by Myron Logan
Okay, so I mentioned it in yesterday’s post, and I’ve been thinking more and more about re-subscribing to Baseball Prospectus, which announced some changes on Monday.
The short back story: I found out about Baseball Prospectus somewhere around 2004 after reading Moneyball. I quickly bought one of their annual books and subscribed to the online content. I was hooked. BP was essentially my Bill James, piquing my interest in sabermetrics and a deeper understanding of the game. Articles by Nate Silver, Dan Fox, and Keith Woolner (among others) were always insightful, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Not to mention, I had access to PECOTA and the rest of the stable of solid BP writers. $40? That was a bargain.
Somewhere in the last few years, however, I realized myself visiting BP less and less often. $40 a year still was not breaking the bank, but was it worth it for something I rarely used? Nate Silver left the site for his political endeavors, Keith Woolner joined the Indians, and Dan Fox similarly found himself in an MLB front office. It is a credit to BP that about half of their stats-based authors seem to eventually get scooped up by MLB teams, but it also left an unfilled hole in their content.
Now, it seemed to me at this time, BP made a concerted effort to become more “mainstream,” to appeal to a wider audience. They had gained tremendous popularity through the years, and were now serving a broader demographic of people, with maybe only a small percent really caring about which pythagorean win estimator worked best. This was fine, and probably a good business decision, but it did not really appeal to my specific tastes.
At the same time, it seemed like sabermetric writing was popping up all over the net. The Hardball Times was as good as ever, Beyond the Boxscore had been rejuvenated, FanGraphs added a writing element to complement their great stats section, and Tango’s Inside the Book Blog was being updated daily. There were more, too, like Baseball Analysts and Statistically Speaking, not to mention countless team-based blogs.
With all that considered, I let my subscription run out, and have gone without it for a good year or so. Say, for instance, you are an avid bowler, and you have three local alleys to choose from. Two are free, and one is two bucks a game. If the one happens to be vastly superior to the other two, then maybe you will fork up the extra $2 dollars to bowl there. But if the three alleys are essentially equal, well, in time you are probably going to quit going to the one that costs money, and spend your time at the free ones. That is basically what happened. BP shifted their content away from what I wanted, and other sites emerged or improved to fill the void. And I saved $40 a year.
In Kevin Goldstein’s announcement, however, it appears that BP is going to again put a much stronger emphasis on pure sabermetrics, with the additions of guys like Russell Carleton/Pizza Cutter (whose work has been featured primarily at StatSpeak) and Colin Wyers (StatSpeak and The Hardball Times). Both guys are super active in the saber-community; they are smart, creative, and they write well. BP has also brought in Tommy Bennett (Beyond the Boxscore) and Jeff Euston (proprietor of Cot’s Contracts), adding to a group of saber writers that also includes recently hired Eric Seidman (graduating from about eight different baseball sites) and Matt Swartz.
To get back to my original question, is the subscription worth $40, when I can still get a bunch of analysis, research, and stats for free at the above-mentioned sites? That is certainly an individualized question; personally, I am not sure yet, but the decision is harder than it was a few days ago. What is your take?