Ten things I didn’t know about THT last yearby Chris Jaffe
December 28, 2009
Well, it's that time of the year. As one calendar gives way to another, it's time to reflect back on the year that was and what we got out of it. After all, it's only human nature to be a bit thoughtful on what has gone by. In that spirit, for the second straight year I'm ending with a column going over 10 things I got out of the year here at THT.
That's the official reason anyway. The unofficial reason is that the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is bound to be a low one for readership, so why waste some baseball research I'm really proud of in a place where it won't get as much attention?
1. Who wrote how much
Actually, neither of the above reasons is what caused me to write this column last year. It was an outgrowth of insomnia. In order to combat it last year, I looked through THT's author page to count how many full-length columns have been written by the various THT authors. Last year's piece gave me an excuse to share it with the world.
Well, it was the highlight of column, so I've updated it. The list below features everyone who wrote at least 10 full-length columns since THT went up in 2004 through Christmas '09:
Name 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 ALL Steve Treder 33 44 51 50 51 28 257 Dave Studeman 47 72 53 39 25 4 240 Aaron Gleeman 133 80 20 0 0 0 233 John Brattain 0 46 51 51 79 6 233 Brian Borawski 1 37 53 42 31 37 201 Ben Jacobs 104.5 31.5 11.5 7 5 0 159.5 Chris Jaffe 0 0 1 37 42 48 128 Rich Barbieri 0 0 0 45 39 41 125 David Gassko 0 17 42 29 19 10 117 Jeff Sackmann 0 0 28 50 9 19 106 Geoff Young 0 0 2 21 18 32 73 John Beamer 0 0 0 46 20 4 70 Josh Kalk 0 0 0 9 45 11 65 Larry Mahnken 40.5 13.5 2.5 2 0 5 63.5 John Walsh 0 2 21 19 14 6 62 Chris Constancio0 0 37 24 0 0 61 Matthew Carruth 0 0 0 15 22 23 60 Rick Wilton 0 0 30 23 0 0 53 Sal Baxamusa 0 0 10 27 11 2 50 John Barten 0 0 0 0 23 26 49 Craig Burley 21 12 13 0 0 0 46 Craig Brown 0 0 1 0 26 15 42 Dan Fox 0 28 12 0 0 0 40 Brandon Isleib 0 0 0 0 21 19 40 Matthew Namee 26 3 0 2 2 2 35 Colin Wyers 0 0 0 0 2 32 34 Bryan Smith 29 1 0 1 0 0 31 Harry Pavlidis 0 0 0 0 0 31 31 Bruce Markusen 0 0 0 0 0 28 28 Brian Gunn 13 8 4 1 1 0 27 Evan Brunell 0 0 0 0 4 22 26 Maury Brown 0 7 18 0 0 0 25 Sean Smith 0 0 0 6 7 8 21 Carlos Gomez 0 0 0 21 0 0 21 Victor Wang 0 0 0 0 10 9 19 Bryan Tsao 0 1 13 2 0 0 16 Alex Eisenberg 0 0 0 0 15 1 16 Max Marchi 0 0 0 0 0 15 15 Robert Dudek 15 0 0 0 0 0 15 Tom M. Tango 0 0 5 0 8 1 14 Dan Turkenkopf 0 0 0 0 0 13 13 Paul Nyman 0 0 0 0 11 0 11 Adam Guttridge 0 0 0 0 1 9 10
Treder, Borowski and Boss-man Studeman are the only ones to write at least one column each year here. Ben Jacobs and Brian Gunn used to say that—then came 2009.
I feel badly about not including some of the Live and Fantasy pieces, because they can be as long and thoughtful as a main site article, but adding them in becomes like comparing apples and oranges. They are different mediums, and I haven't had a strong enough attack of insomnia that makes me want to check another list.
Ben Jacobs and Larry Mahnken have half-articles because they used to joint write a Rivals in Exile series on the Red Sox-Yankees.
