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Must-Click Link: Sabermetrics’ greatest one-hit-wonder

Jan 25, 2011, 8:58 AM EDT

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Personally I wouldn’t consider Voros McCracken a one-hit-wonder — I’d like to think he’s got another half-dozen breakthroughs in him — but he uses the phrase himself, so I suppose it’s fair enough.

For those who don’t know, McCracken is the man who figured out defense-independent pitching statistics — shortened to DIPS — which form the basis of much of everything we now know about how to evaluate pitchers. FIP, BABIP and all of the other metrics now used by baseball teams as well as analysts are attributable to McCracken’s observations, first revealed over a decade ago.

I was a sabermetric message board lurker back then and I remember thinking just how nuts it all seemed.  At the time people scoffed. Hell, they more than scoffed, they were angry. And I’m talking about other sabermetrically-minded people.  Average fans confronted with the idea just looked at you like you were speaking Martian when you tried to explain it to them. And I didn’t blame them. It was so counterintuitive. Still is to many.

Today Jeff Passan takes a long look at McCracken’s life, career and breakthrough and discovers that just because you’re a genius doesn’t mean that everything works out well for you. McCracken’s post-DIPS life got him notoriety and a job with the Red Sox, but those things didn’t last and the man still has to pay the rent.  It’s a masterful telling of a fascinating life story and I urge even those who don’t cotton to sabermetrics to read it because it’s much, much more about a person than a stat.

They’re making a movie out of “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt.  I can’t help but think that we’d get more insights into humanity, the nature of genius and the nature of baseball if they made a movie about Voros McCracken.

  1. Lukehart80 - Jan 25, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    An interesting read.

    I appreciate that the rent is too damn high, but he can hold his head high knowing that he had a huge impact on the game he loves, something very few people ever do.

    A tip of the hat…

  2. BC - Jan 25, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    While Voros is a really cool name, people like this need to get a life. Go to a bar. Meet some people. Shoot some pool or play darts or something.
    To me, I’m just so fed up with DIPS, UZR, VORP, WORP, BURP or whatever else these folks make up.
    There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. — Mark Twain

    • Mark - Jan 25, 2011 at 10:04 AM

      The World is flat!

      • BC - Jan 25, 2011 at 10:13 AM

        No it’s not. It’s more of a scone type of shape..

      • kenbuddha - Jan 25, 2011 at 10:39 AM

        Don’t be ridiculous. The world is not flat. It’s hollow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollow_Earth

        Even President John Quincy Adams knew that!

      • PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jan 25, 2011 at 4:27 PM

        Voros is one of the cleverest liars around. That DIPS are used by so many to evaluate pitching is probably why there are so many crappy pitchers in the bigs. They are metrics that correlate only slight better than coin tossing.

    • JBerardi - Jan 25, 2011 at 10:16 PM

      Meh. This comment isn’t really complete without a “mom’s basement” quip.

      • PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jan 25, 2011 at 11:47 PM

        Why do you say such bad things about my mother?

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