 PM (#5477213)
One thing I haven't seen mentioned, is that while most places were moving towards stuff you could figure out, like FIP and WAR, and even if you can't do it yourself UZR, BPro went further and further towards black boxing all of their stats. This community isn't the kind to just accept that VORP is better than WAR just because one website tells us so.


The black boxing of it combined with it widely varying from the non-black box sites didn't help them one bit. They then would tinker with their data over and over so that if I wrote an article using their stats, that there was a good chance in 6 months those stats wouldn't be accurate and the article would look poorly researched.
   38. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 15, 2017 at 11:05 PM (#5477217)

One thing I haven't seen mentioned, is that while most places were moving towards stuff you could figure out, like FIP and WAR, and even if you can't do it yourself UZR, BPro went further and further towards black boxing all of their stats. This community isn't the kind to just accept that VORP is better than WAR just because one website tells us so.


Another big thing for me is that ZIPS is so, so much better than PECOTA now. I think PECOTA's defensive metrics projections always seem so wacky to me. Aside from the team standings projections, I can't remember the last time I heard anyone cite PECOTA projections.
   39. Brian White Posted: June 15, 2017 at 11:08 PM (#5477219)
The costs of a website redesign and the collapse of daily-fantasy ad spending, the email explained, led to the payment freeze.


Sounds like BP is being run by a bunch of economically illiterate #######.
   40. bigglou115 Posted: June 15, 2017 at 11:16 PM (#5477222)

The black boxing of it combined with it widely varying from the non-black box sites didn't help them one bit. They then would tinker with their data over and over so that if I wrote an article using their stats, that there was a good chance in 6 months those stats wouldn't be accurate and the article would look poorly researched.


Exactly. I remember FRAA. It was obviously hacked up, so they write a dozen articles implying that they just knew something nobody else did, and then changed it midseason as a role of a "better version" without admitting they screwed the first one up.

Defense was always a problem for them because they refused to accept outside numbers.

I also remember SIERRA when it got it's fangraphs rollout. I remember thinking " this is what BP was doing? Lot of work for almost no gain over FIP."

@38, I do cut them some slack there. PECOTA pretty steadily marched down as more and more of the people who designed it left. Once Silver was good it obviously wasn't keeping up. Rebuilding it without those same smart people was probably silly. I attribute that one too roster turnover.
   41. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 15, 2017 at 11:17 PM (#5477224)
BPro went further and further towards black boxing all of their stats. This community isn't the kind to just accept that VORP is better than WAR just because one website tells us so.


This. Many of their original readers are not only inclined to want to know how the formula works, but at times can tweak it to develop a better stat. Once you limit the availability of the information, anyone who's reasonably inquisitive will just say "no thanks"
   42. Dock Ellis Posted: June 15, 2017 at 11:43 PM (#5477231)
I also yearn for my annuals every winter and since I play fantasy, Ron Shandler's book has filled BPro's void just fine.
   43. PreservedFish Posted: June 15, 2017 at 11:46 PM (#5477232)
Can't disagree with the many criticisms above, but I think that ultimately:

... small niche businesses are hard to sustain, particularly when there's competition.


It's a tough business. I also agree with snapper, that the site tried to grow beyond its niche but perhaps without a clear mission. Maybe it was smart to add the paywall at one point, but BPro is now essentially combating the same forces that daily newspapers are.

It's easy to harp on the cease & desist letter to this site, or Sheehan's hilarious grandiloquent tantrum, but if this is the demise of BPro I'd rather remember the site at the turn of the century when it was a daily click for me and was legitimately on the vanguard of baseball thought. Sure, there was a lot of nonsense about preventing pitcher injuries (PAP!) and a flagrant anti-defense perspective that was discredited like 4 years later. But I still remember reading Keith Law's "I got hired by the Blue Jays" letter and being legitimately excited ("holy ####, they're taking us seriously now!"). I remember reading the first Voros articles on there. I remember thinking that Hacking Mass was the funniest thing around.
   44. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 15, 2017 at 11:56 PM (#5477233)
Ah yes, loved Hacking Mass. Agree, loved many of the early writers, and I still read it now from time to time, including the KC BP site on a daily basis. Sucks they're struggling, but honestly, who in media isn't right now.
   45. PreservedFish Posted: June 16, 2017 at 12:07 AM (#5477234)
Just read the article. There's a lot of detail, probably more than we need. The site was sold to a new ownership group - the new owners had big plans that might have been bad plans - they spent a bunch of money on a website revamp that still hasn't happened - their budget was off, and they ran out of money.

