If you’re a baseball fan, you almost certainly know and love Baseball-Reference.com. Or FanGraphs. And you just take it for granted that every single baseball statistic you could possibly want — and many you’ll never, ever need — will be available to you with a couple of clicks.
That was not always the case, of course. Heck, even when Baseball-Reference.com was the only game in town there was a time when it only updated once a year, with new stats only becoming available at the conclusion of each season. The ages, they were dark.
But what about before that? If you were obsessively into baseball before 2000 or so and you wanted historical statistics, you either (a) used the backs of baseball cards; or (b) relied on giant baseball encyclopedias like Total Baseball or the original Baseball Encyclopedia. The latter of which was first published in 1969 and went through several editions.
Today at FiveThirtyEight, Rob Neyer has the story of how the original Baseball Encyclopedia came to be. It wasn’t a committee project or something commissioned by a big corporation to fill a commercial niche. At least not at first. Rather, it’s a neat story involving the intersection of one man’s boredom, curiosity and baseball obsession.
Which, if we’re being honest, applies to a lot of us too.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.