Technical Difficulties

Last night around 4 AM ET, Crashburn Alley, along with several other websites hosted by InMotion Hosting, was hacked. It looked something similar to what is shown in this video:

The blog has been restored and everything should be good to go now, but you may have contracted a virus if you tried to access the blog while it was compromised. One of my followers on Twitter says his virus scanner caught four copies of “downloader”, so run a scan on your computer to make sure you haven’t been compromised as well.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Additionally, thank you to InMotion Hosting for their immediate response to this issue and pain-free resolution.

We’re Back

Apologies for the long downtime. There was an unexpected snag as the blog was being transferred to a new server. Everything should be fine now, but if you notice any issues (or have any suggestions), please let me know by leaving a comment here or by sending an email to crashburnalley [at] gmail [dot] com.

In other news, Crashburn Alley is adding another writer. Please welcome Ryan Sommers (@Phylan, Chasing Utley) to the team. Along with Paul, Jeff, and myself, the content here should be better than ever. Look for Sommers to make his Crashburn debut soon.

As we move into the final 48 games of the regular season and on into the post-season, Crashburn Alley will be your #1 spot for statistical analysis of the Phillies. And occasional .gifs.

Tuesday Links and Miscellany

No time to throw up a post today, so I’m going to post a couple of miscellaneous items and then some links to good stuff around the blogosphere.

Tune into Phillies 24/7 HD radio today at 2 PM ET or tomorrow at 3 PM ET for the latest edition of “Stathead” with myself and my co-host Jeff Sottolano. We’ll talk about the last week in Phillies baseball.

I’m legitimately awful at Facebook, so for the longest time, I was using an account for the blog as if it were an actual person. As such, people needed confirmation in order to see the blog information. I finally made the switch to a fan page. If you are so inclined, click here and mash the “Like” button. Pretend it says “dislike” if necessary.

You can also follow me on Twitter @CrashburnAlley. I’m usually there during Phillies games, so join the conversation if you’d like some company while the Phillies kick some National League tail.

I mentioned when I asked readers to fill out a survey that I am interested in doing live chats. The survey results revealed that the best time for a chat is during an actual game, and that the chats occur between once a series and once a week. I’ll aim for once a week for now. Once I get a laptop and wireless Internet situated, look for the live chats. Hopefully before the month is out.

Links

Brotherly Glove: Corey Seidman praises Charlie Manuel and counts down the days until the Marlins designate Javier Vazquez for assignment. [Link]

Philled In: David Hale has a video of Joe Blanton talking about his start after last night’s game. [Link]

Phillies Zone: Matt Gelb explains why Manuel left Vance Worley in to pitch the eighth inning. [Link]

High Cheese: David Murphy has notes on all of the injured Phillies, including Roy Oswalt. [Link]

The Fightins: Holy hell. You have to read this. Just another example why it’s The Fightins’ world and we’re just blogging in it. [Link]

Phillies Nation: Remember Phillippe Aumont? He doesn’t suck anymore. Jay Floyd interviews him about his newfound success and more. [Link]

Baseball Prospectus: Jason Parks posted the first two parts of a four-part series on scouting. [Link 1, Link 2]

ESPN SweetSpot: David Schoenfield discusses the increased value of bullpens in baseball now that run-scoring has deflated. [Link]

Capitol Avenue: Kevin Orris goes in-depth on Jair Jurrjens’ new approach to pitching, sans injury. [Link]

Mets Today: Roland Agni wonders if Kevin Millwood is a good fit for the Mets. *snicker* [Link]

River Ave Blues: Hannah Ehrlich has the dos and don’ts of ballpark attire. [Link]

The Book Blog: A Crashburn Alley reader picked Tango’s mind about wOBA. [Link]

Baseball Musings: David Pinto wonders if the current decline in BABIP is a fluke or trend. [Link]

The Hardball Times: Harry Pavlidis provides the latest benchmarks for pitch types (Pitch F/X). [Link]

Amazin’ Avenue: Which Phillie is the least favorite among Mets fans? [Link]

Hardball Talk: Craig Calcaterra points out the silliness in curbing baseball players’ pre-game fraternization. [Link]

Finally, to steal a gimmick from Aaron Gleeman’s Link-O-Rama, here’s a music YouTube.

Requested: Your Feedback

I am interested in receiving from feedback from you, my lovely readers, regarding this blog and some new ideas. I created a brief survey for you to take when you have a couple minutes to spare. Click here to take it.