Aaron Gleeman took over days before the owners told contributors that they wouldn't get paid. He used to hang around on this website - or at least he was linked often, I don't really remember - I certainly had a positive impression of him. I see absolutely no reason to blame anything on him, much less to call him an ass.
   46. Jose Molina wants a nickname like "A-Rod" Posted: June 16, 2017 at 12:17 AM (#5477235)
(For those who don't get the reference in #4, go to the comments here.)


Huh, I don't remember that thread at all. Yet, I commented in it 6 years ago. Weird.
   47. Jose Molina wants a nickname like "A-Rod" Posted: June 16, 2017 at 12:18 AM (#5477236)
Wish Harvey was still around to reiterate his opinions of Sheehan... and while we're at it, Will Carroll.
   48. Jose Molina wants a nickname like "A-Rod" Posted: June 16, 2017 at 12:24 AM (#5477238)
Remember Prospectus Idol?
   49. DJS, the Digital Dandy Posted: June 16, 2017 at 12:39 AM (#5477240)
I'm possibly biased since we go way back, but Gleeman's a good dude. And I've never heard anyone in the industry complain about him.
   50. Shibal Posted: June 16, 2017 at 03:38 AM (#5477262)
Is the Gleeman Production Average available at BP now? I hope so.

I'm stunned at the low level of pay the writers there make. Doing all that content for $100 a month? Goodness, that's soul-sucking right there if you are the writer. And what kind of quality can a website expect from that kind of cheap labor?

Is that typical pay for similar sports related sites?
   51. GGC for Sale Posted: June 16, 2017 at 06:27 AM (#5477264)
I saw the pay and feel better that it makes more economic sense for me to work 2 hours OT a week like I usually do, than to have pursued my dream as a part time freelance baseball writier. I wouldn't have minded writngthe occasional historical article, but I think that to please readers I'd have to write too many ones I wouldn't have been into on topics like the state of the Phillies bullpen.
   52. Jim Furtado Posted: June 16, 2017 at 06:42 AM (#5477267)
I wish them well. Despite our early dust up, I personally liked most of their contributors, especially the early crew.

As people above have noted, being in a niche is a tough place to exist. Being in a niche which requires a daily infusion of new material is even more difficult.

Their biggest problems, besides being in a space where your best contributors get pouched by other deeper-pocketed businesses, were going behind the paywall and the collapse of ad revenue. The first severely restricted their market in a time when Fangraphs was pouring money (relatively speaking) into their site. The second is a problem for all kinds of site, including this one.

But what do I know? I've made more than my share of bad decisions with this site which I'd love to be able to undo.
   53. villageidiom Posted: June 16, 2017 at 08:00 AM (#5477271)
I think that to please readers I'd have to write too many ones I wouldn't have been into on topics like the state of the Phillies bullpen.
Nah, you were safe. It's not clear to me that the Phillies were interested in that topic.
But what do I know? I've made more than my share of bad decisions with this site which I'd love to be able to undo.
And yet if you show up at the softball game in a couple of weeks I'm sure there would be no shortage of people lining up to buy you a beer afterward.
   54. PreservedFish Posted: June 16, 2017 at 08:05 AM (#5477272)
I'm stunned at the low level of pay the writers there make. Doing all that content for $100 a month? Goodness, that's soul-sucking right there if you are the writer. And what kind of quality can a website expect from that kind of cheap labor?

Well, they know what they're getting into. BP can launch your career.

And it's fun.
   55. PreservedFish Posted: June 16, 2017 at 08:08 AM (#5477273)
But what do I know? I've made more than my share of bad decisions with this site which I'd love to be able to undo.


