Baseball Press: a fantasy secret weapon

It’s tough to recall the exact moment I first discovered Baseball Press, but I do know it’s been a daily stop the past two seasons, and with good reason. In standard leagues, you might be able to get away with a set it and forget it approach. But for those of us in deeper leagues, ones where platoon and part-time players have value, the aggregation provided by Baseball Press is invaluable.

Some of the features Baseball Press offers include lineup information almost as it happens, probable starting pitchers, recent bullpen pitch counts, a log of the recent lineups for all 30 teams, and weather reports for that day’s games. I recently sat down (across the interwebs) with one of the founders and operators of Baseball Press, Reggie Yinger, to get the story behind the site, and to find out where it’s headed next.

Q: How did Baseball Press begin? Was there a void you saw for the information you present, or was this information you saw elsewhere that you thought could be presented better?

Yinger: Baseball Press began in the summer of 2009. I approached a friend who is also a computer programmer and wanted to create my own fantasy baseball site. Previously, I had written baseball articles for other websites, but really wanted the freedom to do my own thing. I think we saw a void in baseball sites as most have a “cookie-cutter” feel and we wanted to get away from that, providing a unique and different approach.

How many users do you guys currently have? How much has it grown since 2009? And was it slow and steady, or was there a period in which you saw a large uptick in traffic?

Yinger: According to our analytics, just under 100,000 people have come to Baseball Press in April. However, since we don’t sell anything, we focus more on page views and feedback to determine user interest rather than isolating users, so the growth we view is based on traffic not users. And based on traffic, we saw a substantial jump in traffic in 2009 when we decided to do lineups, and it’s been doubling every year since then.

What were your original intentions for the site when it began? How has it evolved since?

Yinger: Good question. I think the original intent in 2009 was to have a website where myself and other potential writers could write about fantasy baseball and have an “anything goes” mentality. We tried to focus on “fantasy baseball” but really wanted to write about anything baseball related. I thought we might write a few articles here and there, and to be honest, I thought the “coolness” of a website might die out. However, we first added lineup information to the website in 2011 and have really focused on helping fantasy baseball players since 2011. We added all MLB lineups in 2011, the My Lineup feature in 2012, and then the Bullpen Usage report in 2013. So yeah, I would say we have evolved to helping fantasy baseball players (like myself).

How the sausage is made: how does Baseball Press work? Is it updated manually when you find lineups posted online? Do you have go-to sources? Or is it automated in some way? How long does it take for lineups to be posted before they appear on Baseball Press?

Yinger: The sausage is made quite easily. I first designed the lineup concept during spring training in 2011 and it was originally updated manually. However, as you can imagine, this resulted in constantly having someone watch lineup information in case of scratches. However, after myself and the other co-founder noticed that the MLB Lineups feature was catching on, we decided to do some computer programming and automate the process. We use multiple sources that consist of beat writers and team affiliated accounts, with a majority of the information coming from Twitter. We typically hope to have lineups for all games within our system and on the website 3-4 hours before the game and we feel like we accomplished this. However, in some cases, we may post a lineup an hour before the game, depending on the source.

Can you quantify the value of the information on your site, particularly for owners in daily leagues? How much of an advantage do you see in having lineup information as it becomes available, and also weather reports, recent bullpen usage, etc?

Yinger: I’m a huge fantasy baseball nerd and I know that this tool is invaluable. Fantasy baseball websites that host the leagues (ESPN, Yahoo!, etc) try to inform users if a player isn’t starting, but this information is typically delayed or incorrect. I think having this information hours before a game is great for daily league players because it allows owners to prepare their team for that night’s games, whether it be reviewing ballpark factors, weather, or matchups for pitchers vs. batters.

Speaking of the bullpen usage: is that a new feature, or one I just never noticed last year? What practical use do you see for owners using this feature?

Yinger: The bullpen usage is a new feature for 2013. The story behind this feature is simple. I currently play in a fantasy league that counts “holds” as a category. I really dislike fantasy pitching categories and decided I would “stream relievers” simply for the ability to pick up “holds”. For example, if David Hernandez has thrown two or three days in a row, he’s likely to have off the next day. With the Bullpen Usage page, I can see this information and pick up another late inning reliever for the day in order to try and accumulate a “hold”. If you’re not into holds, I think owners can use this information to try and pick up “saves” on the cheap. If they see Jason Grilli has pitched three days in a row, they might try and pick up Mark Melancon from the waiver wire. It’s also just a nifty tool to see how managers are using their bullpen.

Is there a reason lineups only go back one week, and there is not a deeper historical archive of team’s lineups?

Yinger: Lineups currently go back one week (or the last 7 games) on the team page only. However, if you want to see older data, you can go to the main lineups page and select the date and view all lineups from that date. I think you have just booked our next project with that question.

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You mentioned on the site that you will not be creating an application that works with Apple products, but that you are working to make the mobile site sufficient for all smartphone users to use. How is that progressing? Do you have an ETA for that mobile site to be running?

Yinger: After great success with our Android application in the Google Play store, we decided to try and make an Apple application. Unfortunately, Apple rejected our application and deemed it to be “too simple”. We decided to not continue down the path with Apple after a first rejection (for cost and time reasons). To try and make every mobile device happy (tablets and phones), we’ve decided to make the entire Baseball Press website mobile friendly. This means that iPhone users can view all the information on their phones and not have to worry about formatting. The progress is coming along nicely. We pushed back the mobile functionality in order to have the Bullpen Usage page ready and in production before the season started. We should have the mobile design finished by mid to late May.

What’s cooking for the future of Baseball Press? Any big developments we should get excited about?

Yinger: Considering 30 percent of our viewers are looking at the site on a mobile device, and an iPhone version of our lineup app is the most requested item, the responsive design for the site is the most exciting thing for us. After that, we’ll be looking at adjusting the My Lineup page to allow owners to add multiple teams, but our readers keep us on our toes, so a lot of it depends on you.

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