I just discovered Tanner Bell’s excellent blog Smart Fantasy Baseball this past weekend. Dutifully, I spent much of said weekend catching up on the content. It culminated in the perusing of the three short e-books by Bell that you can get for free by entering a functional email address in the widget on the sidebar of the blog’s homepage.
I also purchased—also very belatedlt—Mike Podhorzer’s e-book Projecting X, which is also offered as part of a bundle on Bell’s site with supplemental materials (including an insane Excel workbook) provided by Bell. I purchased the bundle.
First, let me say that, for a person who is finding himself delving ever and ever deeper into fantasy baseball and baseball analysis in general, Smart Fantasy Baseball is a revelation. Bell’s posts are extremely detailed (not for the faint of fantasy heart, but a delight for those who crave specifics and love to ponder methodology) and very well-organized. I ended up finding his blog by searching for info on Standings Gain Points (SGP) method of ranking players, which led me to his series on the subject. Seeing how much time he put into his ranking method, the accompanying spreadsheets (most of which are available for free download), and then the posts explaining those things, I fell a little in love. The aforementioned series of posts is a step-by-step walk through of the process of creating fantasy baseball rankings that also includes elucidation of the ideas behind his process.
Smart Fantasy Baseball is not a daily blog, but when a new post drops, you can bet that it’s going to have a ton of interesting info and be worth checking out.
My big suggestion to Mr. Bell in regards to his blog is a practical one: use the “Read More” tag more often—probably with every post—so visitors don’t have to scroll through your very long articles in order to get a general sense of the offerings of the blog.
The aesthetic of the blog is pretty cool compared to many sports blogs. It’s clean and modern, and I like it. The topic of aesthetics is where my brief review turns to the e-books, and begins to get strange. Mike Podhorzer’s Projecting X and the e-books by Bell were difficult to read. I don’t mean difficult in the sense that the material was inaccessible. On the contrary, both authors take pains to make the concepts and processes contained within the books very clear. I don’t mean difficult in the sense that the prose is so poor or disorganized that it’s impossible to slog through. Neither of those is close to being true either.
What I mean is that both e-books violate typographical best practices to the extent that they strain the reader’s eyes to a significant degree. I am well aware that the people who purchase (or download for free) these e-books are not expecting typographical beauty. But some rules of typography exist not because of pedantic whim, but because they actually serve a purpose—chiefly, readability. The relationships between font size, leading (space between lines), and page/column width are very important to readability.
I hope that Misters Bell and Podhorzer won’t take too much offense to this all. The reason that I’m even writing this post in the first place is because it pains me to see worthwhile content hindered by less-than-optimal formatting. I suspect that both of these gentlemen are quite busy; their baseball writing prowess is testament enough to that. I don’t expect them to spend hours adjusting very minor things in InDesign or poring over font choices or whatever. In the future, most of this issue can be addressed by applying one weird trick: use a smaller page size with the same font size. Instead of 8.5×11 or 11×8.5, use 6×8 or 8×6. This would make the text in these e-books much less straining on the readers’ eyes. There’s more that could be done, but even this one change would do a lot.
In the meantime, I thank these gentlemen for their efforts!