Whatever mistakes you've made, Jim, you've put together a lovely community here and I almost don't even regret the hundreds of hours I've wasted here. But it's a lovely, aging and shrinking community, to be frank.
   56. Gaelan Posted: June 16, 2017 at 10:40 AM (#5477402)

Whatever mistakes you've made, Jim, you've put together a lovely community here and I almost don't even regret the hundreds of hours I've wasted here. But it's a lovely, aging and shrinking community, to be frank.


Agreed. I've been posting here for over a decade. The only other constant in my life over that time is my wife. That's kind of incredible.
   57. GGC for Sale Posted: June 16, 2017 at 11:05 AM (#5477429)
A decade? Weren't you posting about how DIPS is the devil way before that?
   58. Textbook Editor Posted: June 16, 2017 at 11:17 AM (#5477453)
I'm stunned at the low level of pay the writers there make. Doing all that content for $100 a month? Goodness, that's soul-sucking right there if you are the writer. And what kind of quality can a website expect from that kind of cheap labor?


Way, way, way back in the day (~1998-2002), I did some freelance film writing for a big city alt-weekly. Lead reviews (~800-1000 words) would pay $75-$100; capsule reviews would get you $25 (~200 words). At the time, I wasn't earning more than 25k a year in my full time job, so even $100 more a month was welcome cash, but my understanding now is that those were the absolute apex of pay scales for such work, and that basically it's pretty much collapsed since. The prices mentioned in the article didn't surprise me...
   59. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 16, 2017 at 11:22 AM (#5477465)
I've been posting here for over a decade.

Yeah. I still vividly remember following the game chatters in my corporate apartment during the 2002 playoffs while I was living in Southern California on an extended work assignment and the Angels were on their World Series run, and I wasn't a n00b to the site then. Crazy.
   60. The_Ex Posted: June 16, 2017 at 11:38 AM (#5477485)
Back in the "day" BPro were novel and somewhat revolutionary. Now the revolution is over and we are in a time of marginal gains. It's OK to pay money to be part of a revolution, its tougher to pay when you don;t know if you will get anything novel for it.
   61. Brian Posted: June 16, 2017 at 11:42 AM (#5477498)
And yet if you show up at the softball game in a couple of weeks I'm sure there would be no shortage of people lining up to buy you a beer afterward.


In fact, there are people who have no plans to go to the game but would if Jim were to make an appearance. And Andre the Giant couldn't drink all the free adult beverages on offer.
   62. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: June 16, 2017 at 12:13 PM (#5477528)
@38, I do cut them some slack there. PECOTA pretty steadily marched down as more and more of the people who designed it left. Once Silver was good it obviously wasn't keeping up. Rebuilding it without those same smart people was probably silly. I attribute that one too roster turnover.

There was nothing special about PECOTA beyond the gimmick of its presentation. The precious percentile forecasts, which people were so impressed with, didn't bear any relation to observed performance; the median forecasts weren't any better than anyone else's; and the whole thing was built on a disorganized mishmash of Excel spreadsheets that was impossible to wade through in search of errors. There is no way in which the marketing guru Nate Silver's absence made PECOTA worse.
   63. Gaelan Posted: June 16, 2017 at 01:30 PM (#5477594)
A decade? Weren't you posting about how DIPS is the devil way before that?


Turns out I joined the site at the end of January of 2005.
   64. GGC for Sale Posted: June 16, 2017 at 01:31 PM (#5477596)
I knew of BPro as an annual before I was aware of much baseball content online. As a Primate, I didn't care for the C&D letter, but this was before 9/11. Back then I liked SNWL. Whatever happened to Michael Wolverton? Last I checked, Clay Davenport still keeps some of his stats on his own site.
   65. madvillain Posted: June 16, 2017 at 01:38 PM (#5477600)
There was nothing special about PECOTA beyond the gimmick of its presentation. The precious percentile forecasts, which people were so impressed with, didn't bear any relation to observed performance; the median forecasts weren't any better than anyone else's; and the whole thing was built on a disorganized mishmash of Excel spreadsheets that was impossible to wade through in search of errors. There is no way in which the marketing guru Nate Silver's absence made PECOTA worse.


