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February 5, 2014

BP Unfiltered

Classifying Your Photos of Baseball Prospectus 2014

by Ben Lindbergh

Many of you have bought Baseball Prospectus 2014, for which we’re very grateful. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the smaller (but still substantial!) subset of you who have not only bought the book, but also sent a picture of your purchase to BP’s official Twitter account. Having written the book, we know what it looks like, and we'll level with you: yours is not any better or worse than anyone else’s (unless you ask us to sign it, in which case you’ll have spoiled a perfectly clean title page). But it’s still nice to receive your reminders that we didn’t dream the darn thing.

Look at enough of these pictures, and you’ll notice that they fall into a number of easily identifiable categories. Here's an attempt at taxonomy.

The Basic Book Pic
The most common kind of annual photo, often taken in the endorphin-filled moments immediately after pulling the book out of the box, with no concern for composition. The text usually says something about going off the grid for a while, and the picture includes nothing but the book (usually just the cover), as if to say, “Behold, I have bought this.” It’s a proof of purchase that looks like the stock photo from Amazon with way worse lighting. (But we still love that you bought our book.)

Out of 20-plus entries in this category, only one distinguished itself (maybe unintentionally), by making it look like the book was delivered in the arms of an angel.

The Basic Book Pic Plus
It’s not just the book, but also its immediate surroundings. A hint of floral carpeting. A non-ergonomic keyboard. Lots of linoleum. A piece of the packing tape you ripped apart in your haste to take the picture and haven’t had time to dispose of. The bed where your book sleeps after a long day of helping you win your fantasy league. But the best-in-class Basic Book Pic Plus also reveals something about your reading process.

This man means business. He highlights the annual.

The On the Road Pic
A close cousin of the Basic Book Pic, indistinguishable except for the setting—which may or may not be a moving vehicle. As a native New Yorker, I don’t drive, but this seems like something that could lead to a ticket.

Let’s hope these people were parked.

The Artistic Arrangement Pic
If Annie Leibovitz were to take a photo of an annual, it would look like one of these. There’s the black-and-white look with a canted frame, deftly balanced by beer and a baseball:

There’s the one that advertises team loyalty and includes a chrysanthemum whose color matches the cover. Did this book buyer just happen to have a flower whose petals were the perfect shade of red? Did he have to go get one? It’s better not to know.

And then there’s the one with a bushel of baseballs accompanied by a piece of driftwood, or possibly a small gravestone, signed by the 1970-three-or-four A’s.

We know how easy it would have been for you to take a Basic Book Pic instead. Don't think we didn't notice the extra effort.

The Emotional Moment Pic
Doesn’t just establish possession; attempts to capture the excitement of cracking open a brand-new book, immediately seeing a player likened to a meatball, and wondering whether you can get your money back.

The Completist Pic
Blows away everyone else’s puny pictures of a lone annual. “Oh, you bought BP2014? That’s nice. Talk to me when you've acquired the other 18.”

(Sean, if you need to free up some shelf space next year, I could probably talk someone into taking that extra copy of the ’96 annual. It's not like you need it. Probably time to de-clutter. Doubt the book is worth anything anyway. There were so many copies made.)

The Girlfriend Pic
The only photo in which an adult other than the picture taker appears. This one says, “I bought this book, but I still have social skills.” It also makes me wonder who she called first when she found out what the Wacha projection was.

The Anti-Girlfriend Pic
The polar opposite of the last category. Not only are you not going to take a picture of your girlfriend holding the annual, you’re going to cut off all contact with her and, just to be sure, let yourself go physically so she won’t be tempted to get handsy and interrupt your reading. If anyone needs you, you’ll be in the bathroom, with the book.

The Book-and-Beverage Pic
A book buyer’s choice of beverage tells us a lot about his expectations for the coming season. Does he crave coffee, so he can stay alert and consume more comments?

Or must he deaden his senses with something 7.5 percent alcohol, and try to forget?

The Weird Juxtaposition Pic
The efficient book-buyer places multiple orders at once to cut down on shipping costs. The efficient book-photo-taker fits multiple books into the frame of one photo. There’s a lot of overlap between the two groups, which for one moment brought BP and Mike Tyson together.

But the weird juxtaposition doesn't have to be with a book:

The Multiple-BP-Book Pic
Probably our favorite genre, for reasons of revenue.

The Triptych Pic
Rare. Requires as much preparation as every Basic Book Pic put together.

The Poor Planning Pic
Speaks for itself.

The Kindle Pic
There was one of these. It ran away with the category.

The Incorrect Orientation Pic

The only thing worse than a vertical video on Youtube is a horizontal picture of the annual, rotated by 90 degrees. We admire your marble countertop. We just didn’t need to see so much of it.

He reads Playboy for the articles, and BP for the pictures.

The Kid Pic
We’re all for brainwashing teaching your kids to care about baseball analysis at an early age, but we wonder whether that’s all that’s going on here. Sure, maybe your daughters were pre-K classmates of Julio Urias and wanted to peek at his PECOTA, but could it be that you’re also angling for a retweet from the big softy who runs the BP account? If so, well done: you’ve discovered an inefficiency that the “Basic Book Pic” people are still overlooking. Analysis of our mentions reveals that Kid Pics have been retweeted 100 percent of the time.


The Dachshund Pic
I have a dachshund, so this one wins. That's not really fair to those of you who don’t have dachshunds—it’s out of focus, even—but maybe next time you’ll think (and adopt a dachshund) before you tweet.

(Sorry you picked the Broncos in your Super Bowl pool. And thanks, to all of you, for buying the book and taking the time to share.)

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Annual,  Baseball Prospectus 2014,  Books

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Baseball Prospectus Ne... (02/04)
<< Previous Column
BP Unfiltered: Hall of... (02/02)
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BP Unfiltered: T-Mac's... (02/12)
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