There was some bittersweet news around the saber-sphere yesterday: Pitch F/x living legend Mike Fast has been snatched up by the Houston Astros' front office, and as a result, he won't be writing for Baseball Prospectus anymore. A huge congratulations to Mike; his research is phenomenal and he deserves this gig. I'm just slightly disappointed that his future work will no longer be in the public domain, but so it goes -- that's the way things are trending in baseball.
It's funny how much things have changed in a mere 5-10 years. Back when Sternberg and Friedman first joined the Rays, there was a ton of unique sabermetric research happening in the public domain; since that time, though, the saber-sphere has both been strengthened and been weakened. Our understanding of the game has improved ten-fold, but the majority of the best researchers have been snatched up by teams. With Mike now gone, I think I can count on one hand all the people out there that I'd consider real "researchers" that are pushing the field forward with their work.
These days, I fully imagine that the best research and progress in baseball stats happens behind closed doors -- not in the public domain. There's simply not as much work done publicly to push forward our understanding of the game, which...well, it is what it is. I'm somewhat sad that the saber-sphere doesn't shock and educate me as often as it used to, but it's also worth remembering that our current understanding of the game is rather robust. I don't think we're going to see any new radical breakthroughs unless more data is publicly released -- Field F/x, Hit F/x, etc. And I don't necessarily see that happening.
So congrats again, Mike. Thanks for being an innovator and teaching me multiple things I didn't know about the game. The best of luck to you and the Astros.
- In other news, the Rays are still shopping their starters but haven't found a suitable offer yet. That's not exactly radical news, eh? But considering it's almost February, the Rays are taking things down to the wire here. Hopefully this doesn't end up as another Jason-Hammel-like situation.
- Yesterday, R.J. Anderson wrote about how Carlos Pena and Luke Scott provide an underappreciated bit of value: they are both very good at avoiding double plays.
- Yoenis Cespedes is officially a free agent? Maybe? With Prince Fielder off the market, I think he immediately becomes the top free agent remaining.
- If you're interested in baseball history the folks at Rays Colored Glasses have a fun post up about the history of baseball in Tampa Bay before the Rays. I did love those Smokers throwback jerseys...