Tuesday, February 27, 2007

There's Still Hope

Baseball Musings: Mixed Media Message

David Pinto points us towards a report that the MLB_DirecTV deal may not be exclusive after all. I hope that ends up being the case - and I hope Time Warner Cable doesn't screw me on this one the way they have with the NFL Network.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Baseball Crank Updates EWSL

I've long admired the work Baseball Crank has done on EWSL - Established Win Shares Level. I think it's a great way to take a look at the upcoming year using Win Shares. The basic idea is to look at a players Win Shares from the past three years to determine their Established Level, and then project their performance for the next year based on their age.

He's been looking back at the last few years of data and working to update the model. Here's his three part series:

Part I: 2006 EWSL Wrapup By Team
Part II: EWSL Rookie Adjustments
Part II: Age and EWSL, 2004-06

The whole series is worth a read. For A's fans in particular, it's interesting to look at Part I. Huston Street, Antonio Perez and Rich Harden are listed as the "Worst" 2006 performers for the Athletics. They under-performed relative to their age-adjusted EWSL. Why? For Harden, it was clearly the injuries. For Huston Street, it was probably nagging injuries as well. As for Antonio Perez, I think EWSL simply over-estimated his value.

But regardless of those shortcomings, the A's ended up doing slightly better than the EWSL model predicted. Frank Thomas was undoubtedly a big part of that, but the A's played pretty well last year across the board. It's encouraging to think about what the A's might be able to do this year with a healthy Bobby Crosby and a healthy Rich Harden. There are certainly unanswered questions swirling around the A's (Piazza's production, for example), but as an A's fan, I can't help but be optimistic.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love the Customer

Here at TheLadders, we are very focused on loving the customer. Our CEO, Marc Cenedella, used to do a lot of business in Japan, and he brought back this phrase: "Okyaku-sama wa kami-sama desu", which means "The Customer is God." We try to keep that in mind for everything we do.

The most visible way to see that is to interact with our fantastic Community group, as Rob O'Regan discovered this week:

The Right Way To Do Customer Service

Proactive, friendly customer service. No muss, no fuss. What a concept! I will certainly use their service again, and I will recommend TheLadders.com to my friends and colleagues. This is customer service done right.

Thanks for the kudos, Rob!

Monday, February 12, 2007

CSFBL - In Limbo

Astonishingly few people even know about CSFBL - Computer Simulated Fantasy Baseball League - but those of us that do know love it. The basic idea is that you create or adopt a fictional baseball franchise and manage it season after season - leagues vary from 2 games/day to 8 games/day.

You have control over your 25-man major league roster, a roster in the high-minors and a third roster of up-and-comers in the low-minors. You can adjust your lineup, your pitching rotation, your managerial style, your spending on scouts, training, development and you draft new players each year. After each game, you can check the box scores, and check the compiled stats for the year, of for all time. It's not quite as polished as whatifsports.com and the feature set isn't as rich - but it's free. For someone like me that can only check it for a few minutes a week, it's the perfect baseball fix for the offseason. You only need to invest as much or as little time as you'd like...

Nerdy? Or course.
Fun? Absolutely.

So, why is it in limbo? The site has been down since 1/22, the server has moved from an ISP to the proprieter's basement and there's really no telling when things will be back up and running. Their outage blog suggests that they'll be up by Monday, but this is a hobby, rather than a business. There's no guarantee there.

So, what's next? If CSFBL is going to survive, they need to make a business out of this. Much like whatifsports has done with simulated baseball, like Match.com has done with personals and like we've done with executive job search over at TheLadders.com, they need to offer a simple basic version that gives people a taste of the product and encourages people to upgrade to a paid version for full access, features, etc.

Whatifsports has proven that the business model can work for sports, and it's really not that different from the fantasy sports behemoths - CBS Sportsline, ESPN and Yahoo. The revenue from the run-of-network ads on CSFBL wasn't enough to make the site anything more than a hobby, and the donations through Amazon.com's Honor System haven't done the trick either. As sad as it will be for us freeloaders, it's time for CSFBL to get serious and try to make some money off the quality engine they've built.

They've hinted at the idea a bit in a blog post, suggesting (in a FAQ format) that the level of donations by a particular league might determine whether or not they get migrated to the new, improved version of the site. But it's not going to be enough. I guess I just don't understand why they're so reluctant to turn their baby into even a small business. It's a no-brainer.

UPDATE: In the few brief hours since I posted this, the CSFBL site has been revived!