Man those percentile forecasts had me. I would always look at the 10% forecast for Dayan Viciedo or Paul Konerko and start dreaming.

Way, way, way back in the day (~1998-2002), I did some freelance film writing for a big city alt-weekly. Lead reviews (~800-1000 words) would pay $75-$100; capsule reviews would get you $25 (~200 words). At the time, I wasn't earning more than 25k a year in my full time job, so even $100 more a month was welcome cash, but my understanding now is that those were the absolute apex of pay scales for such work, and that basically it's pretty much collapsed since. The prices mentioned in the article didn't surprise me...


In 2004 I did some writing for a talk show host's website (Tony Trupiano, cool guy) and he paid me $60 per post, as long as it was at least 500 words and coherent. It was a nice windfall as a college student. That said, this was the nascent era of blogs and the competition for political content was much less. I drove some traffic to his site but these days the content I produced is ubiquitous and free.
   66. AROM Posted: June 16, 2017 at 01:45 PM (#5477608)
Whatever happened to Michael Wolverton? Last I checked, Clay Davenport still keeps some of his stats on his own site.


Of the early BP authors, the one whose research is most memorable to me is Keith Woolner. He's been with the Indians for quite a while now - at least a decade, maybe 15 years? The name Dave Pease is familiar, but I can't remember anything we wrote. Somehow, at least according to this article, he wound up as the majority owner.
   67. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: June 16, 2017 at 01:55 PM (#5477620)
The second is a problem for all kinds of site, including this one.


I just clicked on an ad for you Jim. Don't know where I'd be without Primer.
   68. Zach Posted: June 16, 2017 at 02:12 PM (#5477646)
The precious percentile forecasts, which people were so impressed with, didn't bear any relation to observed performance; the median forecasts weren't any better than anyone else's; and the whole thing was built on a disorganized mishmash of Excel spreadsheets that was impossible to wade through in search of errors. There is no way in which the marketing guru Nate Silver's absence made PECOTA worse.

I never believed the percentiles, either. But as a *product,* PECOTA was great. It took a baseball annual that was appealing to sabermetric junkies and made it appealing to fantasy junkies, which is a much bigger audience.

In my deepest heart of hearts, I don't think the election forecasting is that sound, either. It seems like a lot of complicated mumbo jumbo on top of a basically sound approach of looking at states independently, plus paying some attention to demographics. But minimal models don't result in obsessive reclicking.
   69. GGC for Sale Posted: June 16, 2017 at 02:32 PM (#5477667)
Of the early BP authors, the one whose research is most memorable to me is Keith Woolner.


I think the article by Woolner I recall most is "Field General or Backstop?" That's not a knock on him, BTW.
   70. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: June 16, 2017 at 02:40 PM (#5477675)
Woolner created VORP. I think it is still better than WAR. We chatted recently. Still a great guy.

Jim is more generous than I.
   71. Jose Molina wants a nickname like "A-Rod" Posted: June 16, 2017 at 02:44 PM (#5477679)
The name Dave Pease is familiar, but I can't remember anything we wrote.


He didn't write much. As I understand it (and I may well be wrong), he was doing the tech stuff, for the most part — keeping the site running, integrating stats, etc.
   72. K-BAR, J-BAR (trhn) Posted: June 16, 2017 at 02:48 PM (#5477684)
I agree with the gist of #62. My recollection is that PECOTA didn't do all that well compared to other projection systems. In the yearly roundup after PECOTA year 1, I think Ron Shandler was the most deadly accurate.

It had that Nate Silver accounting for everything tendency that sounds really impressive but makes you wonder about overspecifying. (We account for the weather in AAA when translating! The PVI of home field! Percentage of Spanish speakers on team!)

That said, the visualizations were cool. The bar charts showing where the value was coming from was neat. The percentiles LOOKED cool, even if half the players out- or under- performed their 10th or 90th percentile projections.

