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My Philosophy

I am sure you all came here to read insightful baseball analysis, not my views on life, the universe, and everything. After all, good analysis has been what this site has provided since long before I started writing here. I will do my best to keep this message short.

First, I owe a debt of gratitude to those writers and managers who have preceded me: Marc Normandin, RJ Anderson, and especially Sky Kalkman, who had the questionable judgment to bring me on board in the first place. Sky, you will be missed.

Second, though, I'd like to pull back the curtain and let you see how the sausage is made. That is to say, I'd like to offer my philosophy of what makes for good analysis. This should provide some understanding of what I intend for Beyond the Box Score.

I proceed from a few fundamental maxims. Here's a brief list.

Answers are good; questions are better.

A great many very smart people have thought about baseball analysis. That means we have plenty of answers. Most all of the low-hanging fruit, and much of the higher-hanging variety as well, has been picked clean. As we drill deeper, the answers become more situation specific and less generally applicable. 

Indeed, much of the received wisdom of sabermetrics has been complicated by exceptions and qualifications. Take, for example, the remonstrations never to attempt a bunt, which were thoroughly refuted by Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin in The Book. Or, if you prefer, the early dogmatism of Voros McCracken's DIPS, which held that pitchers have absolutely no control over balls in play.

Neither of these categorical statements appear to be universally applicable any more. So I proceed from the the original presumption that a good question will take you much farther in more different situations, than a good answer.

So if you're looking for answers, you may find yourself disappointed. But if you'd like to help ask questions and work towards understanding based on those questions, then I think Beyond the Box Score is the place for you.

Show, don't tell.

This is one of the threads that has made BtB consistently great. Where data is best illustrated visually, show it visually. When you illustrate data in a chart, a table, or a graph, make sure the form of the visualization matches best with the form of the data.

We've got some crack visualizers, most notably Justin Bopp, leading the way in this regard.

Be counter-cyclical.

This is perhaps another way of saying that contrarianism can be a virtue, but I think the important point here is that there is a lot to be gained from zigging when others zag. It holds equally true for front offices (Wilson Betemit for Nick Swisher, anyone?) as it does for writing and analysis.

There is a limit to the value of constantly being contrary for the sake of gadflyism, but it's rarely reached and too often left lonely. 

You don't get partial credit if you don't show your work.

Big shout out to Mrs. Rolls, my seventh grade Geometry teacher, for drilling this one into my head. I said above I don't have all the answers, so the least we can do is provide the reasoning that led to the answers. You readers are part of what makes this community so compelling, and I know that as long as we explain clearly what we are doing, you will collaborate and participate in the process.

Oh, and fair warning: sometimes, I might just be wrong on purpose.

Having said all that, I hope I've given you an indication of my philosophy. Now let's boogie down.