Sunday, July 13, 2008

Going Deeper with the Columbus Dispatch

A week ago, I slammed the baseball coverage of my local paper -- The Columbus Dispatch -- as ranging from "intolerable to execrable." That was unfair because I forgot about Scott Priestle. Priestle, whose work I've commended in this space before, gets it. To show you just how much he gets it, I point you to his feature story this morning about how the stathead revolution has made its way to front offices and how it's changing the game:
Eric Wedge and Keith Woolner joined the Indians by way of Boston and an expansion team or two. Wedge was a catcher for the Red Sox and Colorado Rockies, then a minor-league manager for five seasons, his beliefs about baseball shaped amid the sweat and spit of a dugout. Woolner has two degrees from MIT, a master's from Stanford and nearly two decades working for start-up software companies, his beliefs about baseball shaped by years of research and statistical analysis.

For the past year, they have shared an employer and a goal: build the Indians into a World Series contender. Each has the ear of general manager Mark Shapiro.

Welcome to major league baseball in the 21st century. Statistical analysis is no longer a curiosity or a source of conflict within the game, but a growing pool that numerous teams are tapping.

In addition to Woolner, there are shoutouts and interviews with other former Baseball Prospectus authors James Click, Dan Fox, and the still-typing Joe Sheehan. Overall the article provides a nice overview of applied sabermetrics and the teams which are applying it.

Basic? Not for most of Priestle's audience. It's easy to forget when you get most of your sports coverage online, but the parchment reading masses are still not all too plugged in when it comes to sabermetrics, and this is especially true in a town where college football passion dwarfs baseball passion. Overall a great article by Priestle, and one I know many in this burg are happy to see.

Oh, and there's a sidebar story by someone you may know.

10 comments:

studes said...

Ooh. A picture too!

tadthebad said...

Well written sidebar, especially in consideration of the average Sunday newspaper audience. It appears you are getting closer, my friend.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Dave -- it took a team of no less than 17 lighting and makeup technicians to make me look anything less than hideous, and then they said "screw it," and turned off all of the lights to hide my flaws in the dark. Probably a good choice.

Tad -- thanks, dude. If things go right, someday you'll be paying for all of this content!

Kidding of course.

Chris H. said...

I love the lighting on your picture, Craig. The only reasonable feeling that one can have after viewing that picture is that you won't be satisfied until you are "Emperor Shyster," crushing all dissidents underneath your heel.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Now witness the power of this ARMED and FULLY OPERATIONAL baseball blog . . .

Actually, the lighting was weird. The guy hid a little remote flash behind the laptop, which fired when he clicked, thereby giving off the phony glow from the screen. It was cloudy that day too, and he looked out my window and said "aw, man . . .this is gonna be AWESOME!" I said "really?" He said, "yeah, the sun sucks. Don't let nobody tell you otherwise."

OK, then . . .

Sara K said...

LMAO @ EmperorBall comments...

Anyway, I'm always on my ENGL 101 kids about audience. It isn't enough that you know what you want to say, it has to be put in a way that will make sense to the readers. This is what is so awesome about that sidebar. You did a great job giving a skeptical public examples they could latch onto and offering them assurances that understanding stats won't fundamentally change them as human beings. A great bit of audience awareness! If the average college freshman were more baseball-savvy, I'd use this as an example in my course.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Sara -- you should've seen my writing as a college freshman. There wasn't enough red ink in the world. Even after tons of writing classes as an undergrad, it was still only average at best.

Law school and, more specifically, the practice of law, was actually the best thing that ever happened to my writing. You generally have a strict page limit in which to try to communicate complicated concepts to an audience with way more things to read than just your brief. In such cases, the need for example and analogy is tremendous. Not all lawyers do this well, but the ones who do tend to do better than the ones who don't.

I guess I wouldn't recommend sending freshman to law school (dear God, don't go to law school!) but I often think that they'd be better off in a, I dunno, harsher environment in which people really put the screws to their work in such a way as to encourage simplicity and clarity.

At least I would have been better off had that happened.

Jason said...

"Gooing"???

Craig Calcaterra said...

I have no idea how I didn't notice that before now.

Man.

JRJ said...

I'm not a fan of the Dispatch sports section either, but this article also caught my eye. Very good. Thanks for posting.