Really, we shouldn't necessarily diminish the importance of being an early mover in developing and publishing projection systems. Back when Zips was only on Primer, just putting PECOTA out there in a navigable format with ugly spreadsheets.
   73. Random Transaction Generator Posted: June 16, 2017 at 03:07 PM (#5477700)
I also yearn for my annuals every winter and since I play fantasy, Ron Shandler's book has filled BPro's void just fine.


I have the BPro book from 1998 to 2009. That final year I made the decision to NOT purchase the next version because the 2009 version didn't arrive until ONE DAY before my Scoresheet draft. It had been arriving later and later every year (shipping to Canada seemed to be a problem), and I finally decided that I wasn't getting anywhere close to the value from it that I needed BEFORE I drafted. That said, I still enjoyed reading all the write ups and articles, but it didn't make financial sense.
(I remember picking up the first book because I liked the comments I saw from Gary Huckabay on Scoresheet Talk newsgroup.)

I had been picking up Shandler's book since 2001, and I still do to this day. It arrives before the new year every time and I while the player write ups are (obviously) not as detailed, the actual articles about statistics and how they calculate/recalculate them are fantastic. It's heavily dog-eared by the time draft day arrives.
   74. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 16, 2017 at 03:08 PM (#5477701)

I'm stunned at the low level of pay the writers there make. Doing all that content for $100 a month? Goodness, that's soul-sucking right there if you are the writer. And what kind of quality can a website expect from that kind of cheap labor?


There are people here that could have written a book with the posts they have written, and they've done it all for free!

Does Deadspin have real paid writers?
   75. bjhanke Posted: June 16, 2017 at 03:15 PM (#5477705)
Those of you who mentioned Ron Shandler's book. I had no idea that Ron Shandler was doing a book. And, to my shame, I lost track of Ron himself. I say, "To my shame" because I still owe him $600 from the 1990s. Can someone tell me how to contact Ron?

As for BPro, they had problems with me, and I with them, also dating back to the 1990s. I should probably refrain from kicking them when they are down. - Brock Hanke
   76. GGC for Sale Posted: June 16, 2017 at 03:26 PM (#5477715)
Brock, are you still in contact with Don Malcolm? I had an email from him over the winter, but haven't heard from him since. I'm hoping that the Nouvelle Vague didn't put him on ice.
   77. AROM Posted: June 16, 2017 at 03:39 PM (#5477730)
There are people here that could have written a book with the posts they have written, and they've done it all for free!


Good point. Is there a way to retrieve all posts by username? I see a "view all posts by this member" but that is only for forum posts, and I mostly post things in the newsblog threads.

Seriously Jim, if there's a way to do that that isn't too much trouble, I would pay.
   78. Shibal Posted: June 16, 2017 at 04:36 PM (#5477791)
Those of you who mentioned Ron Shandler's book. I had no idea that Ron Shandler was doing a book. And, to my shame, I lost track of Ron himself. I say, "To my shame" because I still owe him $600 from the 1990s. Can someone tell me how to contact Ron?


baseball@ronshandler.com

Ron left Baseball HQ a few years ago. Ron always struck me as having his head on straight despite being a pioneer in the business. He never showed the arrogance that the early crowd at BP did; always admitted he was going to be wrong an awful lot when it came to forecasting the future.

The book is still good...the articles are far more interesting than the projections which is a good thing. I didn't find the site quite as interesting as it used to be, however. Rather than sign up for the whole year like I've done in the past, I just did the three month deal to get info during spring training and first month. I haven't missed it; once the regular season starts, I can generally do my own analysis downloading Fangraphs data.

I've always wondered how those Ron's forecasts compared to Pecota, Zips, and Steamer. Since his projections are for sale, no one really includes Baseball HQ in the "projection contests" that pop up after the season.
   79. LA Podcasting Hombre of Anaheim Posted: June 16, 2017 at 04:40 PM (#5477795)
Last I checked, Clay Davenport still keeps some of his stats on his own site.
Clay Davenport was the first writer to turn me onto metrics. I had mentioned something in r.s.bb about lineup protection, and he responded with several links to data on that, along with a basic explanation of the concepts. I'll always be grateful.