A while ago, I used to participate in ESPN live chats during Phillies games. I found them fun and a great way to interact with Phillies fans and readers of the blog. Unfortunately, I had to stop participating because I consolidated my electronics — I bought a TV that doubled as my computer monitor. So I can’t watch TV and use the computer at the same time without it being an inconvenience. However, I am probably going to purchase a cheap laptop some time in the near future, and I’m thinking about doing live chats here on the blog. Part of the survey gauges your interest and preferences with such an endeavor. Please be honest!

If you have any additional questions or comments related to improving the blog, feel free to drop a note below or send it to my e-mail, CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com. Constructive criticism is encouraged.

Today: Draftstreet.com $150 Free Fantasy Baseball Challenge

If you missed it Wednesday, you still have time to sign up for Draftstreet.com‘s $150 fantasy baseball freeroll, exclusive to Crashburn Alley readers. The top five places will earn cash. All you have to do is set up a fantasy baseball roster for tonight’s games. Setting up your team isn’t as easy as it sounds, as you’ll have to balance your roster within a $100,000 budget. Grabbing Halladay at $16,000 means you may have to sacrifice quality elsewhere on your roster.

Have fun with it, and feel free to share your results here in the comments.

CLICK HERE TO PLAY

Draftstreet.com $150 Free Fantasy Baseball Challenge

DraftStreet.com

Fantasy Baseball Freeroll

CLICK HERE TO PLAY

Baseball season has arrived and it’s time for fantasy baseball. But not the full-season, six-month kind. I’m talking about a one-night showdown. Crashburn Alley has teamed up with DraftStreet.com to offer an exclusive free contest to you, the loyal Crashburn Alley readers. The freeroll will have $150 in cash prizes, the top 5 get paid, and it is totally free to sign up. How can you not get in on this?

Here’s how you play: Fill out your roster (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, 2 U, 2 SP, RP, P) while staying within the budget of $100k. Player salaries are set by DraftStreet based on fantasy production. So, if you want to put Roy Halladay on the mound, it might cost you $16k, which means you’ll have to find some bargains to fill out the rest of your squad.

Sign up now for free. Build a team. You can adjust your roster up until the games start. Then check out the scoreboard when the games start and watch your team win you cash. You can even show off your team when you start racking up the points.

Daily

Hitting

Pitching

1B 1 pt IBB -.25 pts
2B 2 pts HA -.25 pts
3B 3 pts HB -.25 pts
BB .8 pts ER -.75 pts
HR 4 pts INN .75 pts
HP .8 pts K .75 pts
R 1.5 pts L -.75 pts
RBI 1.5 pts S 3 pts
SB 2 pts W 1.5 pts
KO -1 pt CG 1 pt
GDP -1 pt
CS -1 pt
SAC .8 pts

League Start Date: Friday April 15th, 7:00 pm. First games are Orioles/Indians, Marlins/Phillies, Brewers/Nationals, and Rangers/Yankees.

League Duration: One day only.

Current Prize Pool: $150, top 5 get paid

Rosters: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, 2 U, 2 SP, RP, P

CLICK HERE TO PLAY

Crashburn Alley Fantasy Baseball

March is a time for college basketball and bracket obsession for many people. For obsessed baseball fans, it’s fantasy baseball season. As such, I’m getting ready to reboot the Crashburn Alley fantasy baseball league, and there are open slots available.

As much as I’d like to have a league where every one of you can play, there are only so many spots available, and past participants will have preference before anybody else. However, I would like to open up the opportunity for frequent commenters to grab a seat. The remaining seats will be filled as I see fit, giving them to people that contribute frequently and positively to the discourse here. The selection process is not going to be objective by any means. Please don’t take it personally if you are not awarded a spot.

(By the way, if you participated in last year’s league and have not yet replied to my e-mail, please take this opportunity to do so before your seat is filled!)

Leave your e-mail, which isn’t made public, in the labeled box below. I will be using that e-mail to send information about the league. Please don’t sign up if you cannot attend an online draft on March 28 at 6 PM EST, and keep up with a team throughout the year. I do retain the power to transfer ownership of your team if I feel you have been inactive for too long.

While the league will certainly be competitive, the ultimate goal is to have fun. Please keep that in mind!

The settings:

TL;DR version: Traditional 5×5 roto, 14 players, both leagues, serpentine (“snake”) draft, draft pick trades are allowed. No buy-in.