2. I topped the list in '09
This year, I wrote 48 columns (well, 49 including this one, but I can't count it because someone else might have an article up Monday and I'm not including that above), which is more than anyone else this year. I take some pride in that achievement as it took a lot of discipline and steady work—and most importantly Steve Treder's decision to take a sabbatical. I never could have done it without that.
My total is a little padded by some book excerpts that went up recently for Evaluating Baseball's Managers (it's supposed to be out fairly early next year, according to the latest word from my publisher), but even without that total, I still came in first.
After skipping my turn in mid-March, I had a column go up every non-holiday week for the next nine months.
3. Pounding out a column every week is a grind
While I'm proud of the fact that I made sure THT had something up every working Monday for a nine-month hitch, I doubt I'll ever achieve that again. Getting up a column normally isn't that difficult, but sometimes life interferes, and the hours spent working on one of these thing can be a real grind.
That isn't just my opinion either. Looking at the list above, that seems to be an overall trend. Aside from myself, only fellow history nerd Richard Barbieri topped 40 columns. This was the first year in THT history no one topped 50 full columns.
If nothing else, 2009 taught me just how impressive Steve Treder's work was for the site. From its beginning until June of this year, Treder produced a quality piece of work week-in, week-out virtually without fail. That is some impressive dedication. I'm not surprised no one made it to 50 columns this year, but I'm impressed by Treder and anyone else who did so in the days of yore.
4. The rise of THT Live
The big list up in No. 1 wasn't perfect last year because so much stuff falls under other areas, such as Shysterball or Fantasy or whatnot, but it's become far more imperfect this year.
I contributed my share of pieces to it in bits and bursts this year, but it's mostly been in the able hands of others. For me, it's just been a nice little place to post pieces that I don't think will be enough for my regular Monday feature. Then again, there are times I'll click on the latest piece by Evan Brunell or someone else and the work is as long as insightful as I hope to get from a column—only these things are constantly going up. I don't know what everyone else out there thinks of them, but I find it fun.
5. Boss-man Studes, Czar of Editing Tsao and the rest do a great job behind the
Well, I've always known that, but it was brought home all the more this year, by something that happened away from THT.
As I already noted, I wrote a book that comes out next year. I submitted my manuscript to the publisher in late March. At the time, I had no idea how long it would take to get ready for publication. My only experience was with the THT Annual, where we submit articles to Studes, Tsao and the gang at the end of the season and it's in bookstores shortly afterward.
I learned why the THT Annual has such impressive turnaround: those guys do an insane amount of work on it. Basically, they turn a manuscript into the finished product, so our publisher can send it to the printer shortly after receiving it.
Thanksgiving week my publisher sent me the book for a last look before sending it to the printer. A few things struck me: first, how much work they had done on it (and that's not a complaint—they did good work with it), and second, that this is basically what Studes et al. do before sending it to the publisher. No wonder the Annual gets out so quickly. And no wonder most books don't go so rapidly. Having gone through the book publishing process here and alone, I have an easier time understanding why it takes others as long as it does than how THT does it so quickly.
I always knew they worked their tails off, but this reverse experience really drove the point home. Looking at what McFarland (my publisher) did, I can see why it takes them a while to get it out. I'm just stunned our guys can do it so much quicker. I guess that's what you call a labor of love. Or masochism.
6. 48 columns—and 48,000 mistakes
Well, that's enough about other people. Now back to my real main interest here: ME.
I guess it's inevitable that in writing dozens of columns, I'd make some mistakes or say some things I'd later regret. No way I want to go over all of them. Some of the low lights will do.
Probably the biggest error came in my April 27 column, where I made a screw-up so big it necessitated a follow-up column the next week. I examined whether it was true that Dazzy Vance pitched better with the Sunday wash behind him at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn. The info indicated he pitched much better on Saturday at home, not Sunday. So I decided that people in America must have historically done their laundry Saturday.
Nope. As numerous readers informed me, Sunday really was the typical wash day for much of American history. Don't I feel silly for not doing any research into it before making my presumption on wash day. (As a history nerd, that mistake really does bug me.) Actually, one e-mailer solved the riddle: behind Ebbetts Field was a largely Jewish neighborhood, where people did the wash on Saturday. I was right on the narrow point, and wrong on the larger one.
