Welcome to the 2018 Hardball Times Annual! We’re glad you stopped by.

If someone were to ask me the theme of this year’s Annual, it would be that this is the Annual, same as the old Annual. We’ve once again assembled an incredible staff of contributors, from THT regulars you know well, to our friends at FanGraphs, with a few new voices for good measure. They are once again asking interesting baseball questions, and providing insightful, incisive answers.

Jeff Sullivan asks us to consider if batting practice isn’t just a big waste of time. Adam Dorhauer wonders if we properly understand the incentives that lead to baseball scandal. Kate Preusser contemplates how Shohei Ohtani will fit into baseball’s schema, and how his presence may change that schema. Eric Longenhagen interrogates the current state of scouting. Kiri Oler explores the downside of expansion. And on, and on, and on. There are too many good ones to call out, but in piece after piece, our contributors try to learn something new about the game, and teach us something along the way. That’s what you’ll find in the Commentary, Analysis, and History sections. This is the Annual, same as it ever was.

What’s new is the format. A book is nice to have on a shelf, but we wanted to make the Annual more accessible, and give our authors the chance to have their work take the place in the broader baseball dialogue we think it deserves. The new format also allowed us to experiment with a new section. Ruminations on prospects and sprint speed and free agency are baseball stories, but they aren’t the only kind. This year, we’re excited to include a Fiction section, highlighting original work by a talented group of authors, whose stories make us think and feel deeply, as baseball so often does. This is the Annual, trying something new.

My part in all of this is a bit odd. Like a reliever coming in for the final three outs when the heart of the order has already been retired, it's not that I didn’t have my role; you still need those last three outs after all. It’s more that I was lucky enough to be on a team that had dispatched with most of the hard work, leaving me to mop up and delight in their skill. This Annual would not have been possible without the tireless, exacting work of The Hardball Times editorial team. Joe Distelheim, Jason Linden, Dustin Nosler, and Greg Simons did tasks large and small to bring you this edition. Jason, along with Amy Ryan, also shaped the Fiction section into a marvel. Travis Howell designed the cover. David Appelman remains generous and steadfast in his support of The Hardball Times generally and the Annual specifically. Sean Dolinar made sure every bell and whistle rang as it was supposed to. And then there is Paul Swydan. Our outgoing managing editor has many legacies here at THT, and the Annual is the embodiment of all of them. From shepherding interesting stories into the world to finding new voices to tell them, Paul’s efforts are the reason this Annual got done, and done so well.

But really, this Annual is possible because of all of you. We are so grateful that you read and support The Hardball Times. We hope that you will consider continuing to do so by becoming a FanGraphs Member. Your membership will help fund future Annuals, as well as the great work you read daily at THT and FanGraphs.

Thank you again for reading the 2018 Hardball Times Annual. We hope you enjoy passing part of this long offseason with it, and learn something new about baseball. We sure did.

Happy Baseball,
Meg Rowley


Featuring contributions by FanGraphs & THT writers:
Eli Ben-Porat • Carson Cistulli • Mary Craig • Jared Cross • Britni de la Cretaz
Adam Dorhauer • Rachel Heacock • David Kagan • Eric Longenhagen • Isabelle Minasian
Chris Mitchell • Jack Moore • Kiri Oler • John Paschal • Andrew Perpetua
Ryan Pollack • Kate Preusser • Eno Sarris • Travis Sawchik • Paul Sporer
Jeff Sullivan • Shane Tourtellotte • Steve Treder • Neil Weinberg • Sarah Wexler

With additional contributions by guest writers:
Gary Bolick • Chris Davies • Lance Feyh • Harry Hamel • Zach Kram • Ashley Memory • Edmund Schubert
Produced by Paul Swydan & Meg Rowley
Edited by Joe Distelheim, Jason Linden, Dustin Nosler, Amy Ryan & Greg Simons
Website Developed by Sean Dolinar
Cover Photo by Travis Howell