The Bad and the Ugly on Bleacher Report

*Warning: This post has nothing to do with baseball or the Phillies. You may have ascertained that by the title, but it’s worth mentioning before a 1,400-word essay.*

If you’re one of my followers on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me make and re-tweet snarky comments about Bleacher Report. For the uninitiated, Bleacher Report “provides news and fans’ opinions of sporting events”, per Wikipedia. Essentially, if you have a pulse, know what sports are, and have a computer with an Internet connection, you are qualified to write for Bleacher Report — just as you are with typical blogs.

Regular bloggers and mainstream media types, often in opposition to each other on many other subjects, seem to agree that BR is a travesty and an eyesore. One need only peruse the home page to get a feel for the quality of content provided at BR. Some examples as of this writing:

  • Full Scream Ahead: 10 Teams With the Most Momentum Heading Into 2011
  • Dwight Howard Trade Rumors: 10 Moves Orlando Magic Can Make To Keep Him Happy
  • Penguins Show the NHL Who has the Biggest Johnson

For more examples, check out Dustin Parkes’ list of the “Top Eight Worst Bleacher Report Baseball Posts Of All Time Ever In The World”.

Just a cursory glance at BR provides a window into the authors’ thought processes:

  1. Think of a player, team, or issue that is interesting or in the news (Dwight Howard)
  2. Think of a way to talk about it in list-form (Trade rumors)
  3. Think of things to put in a list (Trade proposals, realistic or not… mostly not)

(And the irony of the above list hits… now.)

BR’s style encourages thoughtless list-making. Anybody can make a list. Anybody can Google “Dwight Howard trade rumors” and find a picture of him on Google Images. One need possess no writing skills and no analytical skills to publish a post at BR. Most people do not have elite writing and analytical skills, so BR is a perfect venue for them to see their name in a byline, unchallenged. That makes BR a content factory.

This is why most bloggers and mainstream writers dislike BR. For the mainstream guys and gals, they (and I speak entirely in generalities here) had to go into debt to earn a college degree in journalism and worked long hours covering high school field hockey for a small-town newspaper before landing their professional baseball/football/hockey/etc. gig. They constantly have to answer to editors and superiors when their work is subpar, and must adhere to strict journalistic standards.

The blogosphere is a meritocracy, as Will Leitch famously said on Costas Now on HBO. For the most part, bloggers with poor writing and/or analytical skills do not succeed because people will end up going to the blogs with better writing and/or analytical skills. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part this holds true. Most bloggers pay money out of their own pockets to purchase a domain name and to acquire server hosting (or otherwise join on with an already-existing blog), spend many hours per week writing and editing multiple posts, and following up with commenters because their writing is a passion.

Bloggers have to earn their keep. Phillies Nation didn’t become the best Phillies blog on the planet (R.I.P. The Fightins) by making top-ten lists of arbitrary names and details. They certainly didn’t start out with over 125,000 Facebook followers. At the start, they were a passionate group of Phillies fans who had to prove themselves to the community, just like everybody else.

What BR provides is a platform of equal significance to the best and worst of the community. Better writing and analysis is not rewarded in the slightest, which means the bad writing and analysis is subsequently rewarded.

Thumb through the biographies for BR authors. On most of them, you will find self-admitted “aspiring writers” looking to break into the sports writing business. They are on BR for fame and notoriety; they are not there out of genuine love of sports and writing about them. In other words, they are leeches feeding on BR’s ability to put them in the spotlight, deserved or not. Are these the people you want to shine a light on and say, “Yeah, this is what we’re all about”?

Furthermore, a requisite of list-making is having a pre-developed idea. This list is titled “10 Current Players Freddie Freeman Could Develop Into” and authored by Will Brown, who is “going to school in hopes of being a sports journalist in the future”.

Why ten players? Why not nine or eleven? Obvious questions, but being beholden to round numbers is the bane of solid analysis. What if there are only seven legitimate players to compare to Freeman? The additional three are thrown on arbitrarily to suit the list format.

What is the criteria for comparison? Flipping through the slideshow yields no answers. The one thing in common is that they mostly play corner infield spots and are well-known players. Most likely, the author went to a leaderboard for MLB players, sorted it by 1B and then 3B, and picked out a few recognizable players haphazardly.

A good analyst would have a defined system for comparison. So if the results yielded James Loney and Daric Barton rather than Michael Young and Ryan Zimmerman, the author’s conclusion isn’t affected since it wasn’t made beforehand, despite that those players aren’t as interesting or noteworthy. Even better, perhaps he learns that his hypothesis is wrong and goes back to the drawing board, rather than publishing a flawed theory.

