10 things I didn’t know about THT last yearby Chris Jaffe
December 29, 2008
This is my last column of the year, on the next-to-last day new pieces will appear at THT in 2008. Given that, I want to waste your time with some navel-gazing and a look back at 2008 in THT-dom.
Who wrote what when: AKA the lessons of insomnia
One night in early December, I had a monster case of insomnia. I decided the best way to overpower it would be to do something really boring for a while. With that in mind, I set upon an appropriate task: going to THT's full lineup, and counting how many articles each listed THT author has done each year with the site.
Now that is boring. Annoying, it wasn't boring enough as I finished off the entire roster. Since there is no point sitting on it, I'll share it here.
A few notes before the chart: THT has full-length articles as well as smaller fantasy pieces on the right sidebar, and special niche issues like THT Daily. I tried to only count the articles.
This isn't to dismiss the great work fantasy writers like Derek Carty or cartoonist Tuck! have done for the site. However, including the number of fantasy pieces he's written (294 in under two years by my count) with articles others have written is like comparing the weights of stuff on the moon and earth. More importantly, fantasy writers don't always appear on the main lineup list, but they have a roster on their own lineup. Mercifully, I was able to fall asleep before tallying them up
Some people do both fantasy and main articles, and it's hard to spot the difference between to without going through each one individually. I didn't do all that (I wasn't that tired), and took my best guess. Mistakes were made, but the only way to catch them is to go through yourself and check.
I pray to God that none of you have that bad a case of insomnia.
Here are all the people who, from my count, have contributed 10+ articles to THT since it went up in the early spring, 2004:
Name 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 ALL Dave Studeman 47 72 53 39 24 235 Aaron Gleeman 133 80 20 0 0 233 Steve Treder 33 44 51 50 52 230 John Brattain 0 46 51 51 78 226 Brian Borawski 1 37 53 42 30 163 Ben Jacobs 104.5 31.5 11.5 7 5 159.5 David Gassko 0 17 42 29 19 107 Jeff Sackmann 0 0 28 50 9 87 Rich Barbieri 0 0 0 45 39 84 Chris Jaffe 0 0 1 37 40 78 John Beamer 0 0 0 46 20 66 Chris Constancio0 0 37 24 0 61 Larry Mahnken 40.5 13.5 2.5 2 0 58.5 John Walsh 0 2 21 19 14 56 Josh Kalk 0 0 0 9 45 54 Rick Wilton 0 0 30 23 0 53 Sal Baxamusa 0 0 10 27 11 48 Craig Burley 21 12 13 0 0 46 Geoff Young 0 0 2 21 18 41 Dan Fox 0 28 12 0 0 40 Matthew Carruth 0 0 0 15 22 37 Matthew Namee 26 3 0 2 2 33 Bryan Smith 29 1 0 1 0 31 Brian Gunn 13 8 4 1 1 27 Craig Brown 0 0 1 0 26 27 Maury Brown 0 7 18 0 0 25 John Barten 0 0 0 0 23 23 Brandon Isleib 0 0 0 0 21 21 Carlos Gomez 0 0 0 21 0 21 Bryan Tsao 0 1 13 2 0 16 Alex Eisenberg 0 0 0 0 15 15 Robert Dudek 15 0 0 0 0 15 Sean Smith 0 0 0 6 7 13 Tom M. Tango 0 0 5 0 8 13 Paul Nyman 0 0 0 0 11 11 Victor Wang 0 0 0 0 10 10
Only five people have written an article each year for the site: David Studeman, Steve Treder, Brian Borawski, Ben Jacobs and Brian Gunn.
Ben Jacobs and Larry Mahnken have half-articles because they used to joint-write a Rivals in Exile series on the Red Sox-Yankees.
Apparently, I'm doing pretty well for myself
I spent much of this year feeling guilty for my output at THT. I try to bang out a column each week but I had to miss about a dozen assignments this year because of real life stuff and trying to pound out a book on managers (rough draft done, now revising and updating for the 2008 season).
Turns out I was one of the more prolific authors in 2008 anyway, coming in fourth behind Brattain, Treder and Kalk. Hopefully I can improve and have a Treder-ific year in 2009.
