Baseball Prospectus - History of Baseball Prospectus

History of Baseball Prospectus

Baseball Prospectus (sometimes referred to as BP) was founded in 1996 by Gary Huckabay, who recruited the initial contributor group of Clay Davenport, Rany Jazayerli, Christina Kahrl, and Joe Sheehan, with the publication of the first annual set of forecasts. "That first year, BP charged $20 for a statistics guide produced on a photocopier. It printed around 300 copies and sold about 170 to fellow statheads, even though the book was missing the St. Louis Cardinals. 'It was terrible,' recalls Kahrl, 'but it nevertheless didn’t discourage us.' Within a few years Brassey’s Inc. published the guide, which grew to about 3,000 copies. By 2007 it reached the New York Times bestseller list, topping 70,000 copies at $21.95 a pop."

The kind of sabermetric approach favored by Baseball Prospectus has gained significant acceptance by the management of many Major League Baseball clubs, notably the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. BP has often been considered the modern successor to Bill James' Baseball Abstract series of books in the 1980s.

Reflecting its legacy as a group of sabermetricians who met over the Internet, BP has no "main office." Working for BP is a second or part-time job for many of the regular staff, who conduct their work for BP in their own home offices.

The website BaseballProspectus.com began in 1997 primarily as a way to present original sabermetric research; publish advanced baseball statistics such as EqA, the Davenport Translations (DT’s), and VORP; and promote sales of the annual book. Beginning in 2003, the site placed most of its new articles, its PECOTA forecasts, and some of its statistical databases in a “premium” section that could be accessed only by subscription. However, in May 2011, BP "announced it has made its entire archive of premium and fantasy content over one year old completely and permanently free to the public".

Until 2007, when the site began to post general advertising, the premium subscriptions and book sales were Baseball Prospectus' main source of revenues. Baseball Prospectus does not publish a financial report or information about its subscriber base, but it appears to have used its income to expand its breadth of coverage, and it has not increased its subscription prices since initiating its premium service. It also offers a subscription to those interested in fantasy baseball, at a lower price than the premium subscriptions and giving access to fewer features and articles.

BaseballProspectus.com has a corps of staff writers who publish articles on a regular (typically weekly) basis under a featured heading. In addition, occasional articles are published by other BP staff or freelance authors. Some former regular writers no longer appear on the site but are employed on the staffs of major league baseball organizations, including as of 2012 Keith Woolner (Cleveland Indians), James Click (Tampa Bay Rays), Dan Fox (Pittsburgh Pirates), Mike Fast (Houston Astros), and Kevin Goldstein (Houston Astros). In addition, Keith Law, now an ESPN columnist, in 2002 moved from Baseball Prospectus to work on player evaluation in the front office of the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2009, Nate Silver turned his full attention to his FiveThirtyEight political analysis website; he resigned his executive post at BP and handed over management of PECOTA to other BP staff.

Given the competing career opportunities for some of BP's best-known and most statistics-savvy analysts, maintaining a fresh supply of sabermetrically sophisticated writers remains a challenge. During the 2009 baseball season, BP ran a multi-week open talent search competition in the spirit of the popular television program American Idol, in which aspiring writers submitted articles for evaluation by BP's staff members, with one contestant a week from among the final ten selected by the staff then voted off by the subscribers. At least three new regular BP writers (winner Ken Funck, Tim Kniker, and Matt Swartz) were discovered through this Prospectus Idol contest. In addition, BP had added Eric Seidman to its staff early in 2009 and then acquired Russell Carleton ("Pizza Cutter") and Colin Wyers in December 2009 to bolster its coverage of technical sabermetric issues. As late as the Fall of 2008, Seidman, Swartz, Carleton, Wyers, Daniel Novick and BP Idol finalist Brian Cartwright made up the entire staff of "Statistically Speaking" aka StatSpeak at MVN.com. Carleton left the BP staff in May 2010. Seidman and Swartz left in February 2011.

Although the site maintains a strong sabermetric core and has expanded its statistical databases, it regularly attends to issues such as baseball prospects (the First Year Player Draft and minor league baseball), international baseball, the economics and business of baseball (valuation of players, team and stadium finances, the player marketplace), and fantasy baseball (PECOTA, the "Fantasy Focus" series of articles, forecast manager and other fantasy tools). BP HAS also published monographs on specialized topics, including the application of sabermetric analysis to historical topics – an emphasis clearly seen in Mind Game (2005 – a history of the Boston Red Sox), Baseball Between the Numbers (2006 – which addresses some historical comparisons), and It Ain’t Over 'til It’s Over (2007 – about historical pennant races).

By the beginning of the 2011 baseball season, none of BP's founders was an active contributor to the website or publications, though some of their earlier articles were included in two Best of Baseball Prospectus compendia that were published in 2011.

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