2-6-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
Over the past few weeks multiple storm fronts have passed through Western Pennsylvania; leaving behind a jumbled mess of snow and ice. Obviously this isn’t anything new to those of us who have lived in the area for as long as I have-43 years in June. Yet, each time the possibility of a larger than average snowfall is predicted or freezing rain is scheduled to arrive, many seem to lose all touch with reality as they rush to the local grocery store to strip the shelves of milk and bread; like they are going to be stuck in the house for an extended period of time. Sure, this type of scenario has taken place on several occasions in my lifetime, but they are given the title Blizzard Of for that exact reason; because they don’t happen very often.
Another ritual performed leading up to, and of course throughout the duration of the storm is the almost compulsive checking of the weather forecast. You discuss it with friends and family, bring it up in casual conversations, mention it in passing to the cashier at the checkout-as if they have no idea why their line is never ending-and post about it online; all the while cursing the meteorologist from your favorite news station or the app on your phone due to the practically unavoidable inaccuracies of their predictions. That is unless they are one of those amateur weather buffs, who likes to make the own guess; which is often just a mix of all the other forecasts, and just as likely to be wrong.
Eventually, amid the aftermath, these discrepancies will be rehashed ad nauseam in an attempt to determine the projections that were most in line with the actual outcome; or more likely, those that were incorrect to a lesser degree than everyone else. In the end it will be decided that none of them are worth trusting, and it only makes sense to ignore them, or at the very least take it with a grain of salt in the future. That is until the next threatening front starts to move in.
In my mind, this whole process is pretty similar to way in which fans from Pittsburgh approach the idea of evaluating the lists Pirates Prospects find themselves on; be it the team specific rankings, the Top 100s for all of Minor League Baseball or the ones that establish a hierarchy of the Farm Systems. Although, if we are making comparisons I think I may have forgotten about two distinct categories of people. Those that simply sit on their couch, waiting to see what actually comes because the forecasts are always wrong anyway and the type that constantly compare every storm to one that occurred before most of us were even born.
When it comes to the majority of fans that remain, they usually fall right in line with the Western Pennsylvanians in my initial analogy. Anytime a new list is released, they rush to read it with reckless abandon; taking in all of the information as quickly as they can, while trying to savor it at the same time because you never know how long it will be before the next one comes out.
Then there’s the business of picking your favorite site; from Fangraphs to MLB Pipeline and Baseball America to Baseball Prospectus. Growing up my grandparents tuned into KDKA for the weather, my parents always watched WTAE because “Joe Said It Would!” and I somehow found myself looking to WPXI for the local forecast. In the same way, fans will generally rely on a certain site for their prospect projections; often advocating for why their preferred site is the best. When in reality if you stack up the success and failure rates of Fangraphs, MLB Pipeline, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus against each other the differences are probably negligible.
Just for fun one afternoon, look up the Top 100 Prospect Lists-as well as the ones specific to the Pirates-from the past 10 to 15 years. See how many of these guys actually worked out, and in some instances, how many you can actually recognize. Much like weather forecasting, the ability to predict long term success (the 10 day forecast), is significantly more difficult than what could happen in the upcoming year (your daily forecast); yet many of us still study and analyze it anyway.
In essence they both create talking points and reason(s) for discussion, using tools that are designed to help predict the future. However, after all is said and done, they are honestly another form of entertainment. One that is not designed for everyone to enjoy, as well as one(s) that naturally cause some skepticism.
So, check your local forecast because they are calling for rain in 11 days, and study the prospect lists on account of your pick to click falling in the the Top 30 at only 17 years old. But, don’t forget to check back in from time to time; the forecast is almost certain to change.