A gradual widening of writing responsibilities
In 2004, by my count, Aaron Gleeman and Ben Jacobs wrote over half of the site's articles. Along with Treder and Studeman, a quarter produced three-fourths of the THT's pieces.
Every year since then, things have broadened out. Four writers wrote a little over half the articles in 2005, and five were responsible for a little under half in 2006. By 2007, you had to dip down to seven writers to account for half—plus that year THT debuted its fantasy articles and Tuck's 'toons. This year, seven again wrote half of the main articles (all this by my admittedly not-fully-correct counting). Also, THT had a full year of fantasy, cartoons, and the recent addition of Craig Calcaterra's shysterball blog.
If there's safety in numbers, our insurance rates should be dropping.
Aaron Gleeman: the Babe Ruth of THT
They used to say Ruth's 714 home runs was a record that may never be broken. Gleeman's 133 articles in one year is a similarly Ruthian figure. It's extra impressive he did it in barely three-quarters of a year.
Heck, forget the articles for a second. Please note Gleeman was also the site's chief editor, giving him a hand in all other articles. Plus he ran the site. It's Ruthian—if Ruth won 20 games the same season he hit 60 dingers while telling the owners how to run things.
THT now has about five people making up for what Gleeman did that one year.
Dave Studeman: the Hank Aaron of THT
If Gleeman is Ruth, I guess that makes Studeman Hammerin' Hank. After all, by my sleep-deprived count he passed up Gleeman's massive output through steady year-in, year-out work, just like Hank Aaron.
Does that make John Brattain THT's Barry Bonds?
At a certain point in time, the analogy breaks down, but Brattain normally produces two articles a week, while Studeman's pace has slacked off. (Now that Gleeman has a well-earned full-time job at NBC sports, Studes is site honcho, and wearing one of Gleeman's hats cuts into his writing.)
By Opening Day, Brattain should be the site's new leading writer.
Steve Treder: THT's warhorse
Here is Steve Treder's year-by-year output: 33 columns, 44, 51, 50, and 52. Damn. A lot of us have a weekly column we try to plop out, but no one does quite like the grandpa from San Francisco. Thirty-three in 2004 might sound low, but then again the site didn't exist all year.
He's the only person to write 30 columns every year. Only he and Brattain have produced 40 in four years and 50 in five separate years. He's as consistent as Albert Pujols's at-bat totals from 2001-05.
Regrets, I've had a few
Well, so much for the insomnia-related points. Now for some other random bits and blurbs I've learned about THT over the last year.
Not everything I learned came in one night's bout with insomnia. (Shocking, I know.)
Taking a page from Richard Barbieri, here is a brief overview of the parts I'd most like to take back. This isn't a complete list of miscues from the last year (that would take a year's worth of columns themselves), but the ones that rankling the most.
My February 25 column that used the information from Greg Rybarczyk's Hit Track site to figure which clubs and individuals were most likely to see an upsurge or decline in their home runs hit.
However, as some readers savvier than I brought to my attention, I had completely ignored park factor. Turns out ballpark explained at least 90 percent of the subject on which I wrote. The entire starting premise of the article was off. That is the biggest methodological boner I've ever made at THT—unless someone can prove otherwise.
I've had two howlers in December. First, in my article on George Grantham Seasons, I included an incorrect year. I meant to include Alan Trammell's 1986 campaign, not his 1987. That was just a stupid brainfart on my part. His 1987 was a superior season, but he was insanely well-rounded in 1986. Like Brady Anderson's Grantham Season, Trammell also was above average with RBIs.
Finally, the biggest regret I have in any column I have ever written here at THT came on December 15. Noting the rather skittish responses Rob Neyer and Keith Law had to being offered membership to the BBWAA, I noted my disappointment in their responses and used their responses (well, essentially Law's response) as an excuse to go off on a lengthy tangent about the evils of insularity and the importance of engaging
The thrust of that part of the column was based on some hazily/lazily—and incorrectly—conflated points inside my cranium. I think the sabermetric community is a bit too dismissive of the outside baseball world in general and the BBWAA in particular. I also believe the BBWAA's membership represents as a good a proxy for mainstream opinion, and that their powers (most notably the Hall of Fame vote) are important.
