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

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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.

Cincinnati Reds fire Bryan Price

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The Cincinnati Reds have fired manager Bryan Price. He’ll be replaced on an interim basis by bench coach Jim Riggleman. The team also fired pitching coach Mack Jenkins. The club also added Louisville manager Pat Kelly to the staff as the new bench coach and Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin as the new big league pitching coach.

It was only a matter of time for Price, whose Reds have begun the season 3-15. This was Price’s fifth season at the helm and the Reds never won more than 76 games in any of his previous seasons, doing so in his first year, in 2014. They won 68 games in both 2016 and 2017 and 64 games in 2015. While that’s far more attributable to the Reds talent level than anything Price ever did or did not do, at some point the manager will take the fall for a team that makes no progress.

Price’s tenure will likely be considered largely forgettable in the view of history, but he did have a pretty memorable moment as Reds manager in April of 2015, when he went on a profanity-laced tirade at the media because they reported the availability or lack thereof of certain players for an upcoming game. Which is part of the media’s job, even if Price didn’t fully grok that at the time. The tirade itself was pretty epic, though, with then Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosecrans reporting that “there were 77 uses of the “F” word or a variant and 11 uses of a vulgar term for feces (two bovine, one equine).” 

Taking over will be Jim Riggleman, who last managed in the big leagues with the Washington Nationals, resigning in June of 2011 because he was unhappy that he did not get a contract extension. It was a weird episode, the sort of which a lot of guys couldn’t have come back from, perhaps being considered quitters. Riggleman took a job managing the Reds’ Double-A team, however, then moved on to Triple-A and then the Reds’ big league coaching staff. There’s something to be said for persistence. And for being a big league lifer.

Anyway, Price’s exit is not likely to change the Reds’ course too much in 2018. But, as it is so often said in baseball, sometimes you gotta make a change all the same.