Saying Goodbye

This author has some bittersweet personal news to report: I am leaving FanGraphs. Next week, I will join the team at FiveThirtyEight, where I will continue to write about and report on baseball. While I am excited to begin a new chapter and enter into a new challenge, I will miss being a part of the FanGraphs family.

I will always be indebted to David Appelman and Dave Cameron, who took a chance on me 19 months ago as an non-traditional hire. I wasn’t an obvious choice, having taken an unusual career trajectory to FanGraphs from my work as a newspaperman.

While I hope I have provided the FanGraphs audience with some fodder for thought and distracted you from some of your day-to-day over the last year and a half, I was a mere cog in a team effort here at FanGraphs. Every day I visit the site — and I will continue to visit the site daily — I am amazed at the quality of thought, analysis, writing, and the ease of accessing the site’s wealth of information.

Yes, some FanGraphs writers have left for opportunities over the last year after an uncommonly long run of staff continuity, but each of those trends says a lot about the quality of this website. One reason to be very optimistic about the future of this website is the talent that FanGraphs attracts, apparent in the most recent hiring process, of which I was a small part earlier this year.

When David posted the job ad and we conducted a national search, we were crushed by an avalanche of resumes. Of that applicant pool, there were many talented and worthy applicants. Mr. Appelman — the best boss and baseball website proprietor on the planet — was very invested in the process. He was seeking original, creative, thought-provoking talent. Whether you were a famous internet baseball writer (Jay Jaffe) or had never or rarely written baseball analysis (Sheryl Ring), it didn’t matter. You were evaluated and considered. I am confident in opining that those were excellent hires. Craig Edwards and Dan Szymborski, both of whom have had long histories with the site as excellent contributors, also became full-time staffers this year. There was The Return of Kiley, bolstering Eric’s already outstanding prospect work. Meg Rowley’s writing and humor was already known to the baseball internet, but she is yet another value-adding voice that has been added. FanGraphs has no shortage of talent. And those aforementioned names are just the new hires.

The best baseball analyst on the internet, Jeff Sullivan, remains employed here.

The top baseball podcasts? Also housed here. Effectively Wild, hosted by Jeff and Ben Lindbergh, and, of course, FanGraphs Audio.

Paul Sporer and Jeff Zimmerman and the entire fantasy team remain an incredible resource.

The site is under the daily care of the unique and versatile, the philosopher and poet, Carson Cistulli. FanGraphs’ managing editor is perhaps the most interesting person in sports media. He made my stories better and did so often. He’s also an underrated talent evaluator. (Josh JAMES, folks.)

One of the most valuable FanGraphs employees, Sean Dolinar, does his work largely behind the scenes, but he’s greatly responsible for the ease of accessing the trove of data available on the site. The splits leaderboards, the redesign that dramatically improved the look and utility of the home page, many of the data-visualization tools: they represent just some of Sean’s many contributions. Sean often assisted in research for my pieces. Some of the pieces of which I am most proud at FanGraphs were collaborative.

The writers who have left, all undoubted fan favorites, have left for great opportunities. August Fagerstrom’s dream was to work for an MLB team. He now is an analyst for the Brewers. Former Face of the Franchise, Dave Cameron, is one of the leaders of the Padres’ analytics department. Eno Sarris is a national writer for The Athletic. Joe Douglas is a member of the Pirates’ front office. These were all recruitment efforts from the outside. And yet fan favorites remain, and there will be new fan favorites to come.

Moreover, there’s never been more — nor more accessible — information on the site. FanGraphs’ best days are ahead of it.

It starts at the top with David. While he’s the best boss I’ve had the privilege of working for, more important and relevant to the reader is that he’s built a unique company in this age of unprecedented upheaval in the media industry. Not only has FanGraphs become home to the best daily baseball analysis source on the internet, but the site has also become an indispensable research resource for teams, fantasy players, and serious fans of the sport. It’s a top research depot and media site. That’s an unusual combination. I first started visiting the siteto gain an edge on my fantasy roster in the late 2000s. I came for the data, but I stayed for the analysis. Building a sustainable company is difficult, but that’s exactly what FanGraphs has become. That’s quite an achievement.

As for me, my departure is about embracing a new challenge, a new opportunity.

In my first post for this site on Jan. 3, 2017, I recounted a story about how I had read The Plain Dealer’s obituary on John Glenn over that Christmas break. The article noted how, in Robert F. Kennedy’s study, Glenn had stumbled upon a quote Kennedy had marked from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Always do what you are afraid to do.” Said Glenn: “That stayed with me.”

Five hundred thirty posts later — hopefully more good than bad — that passage has also stayed with me.

There were a number of reasons I joined FanGraphs back in January of 2017. Instead of covering one MLB team (the Pirates), I was able to explore all 30. Instead of the bulk of writing tied to game stories and notebooks, the vast majority of writing here was tied to analysis, ideas and enterprise. It was tied to thinking, asking the right the questions and attempting to answer them. That’s what FanGraphs writers do. I will be doing some of the same things, and some new and different, at FiveThirtyEight.

FanGraphs is also what it is because of the most baseball-educated and well-informed readerships in all of baseball media. Another one of FanGraphs’ great strengths is its community. It’s a community that challenges writers with questions and ideas. So thanks for reading and for your questions, and even your criticisms. (Well, some of them.) The audience made me a better writer, a better analyst. Without the readership, without the community, there is no FanGraphs as we know it. And now as a proud alumnus, I join you as a fellow reader.

A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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4 years ago

Damn you Nate Silver, damn you…

Johnnie T
4 years ago
Reply to  southie

Somehow, I suspect that a fair number of the readers of this site also read FiveThirtyEight , so fortunately he won’t stay a stranger.

4 years ago
Reply to  Johnnie T

Never read an article on 538 before. Not sure what makes it so special.

4 years ago
Reply to  bluerum29

Never had a Wagyu steak before. Not sure what makes it so special.