Lastly, arguably the most annoying thing I did all year on THT came from the opposite angle: I did a lot of work on something that had no value. I wrote a column called "(Somewhat) sabermetric scores" and looking back, the whole thing just doesn't work out. I could explain in depth, but the short version is that the results my database provides usually make no sense by any standard. Ah well.
7. That no-hitter column
I really wanted to do a column on the worst lineups ever no-hit. This was to be a sequel to one I wrote last year on the best lineups ever no-hit. Alas, due to catastrophic lack of planning, I had that one go up on Memorial Day, when no one visits the site. I wanted this year's no-hitter column to go up right after Memorial Day, to avenge last year's wrong.
Then fate intervened, and by fate I mean Sean Forman, the founder and owner of Baseball-Reference. He included a host of fun info about home runs on his site, and I did a bunch of digging around on inside-the-park homers there, which instead became my post-Memorial Day column. It went over as well as anything I could reasonably hope for. In fact, Wikipedia linked to it, clearly marking the highest honor a mammal could ever hope to attain.
So the no-hitter column was going to go up the next week—but, no! Clint Hurdle got fired, and as someone who wrote on managers, I felt obligated to discuss that.
I couldn't do it the next week, either. That was my 100th column, and I wanted to do something special, so I wrote a piece on collecting cards. That was a lot of fun (and probably the quickest-to-write column I had all year—which was nice because that Hurdle piece from the week before took far too long).
By that time, I finished reading a book to review, so I wanted to do that while it was still fresh. So finally, after a month in a holding pattern, my piece on the 10 worst lineups ever no-hit finally went up. As I hoped and thought, it was one of my better received pieces of the year. Several readers told me that I really ought to write an article on the best lineups ever no-hit. Yeah, it was a mistake putting that one up last year on Memorial Day.
I really liked this stretch because I not only put up a bunch of columns in a row I was proud of, but I also had the odd experience of too many worthy column ideas for a while.
Earlier this year, I finally bothered to figure out how to upload and use images in my columns. I've only used it on occasion for various reasons (mainly most of my columns are historical and THT's agreement with a photo service usually only covers contemporary images). Still, it's nice to work them in when I can.
Having said that, I feel obligated to use an image here, so here's the one that inspired me to use images in the first place—the photo of The Cardhouse That Ate the Living Room:
9. 2009: The year of Top 10 lists
Still, for me the year isn't marked by the rise of images or THT Live. This was the year I went hog-wild on Top 10 lists. Whenever I could, I tossed one out. I've always loved making lists. You see, not only am I a history nerd, but I'm an anal retentive one. Lists are just fun.
Aside from my no-hitter column, I also about the 10 best Pirate moments in recent memory, top Metrodome games, worst World Series contests, and greatest stadium closeouts. Plus I also presented 50 possible closer songs, 10 things I learned at SABR's convention, and this piece. And those are just the times my lists made the article's title.
I also researched a column on the 10 greatest Cub-Cardinal games ever, thinking it might make a good piece to use before their final series of the season. Then the Cards blew the Cubs out of the pennant race late in the year, making those final weeks meaningless. So I got an extra column I could use once next season starts. That should be fun.
10. Mortality bites
I'd feel like a dope to have a end-of-the-year summation column and not mention the late John Brattain. That said, I'm not sure I have anything brilliant to say about him.
I never met him in person. I just knew him based on his writing here and Baseball Think Factory. He always came off as an extremely nice, thoughtful and funny individual. Looking back, what really strikes me was his tact—his ability to debate or argue his points without antagonizing others. When I'm trying to figure out how to disagree without being disagreeable, I'll think, what would John do?
I knew he had health problems, but I was stunned by his death, as was everyone around here. When Baseball Think Factory succeeded in becoming SABR's first online chapter, there was talk of naming it the John Brattain Chapter in his honor. I don't know if that will or can happen, but I'd certainly support such a gesture.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.