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Friday, July 11, 2014

Ben Lindbergh leaves Baseball Prospectus

Ben Lindbergh announced today that he is stepping down as Editor-in-Chief at Baseball Prospectus, passing the reigns to his fellow Effectively Wild podcast host, Sam Miller.

Since I failed so miserably at doing so on twitter, I wanted to take a moment to just recognize what Ben did for Baseball Prospectus during his tenure there as editor.  Baseball Prospectus was hugely important to sabermetrics as it got off the ground in the late-90's and early-2000's, but my perception is that by the mid-to-late oughts it had begun to fall behind.  Some of the old guard authors seemed overly antagonistic, archaic, and even elitist (to me, anyway)as they continued to cling to metrics they'd created and relied upon a decade before.  Outside of a few, important authors there, like Dan Fox (now with the Pirates), they seemed slow to acknowledge the work of talented new authors at the Hardball Times and FanGraphs.

That seemed to change over the last five years or so.  I could have sworn that I wrote about it at the time, but I can't find it.  In any case, they've now made a habit of grabbing some of the top minds and writers in the blogosphere, including many who have already moved on to work for teams.  The list is getting really long, but includes names (in no particular order) like Mike Fast, Colin Wyers, Russell Carleton, Harry Pavlidis, Dan Brooks, Jason Parks, and Max Marchi.  Once a place of stasis, BPro is now a leading source for pitchf/x data (thanks to their affiliation with Brooks Baseball), salary information (affiliation with Cot's Contracts), roster information (affiliation with mlbdepthcharts), and catcher framing information.  Not all of that happened under Lindbergh's tenure, but I think a lot of it did.  He has been quick to embrace The New, and to make sure that Baseball Prospectus is positioned as a leading source of innovation and insight in baseball.

On top of all that, I think the thing that might be most important about Ben is his humility.  He's a smart guy, and has accomplished a lot despite being quite a bit younger than I am (and I still consider myself young...ish, anyway).  He has a critical mind, and has done neat work in catcher framing.  But whereas past generations might have come off as haughty, Ben always came off as a guy without much of an ego.  He was respectful to those he disagreed with (at least in public!), and always seemed more helpful and inquisitive than abrasive.  
I've listened to Ben and his replacement, Sam Miller, for well over a year on their superb podcast, Effectively Wild.  I'm relieved that the two of them will continue to podcast there, as they are a mandatory, daily listen.  Sam is a great guy, and shares many of Ben's qualities.  I hope that Baseball Prospectus continues on this path of innovation, research, and humility.

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