However, those are all separate points. That's what screwed me up—I had them all lumped together in my mind. In reality, a person can be willing to engage with others, and respect decidedly non-sabermetric opinions and have respect for the thoughts of others and still not be particularly interested in the BBWAA or Hall of Fame voting.
Look at Keith Law, for example. Here is a man who started out as a sabermetric writer, became a front office employee for the Toronto Blue Jays, and currently writes a regular column for ESPN that includes considerable scouting-based insight. He deals with sabermetrics, scouts and real-life MLB types—does this sound like someone especially insular?
Clearly, no. In fact, Law apparently does a better job engaging with a wider array of baseball people than I ever well. Yet here I am arrogantly clucking my tongue at him on the basis of a ultra-brief little blurb. I got carried away with myself.
I belatedly realized something: I've spent much of the last year developing a personal fixation I have with the BBWAA's voting process. That has caused a tunnel-vision for me, as I replace the Copernican worldview with a BBWAA one, assuming all revolves around that institution. For my failure to gain that bit of self-knowledge prior to that column, I offer my heartfelt apology to the readers, Rob Neyer, and especially Keith Law.
I still don't agree with what Neyer and Law wrote in response to the offer of BBWAA membership, but that isn't a huge issue in and of itself. It just rammed into a series of assumptions I had semi-consciously made over time.
On a more positive note
No reason to go out on a down note. I've had some columns I actually liked this year. At the risk of being arrogant, this will list more columns than the last section. By and large, I'm proud of my work here. (Whether or not I should be is a matter I'll let you decide.)
I finished up my series of columns begun in 2007 on the best World Series games ever. That was extremely fun to research and write.
I have bittersweet memories of a column written on no-hitters. Again, a lot of fun to research and write—plus I was very proud of the result. Unfortunately, like a fool I submitted it for publication on Memorial Day, ensuring no one actually read it.
Some columns were offshoots from my managers book. In particular, I was pleased with the ones on franchise managerial hiring tendencies, 2007 Team splits, and—despite its flaw—the Grantham Seasons article. (For the latter two, the research done was originally for managerial purposes.)
Not only did I vent my Cub fan anguish at their October collapse, but it gained me an hour-long phone call with an author named George Castle, who is writing a book on the 2008 Cubs. Feedback is always appreciated from readerland, but that was especially cool.
It was nice to get the Gods/Dogs article out. I initially hoped it could be in the 2008 THT Annual, but the tables would make for needlessly hellacious formatting in a book. Heck, even though it's easier to get long tables to fit online, it was still quite a chore. I can't imagine what a nightmare it would be for the book. Still, I probably spent more time researching that than any single article for THT in 2008.
Finally, I had a blast with some Cooperstown articles. In particular, I finally got around to writing up some research first done in the late, great Rob Neyer Message Board in a column centered on Joe DiMaggio's Cooperstown candidacy. My favorite column was probably The Grand National Conversation, in which I thought I figured out something about both the voting process and why I'm so interested in it.
Lastly, my column predicting Cooperstown ballot results went so well that I intend to try it again next year. Check back next week for the 2009 edition.
OK, I lied, I only have nine points to make about THT. For my final thought, let me say Happy Holidays everyone! May everyone have a pleasant 2009, and I hope you keep coming back next year to The Hardball Times for more daily baseball insight.
References and Resources
Since I'll never have a chance to use this stuff again, I had article counts for the following THT contributors: Joe Dimino, Tom Meagher, and Vince Gennaro had 9. Cork Gaines, J. C. Bradbury, J. P. McIntyre, Lisa Gray, and Mitchel Lichtman had 8. Jim McLennan, Michael Humphreys, Mike Fast, and Ryan Richards had 7. Vinay Kumar had 6. Jacob Jackson had 5. Over forty others had articles listed as well.
In all, I counted 484 articles in 2004, 428 in 2005, 506 in 2006, 624 in 2007, and 607 in 2008. Judgement calls were needed on some specialty pieces like Daily Graphing or THT Dartboard. I went with what I felt like at 2 AM that night. Not the most scientific approach, but what the heck.
For this column, I updated that night's tallies through Christmas 2008.
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.
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