BPro was, in its day, completely revolutionary. It's day has passed, but I'm still grateful it happened.

BPrimer is my home.
   80. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 16, 2017 at 04:54 PM (#5477803)
There are people here that could have written a book with the posts they have written, and they've done it all for free!


Hell, there were times Walt could have done it with a post.

   81. Howie Menckel Posted: June 16, 2017 at 05:20 PM (#5477836)
"Ron always struck me as having his head on straight despite being a pioneer in the business. He never showed the arrogance that the early crowd at BP did; always admitted he was going to be wrong an awful lot when it came to forecasting the future."

+1

I've met Shandler a few times, and detected no whiff of arrogance at all.
I wish no one at Prospectus ill will. I will say that I stopped buying the book many years ago because they just had no sense of humor.
Forecasting is tough, and being able to laugh/wince at your misses helps - not hurts - you.
   82. Omineca Greg Posted: June 16, 2017 at 06:10 PM (#5477891)
I subscribed for a little while once they went behind the paywall.

I was liking it alright, but then they hired a writer who annoyed the hell out of me. I remember who it was, but I'll just keep it to myself.

He finally wrote something that was just too much for me (some weird metaphor involving the terminally ill that I thought was incredibly insensitive to people who were dying). I thought, \"#### these guys, I'm out." I was really angry about it, just fuming. There were some comments on the site from people who felt the way I did...and the writer told them to pound sand. How he was so awesome, and how everybody else was so stupid. I had already decided to quit by then, but seeing that really made me wonder about the guy.

I had been a member for a few years when I cancelled, but only a month at a time. I didn't make a big deal about it, just politely informed them that I would like to cancel my subscription.

They had no record of me. Not my user name, not my billing information. I mean, I'd been receiving the content just fine, but by some glitchy means.

I checked my credit card bills, and indeed I'd never been charged, not even once.

So that kind of took away the satisfaction of not giving them money any more (the part about not giving them my money in the first place)...oh well.
   83. Hank G. Posted: June 16, 2017 at 07:22 PM (#5477908)
I'm stunned at the low level of pay the writers there make. Doing all that content for $100 a month? Goodness, that's soul-sucking right there if you are the writer. And what kind of quality can a website expect from that kind of cheap labor?


I interpreted that as what they were paying some of the writers on the satellite sites. I don’t think they mentioned amounts for writers on the main site (other than saying it was low).
   84. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: June 17, 2017 at 08:55 AM (#5478020)
I thought about buying BP this year and randomly turned to Chad Betts' capsule where he was referred to as "Bad Chettis," "Pretty Good Chettis," and other nonsense. Didn't find it funny, confirmed for me they still rely on snark way too much. No purchase.
   85. DJS, the Digital Dandy Posted: June 17, 2017 at 09:54 AM (#5478024)
Brock, if you can't reach Ron through that ronshandler.com email above, if you email me at DSzymborski@gmail.com, I'll send you his personal email. Obviously don't want to post it publicly, not because of the guys here or anything, but because of spambots and the like.
   86. puck Posted: June 17, 2017 at 12:28 PM (#5478053)
I thought about buying BP this year and randomly turned to Chad Betts' capsule where he was referred to as "Bad Chettis," "Pretty Good Chettis," and other nonsense. Didn't find it funny, confirmed for me they still rely on snark way too much. No purchase.


They totally missed the chance to make fun of him getting testicular cancer.
   87. base ball chick Posted: June 17, 2017 at 01:12 PM (#5478064)
Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: June 15, 2017 at 06:50 PM (#5477033)

I used to read BPro, and then they started charging, and no one else did, and so I read Gleeman's blog and Primer and USS Mariner and a million other things. In short, BPro was good at first and then it went too far


- yep

i loved all the stuff gary huckabay (wonder what happened to him) and jonah keri wrote

my god
it feels like a lifetime ago

I miss all that. and i also miss so many guys who used to post all the time here in the early and mid 2000s

The Jim has a good heart

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