Thursday, September 17, 2015

WTHB State of the Blog Address: One in a Million

If you were reading WTHB at around midnight last night, you may very well have been the blog's 1,000,000th page view. It's a milestone for the blog that, in all reality, is fairly meaningless. But people like round numbers, particularly nice big round numbers.

One million page views is probably a pittance for those who have dozens of writers and the support of SB Nation or Fansided, but for those of us independent sports bloggers like Astros County and What the Heck, Bobby?, it's kind of a big deal.

I wasn't able to write a "Blogiversary" post last month when WTHB turned four, but now that the Astros minor league season is rapidly winding to a close, this seems like as good a time as any to give you my State of the Blog Address. Pardon me while I meander.

The blog started with my desire to learn more about the Astros farm system as the on-field play in Houston was rapidly deteriorating. I thought, "Why not share my findings?" It's never been a sophisticated blog. I don't embrace advanced statistics much. That's not because I'm against them. It's simply because a lot of those metrics don't mean a whole lot in the lower levels of the minors where the competition is often incredibly uneven as the rawest of the raw high schoolers and international free agents face former collegians and the ages range from 17 to 21 and older. As the Astros PITCHf/x guru Mike Fast once told me, a pitcher's ability to miss bats is probably the best indicator of a rookie league pitcher's potential as any other metric.

I also found that I don't really have the patience to do detailed game recaps. My many thanks to Dustin (and Buca before him) for handling that thankless chore. Dustin has recapped approximately 860+ games this season and most of those have been full detailed game stories. Wrap your head around that! That is incredible, and I hope that Dustin will continue with his fine work next season.

But I honestly don't have the patience for the recaps because with a few exceptions, the day-to-day doesn't interest me. Yes, I get excited when Jon Singleton drives in 10 runs in one game or when Dean Deetz gets lifted from a game after pitching seven no-hit innings, but I am more interested in the big picture. I'm not likely to point out that a .189 hitter went 3-for-5 in a game. I'm more apt to tell you what a hitter or a pitcher has done over the last month or two. I like to look for trends in a player's development, not what they've done over one or two games.

And, as a part of the big picture, I love getting to know the players. Not just talking to them, but watching them. Watching how they "go about their business," a popular phrase from coaches and managers. I can learn almost as much about a player from watching them take early work, batting practice, pitcher's fielding practice and the like, and seeing how they interact with others, as I can from watching them in a game or talking to them. A player is so much more than stats. His work ethic, his ability to lead by word or example, his ability to keep a clubhouse loose are all important to building a good team. Is a player a "team player" or is he only focused on his own goals and desires? How does that player handle adversity and success? Character is important. It won't replace talent, but it certainly can supplement that talent and take a player just that much further. It's all a part of that bigger picture.

Which brings me to a thought that I had when I was visiting California in May. I hit up Fresno and Lancaster while I was there, but first I went to Yosemite to commune with nature. As is always the case, I took a lot of pictures. But I don't just take pictures of gorgeous vistas. I take pictures of things other people might consider odd. Two of my favorite pictures were these:



It struck me that both trees were beautiful, the giant Sequoia and the small gnarled and twisted specimen arising from the rocks. Carlos Correa is the Sequoia, a majestic awe-inspiring specimen, a thing of beauty. But most ballplayers are more like the latter photo. Their path is rarely straight. Just making it up through the various obstacles and detours thrown at them is nothing short of miraculous. And those are the players I like to follow and write about.

Sure, I'll write about Carlos Correa and players like him whose path is straight and true and majestic. But I'm more interested in the 40th round 25-year old draft pick who made it back to baseball after a detour in life or the atypical corner infielder who has mashed his way to AAA in 3 seasons after falling to the 33rd round in 2013 or another corner outfielder who has largely flown under the radar (despite being one of the most consistent hitters in the system since he was drafted) and has never appeared on a top prospect list but just made his major league debut.

My own path has been littered with obstacles the last year and a half. A contract to sell my company should be signed in the next week or two with a potential closing after the first of the year. Maybe it will happen. Maybe it won't. Maybe I'll have a job when the next minor league season rolls around in April. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll be able to continue travelling to minor league games. Maybe I won't. And with the big league club doing so well, I expect a decline in readership as interest in the farm system wanes. But I intend to continue persevering. I don't know what the blog will look like a year from now; it will likely continue to evolve and adapt just as those players have whose lives I find interesting, just as my own life may over the next few months and years. In any event, I will keep writing about the things that interest me and I hope that my readers will continue with me on the ride, wherever it takes us.

Thank you for reading and thank you for indulging me.

10 comments:

  1. That's an awesome milestone. You've done some incredible work!

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    1. Thank you! It was kinda fun watching for it to hit 1,000,000!

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  2. For every Carlos Correa, there will be 10 Preston Tuckers....and we have learned SOOO much about our guys in the minors from YOU!! You have introduced us to some FABULOUS players....some we still have, and sadly some that were traded away. I check your blog nearly everyday, and you never disappoint!! So happy one million readers, to US!!
    So thank you for everything you do!! Becky

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    1. Thank you Becky! That's very sweet of you to say. Thanks for becoming a regular!

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    2. I can't wait until next year, Corpus Christi Hooks is where out future lies, and my mouth is watering to see those guys make the jump to the big club!! The pipeline to the big club is
      AWESOME!!

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  3. Your writing is wonderful! I'd never be able to follow our former Valley Cat players without you. Keep up the good work - go for another million! Fingers crossed for your job.

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  4. Legit every day, in all your chosen media. Solid work and you know we appreciate your efforts! Thank You, 1 million+ times!

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    1. LA, you rock! People like you keep me writing.

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