BR recently hired King Kaufman, a former writer and editor for Salon.com. In his first post from his new home, he talked about BR’s reputation, admitting some of BR’s faults, and change. “My main job here is to try to help improve the overall quality of the writing,” he wrote. Many have poked fun at him for trying to put lipstick on a pig.

I’ve had no contact with Kaufman other than participating in a Scoresheet league with him last year (and I stopped paying attention to my team in May), and he certainly didn’t ask for my thoughts on his project. From what I’ve read of his work, he seems like a smart guy and a great writer — a perfect candidate to tackle an enormous project like this. But if I had to offer some unsolicited suggestions to him, they would be:

  • Lose the slideshow/list format. Entirely. Prove that your community is not comprised of page-view scavengers. Some of them — more than I gave credit to, probably — are in it for “the love of the game”.
  • Do not judge the writing based on page views and comments. They are not great indicators of quality. Remove the page view counters on each article.
  • Hold writers to a standard. Maybe you lose page views from the lack of “WAG” posts featuring pictures of scantily-clad women, but you bring your website up several notches in credibility. And, you know, you lose that whole misogynistic, objectifying women thing. I’m not a businessman, so maybe this idea is foolhardy.
  • Feature writing, not pictures. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with losing the slideshows, but compare BR’s main page to that of Baseball Prospectus. On BR, I am being enticed to read articles for the subject; on BP, I am being enticed to read articles for the content. A subtle distinction, yes, but it does make a difference — especially for a website that wants to foster a community.
  • Reward better writing with better real estate. Have real BR moderators (community-based or hired) read posts and reward the better ones with “featured” status and being listed on the front page. It’s basically the system they have in place now, but with some legitimacy behind it.

Bleacher Report can continue being nothing but a content factory. They can continue to call upon average Joes to be, as Dustin Parkes called them, “boner providers” — luring men to click on more pages and more ads with the allure of scantily-clad women and top-ten lists. If, however, King Kaufman wants Bleacher Report to have any future credibility as a first stop on the Internet highway for quality sports content, then he needs to clean slate and take away the incentives for his content providers to be lazy and incompetent. Or, more accurately, the disincentives for them to be hard-working and competent.

CSI One-Liners, Baseball Style

Things have been slow with the blog, but hopefully the pace picks up soon. Fantasy baseball columns have returned to Baseball Prospectus — you can look for my analysis of starting pitchers tomorrow and every Friday. And soon enough, you can read my articles about Roy Halladay and Ryan Madson in the Maple Street Press Phillies Annual 2011. As for the blog, there will be a guest post tomorrow, courtesy Justin Klugh of That Ball’s Outta Here.

In the meantime, I wanted to post something light-hearted. On Twitter, I entertained myself and a few others on Twitter with a mockery of the CSI one-liner meme. In case you’re not familiar, on CSI: Miami, the character Horatio (played by David Caruso) will learn of a situation, put his sunglasses on, and make a corny one-liner. For plenty of examples, watch this video:

The meat of the meme comes from the four-pane comics,  providing endless hilarity. I coined up a few in Photoshop. Feel free to come up with your own in the comments. If you’d like to make your own comics, use this template.








Viva la Internet.

Programming Note

Just a quick note regarding new posts here at Crashburn Alley: they will likely come out less frequently for the next couple weeks. Thanksgiving is coming up, of course, but I am also working on a couple other writing projects in the meantime. I will be authoring a couple articles for the Maple Street Press Phillies annual, which will be sold in most local supermarkets and drug stores. My weekly fantasy baseball articles will also return to Baseball Prospectus around the first week of December if all goes according to schedule.

To help fill in some space here on the blog, I’ll be accepting guest articles. If you’d like to have one of your articles published here, send them to CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com. It’s a good way to get some free publicity for your blog, or just to see your name somewhere on the Internets. Be sure to include any pertinent details you’d like included with your post, i.e. your name, your blog name and URL, and anything else you deem relevant. The articles don’t have to be Sabermetrically-oriented, but should be original work and relevant to Phillies fans. Try your best to make sure your article is cleaned up for spelling and grammar, but I’ll do some editing prior to publishing if necessary.

I’d also like to experiment with a “mailbag” feature. Send, to the same e-mail address listed above with “mailbag” somewhere in the subject line, any questions you have regarding the Phillies and I’ll post my best attempts at answering those questions every week. If it goes well, I’d like to incorporate it going into the 2011 regular season.

As we enter the doldrums of baseball’s off-season, sit tight and wait for the free agents to start signing and for GM’s to start making trades. Soon enough, we’ll have spring training baseball on our hands.