I am interested in the work habits of people that work in sports journalism. I want to know their process. If you are a sports journalist and ever agree to have lunch with me, I will probably bother you with questions in that vein.
So I figure I ought to share my process for writing about baseball, or at least the tools I use to make my incoherent points.
- Baseball-Reference — The gold standard for career baseball statistics. The site is incredibly deep yet still loads quickly. The ability to click to total statistics from multiple games and seasons is a Godsend. And the Play Index is a joy, from simply messing around to incisive database searching. I love it all. So do you.
- FanGraphs — The silver standard. I use it largely for WAR and wRC+, two great metrics, plus the projections they provide. FanGraphs is sneaky deep and almost comparable to Baseball-Reference if you know how to use it correctly. And if I asked you which player has the highest walk rate over the last 8 seasons, would you believe Jack Cust?
- Baseball Prospectus — BP offers one of the subscriptions that is absolutely worth it for baseball writers. You quickly figure out why so many BP writers end up being hired by Major League teams — you will be instantly impressed the research and presentation of data within the articles. My favorite feature: the injury history on player cards, available even to non-subscribers.
- MLB Depth Charts — Jason Martinez provides a top-notch source of rosters, transactions and depth charts for all 30 teams. It is certainly useful for fantasy owners, and indispensable for quickly seeing the lineups and rotations of unfamiliar teams.
- Brooks Baseball — If you want to know a pitcher, you have to see what he throws. Short of actually watching the pitcher, the best thing you can do is look at his Brooks Baseball page. You will see his pitch types, velocity, pitch outcomes and so much more. It’s amazing this is all out there for free. Thank you, Dan Brooks.
- Flickr Creative Commons — If you run a non-profit site, Creative Commons photos are indispensable for giving the site some visual pop. It’s amazing how many kind people (looking at you, Keith Allison) take great sports photos and allow them to be used for free. Or, in my case, mediocre photos.
- Google Chrome — My browser of choice makes it even easier to do searches on players and teams. Chrome allows you to start typing in a website, hit Tab, then search on that website. [Update: As Shotgun Spratling pointed out, adding this is not automatic. Go to Chrome’s Settings and “Manage search engines…” Scroll to the bottom and add Baseball-Reference.com, plus other sites like weather.com, fangraphs.com, espn.com, etc.]I don’t need to go to the Baseball-Reference main site to pull up Adam Wainwright’s page. Just hit Command-T-B-A-Tab-W-A-I-N-W-R-I-G-H-T-Enter. Once you get in the habit, you’ll never go back.
- Microsoft Excel or Google Docs Spreadsheet — If you’re not paying for Microsoft Office, Google Docs allows you to do most of the formulas Excel is known for. Professional statisticians may need more than Docs, but it’s perfect for me to make a list or tabulate an OPS.
- Magic Recs — If you use Twitter, you should follow Magic Recs. The account direct messages you when it notices multiple people you follow talking about a certain topic or retweeting a certain tweet. It’s not perfect, but Magic Recs has a high hit rate for notifying me about important Pirates and MLB news, or just a cool nugget I should know about.
- Buffer — Once you write something great, it deserves to be shared! Buffer allows you to schedule sharing of your content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. If you don’t want to set a specific time, just throw the link into Buffer, and the site will put in a time to send it to the world. Easy and free — my two favorite words.