Get me up to speed on baseball as quickly as possible
March 31, 2013 11:25 AM   Subscribe

So I've decided, for various reasons, that I'd like to follow baseball this year. What can I read to get up to speed ASAP?

I have a decent understanding of the rules; I can follow a game. What I don't know is what's going on in the league right now: who's good and bad (and why), what teams are angling to do what. How can I get up to speed on this kind of information?

I am not a super-fan of any one team but family history says I should be a Boston fan. I am also fond of the Marlins after seeing their magnificent home run sculpture, but my impression is they are terrible and have an owner who doesn't care if they win.

Basically anything to read that will let me quickly understand what's going on in the league, and make following the games and the teams over the course of the season interesting to me.
posted by vogon_poet to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Baseball Think Factory is a good, smart, general baseball site. They have game chats for each game of the season (you could follow the one for your team), and a news ticker.
Baseball Prospectus is an in-depth book which gives descriptions of each team's last year and upcoming season (and each player's).

You're looking for a "season preview", don't know immediately of a great one.

Here's a reasonably reliable one:
SBnation 2013 MLB season preview - that link goes to a list of several articles covering the different leagues etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:37 AM on March 31, 2013

Jonah Keri on Grantland has previews of all the teams up and is one of the better baseball writers out there. Likewise, Jonathan Bernhardt at SportsOnEarth also has some excellent team previews up.

Short version for those two teams: Boston had a meltdown and followed it up with some typically Boston theatrics. They're rebuilding but may bounce back quickly. The Marlins have an owner who will spend nothing to help the team succeed, so they've firesaled everyone but Giancarlo Stanton, who will hit some amazing dingers for a team that's going to be terrible.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:37 AM on March 31, 2013

You're in luck - Sports Illustrated just this week put out their MLB Preview issue. I read the dead-tree edition, and in addition to one-page rundowns of each team's comings, goings, and prospects for the upcoming year, there's a couple longer pieces, one about the Tampa Bay Rays, who are a very well-run and managed team, and about a few other things that will give you a good perspective on the upcoming season.

If you're not into reading magazines, I'm pretty sure the issue is available on a tablet/reader of your choice.
posted by pdb at 11:41 AM on March 31, 2013

Baseball Nation previews
N.L. Central, West and East
A.L. Central, West and East

Your impression is right, the Marlins won't be any good any time soon so better to follow the Red Sox. I highly recommend reading the s.b. nation forums- this is Boston's.
posted by saul wright at 11:42 AM on March 31, 2013

If you're a member of the Red Sox Nation, you only need to know one thing.
posted by kinetic at 12:15 PM on March 31, 2013

Start watching Baseball Tonight and/or SportsCenter on ESPN. I only see ESPN at the gym a few times a week, and even that minimal effort helps me to stay more up to date on the sports world than I would expect.
posted by something something at 2:11 PM on March 31, 2013

Check out the FanGraphs 2013 positional power rankings:
By this measure, the Tigers are the best team in baseball, with a substantial gap over everyone else. While last year’s Detroit team was built around a few great players hoping to compensate for a lot of weaknesses in the supporting cast, this year’s version includes a lot of upgrades at those complementary spots, and that depth pushes Detroit to the top of the pack. I’ve been hailing the Nationals as the best team in baseball due to the fact that their roster really doesn’t have any glaring flaws, but Detroit is similarly sound across the board. Given the weakness of the rest of the AL Central, the Tigers are almost certainly the team with the best odds of playing in October, and as long as they can keep their big guns healthy, they have a very good shot at returning to the World Series.

From there, things go mostly as you might expect. The Angels and Rangers are similarly good teams and should fight for the AL West. The Braves look like the Nationals stiffest competition in the NL East, and the gap there might be smaller than I’ve thought previously. The AL East and NL West are a jumble of teams with similar abilities. The Astros are the worst team in baseball, with the Marlins and Twins not far behind.
posted by amb at 2:36 PM on March 31, 2013

If you want to follow the Red Sox (and I am in full support of that!) start reading Over the Monster regularly. Follow FanGraphs, too, though there are a lot more stats thrown around there than you may be prepared for.

If you really want to get into baseball, devote some time to Ken Burns' Baseball--it's on Netflix. If you're a reader, I recommend checking out Baseball in the Garden of Eden, as well as Dirk Hayhurt's books on being in the minor leagues. They really give you a different perspective on things.
posted by synecdoche at 4:14 PM on March 31, 2013

If you have MLB Network, look for their new show "MLB Now," which is supposed to provide contrasting views on conventional baseball concepts/stats, and the emerging world of sabermetrics (most network talking heads still dismiss the latter).

If you're into math and stats, read up on sabermetrics primers (esp about stuff like WAR, OPS+, and ERA+). It really adds a whole new level to the game.

Save yourself from the Marlins while you still have a chance, although Giancarlos Stanton should be one of the more exciting players in the game.

The Red Sox should be... interesting.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:05 PM on March 31, 2013

FanGraphs and SBNation plus a full-boat subscription were sufficient over the course of a year to move me from truly ignorant to able hold my own on a random baseball conversation. In comparison with the level of knowledge and enthusiasm for minutia seen among life-long devotees, I remain deeply ignorant, but that's OK with me.

It helped me to have a very specific interest, in my case an interest in Japanese pro baseball, which I was pursuing in parallel. I found that by having a specific interest about something that has had limited English-language info available, my inner Internet research squirrel doggedly pursued that set of data and in order to understand it I had to be able to contextualize it by reference to MLB.

If you are aware of the specific reason you are interested in developing this, look for something in that that you can treat as a personal worry nugget for research, and as you uncover the details, you will uncover the context. Good luck and have a great time with it this summer.
posted by mwhybark at 9:34 PM on March 31, 2013

Oh, and Burns' Baseball was extremely helpful for contextualizing all the random baseball heritage flotsam that one is exposed to over a life if one has never paid any attention to sports. You have heard of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson, but the sum total of what I knew about them was: baseball player, and, in order, candy bar (maybe); Mr. Marilyn Monroe among others; Charles Schulz' favorite baseball player; first African American in MLB. I know have at least a passing grasp of their accomplishments as players.

Baseball was a good use of twenty (or whatever it was) of my hours.
posted by mwhybark at 9:41 PM on March 31, 2013

For a look at the lives of players in a baseball season, may I recommend the book Ball Four by Jim Bouton... it was very controversial in its day because ballplayers felt like the author told all of baseball's secrets, but it's a hilarious book. The season is 162 games, and that's a long, long slog, so knowing what kind of clowning goes on behind the scenes (yes, it's dated, but guys don't change much) gives you an idea of how they get through the year.
posted by azpenguin at 10:06 PM on March 31, 2013

For more general baseball following, I recommend getting a tumblr (if you don't have don't have to even post anything) and following some baseball blogs. Old Time Family Baseball is particularly good for keeping up with the general happenings in the league. It's pretty funny, too!
posted by saul wright at 4:38 AM on April 3, 2013

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