Greetings, friends and readers.
My name is Michael Bauman, and I’m the newest full-time member of the FanGraphs staff. If the name rings a bell, it’s because you’ll remember the losing pitcher in the first game of Monday’s Orioles-Blue Jays doubleheader. Unfortunately, this is a different, much taller Mike Bauman. (I met Big Mike, and he seems like a nice guy. What a fastball he’s got.)
From 2016 until last week, I was a staff writer at The Ringer, hosting The Ringer MLB Show for six years. Before that I worked at D1Baseball, Baseball Prospectus and Grantland. During that time, I was regularly featured on both FanGraphs Audio and the Effective Wild. If he remembers a joke with a Philly accent talking about how hockey works or locking up on Meg, that was me. I’m Ari, and in my spare time I enjoy cooking, watching TikToks about seals, and reading non-fiction books about people doing ridiculously dangerous things in the early 20th century.
But what am I doing here?
A few weeks ago, I was watching a baseball game on TV when a left-handed hitter hit a ball around the inning for a single. The color analyst, a former major league player, coach and front office executive, responded the way most color analysts do when someone misses a shift: Analysts think a shift is the right thing to do when it’s easy to go. Another way?
Now there is nothing new about that argument; I heard about it almost 100 years ago when I was reading FanGraphs hoping for gold in my first career out of college. All of you too. The commenter argues that he downplays the pre-scouting attention among big league teams, better than some spreadsheet-wielding nerd (my cliché, not his). A scout who saw the game took notes and showed tendencies. But put those notes into a database, do a little math, and, like Beethoven on a computer, you’re tired of doing the analysis—just what we see and measure.
That was the objection 10 years ago, and by and large it still holds water. But already scouts may have noticed that the batter in question has completely improved his approach this summer. It’s not the same killer as it was three months ago. Maybe the scouting report missed that new development, or maybe the guys who drafted the defensive line recognized the change in approach and decided that change is still a game of percentages. Here’s the point: It’s no longer enough to just go with your gut or follow the numbers without question. Baseball is brilliant. The community is very smart. It is no longer enough to know what will happen, but why and how as well.
I’ve never liked “analysis” as a word. It condenses quantitative research—sound and otherwise, for good and ill—into an epistemic monolith. And that is simply not the case; “Analytics” smart clothes have already realized that the real approach is not numerical but subjective. They use numbers, as well as scouting, interviews, case studies, etc. That’s why FanGraphs has hosted and developed such diverse methodological perspectives over the years. All of that information is not only useful, but essential to a general understanding of baseball.
You have to know everything. Quantitative and qualitative data, statistics and scouting, current events and history. And because baseball reflects and interacts with society, you need to know economics, politics, and philosophy. It’s all part of the bigger picture. My approach, so to speak, is to tell a true story as completely as I can, and to treat the human element of the game – from players to fans – with respect and dignity. And on the way to have fun as much as possible. After all, it’s a game.
I am thrilled and more than a little humbled to work with such a talented and intelligent group of writers and editors, many of whom I have called friends over the years and whom I admire even more. And I’m equally excited to serve such a passionate and well-informed readership, although it’s been a while since I’ve written to a publication with a comment section, so please bear with me. I look forward to learning with all of you.