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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Voros McCracken changed the game


Below, a long excerpt from a much longer article about Voros McCracken, who merely changed baseball analysis as we knew it, practically overnight. Jeff Passan:
Just one small correction: DIPS does not "absolve" pitchers for hits allowed. It absolves pitchers who give up more hits than theory suggests they should, based on their strikeout rate. With that out of the way ...

I played my own small role in the popularization of DIPS.

I am, I must regretfully admit, highly suggestible. If you can throw some facts at the wall and connect them with reasonably good writing, I'm probably going to buy your conclusion unless I've got some reasonably contradictory facts -- or prejudices -- on hand.

Well, when it came to DIPS I didn't have any other facts, or prejudices. I just figured Voros McCracken must be some sort of genius, and I devoted most of a week to McCracken's theory. For the only time in my career, I went way out of my way for credibility, e-mailing both Bill James and Craig Wright for their thoughts. Both veteran sabermetricians were impressed enough and gracious enough to essentially pen guest columns. Both tried but failed to see any significant flaw in McCracken's logic.

DIPS would have hit big without me. But I helped a little, because my ESPN.com column gave DIPS its biggest exposure to that point. Of course, later came "Moneyball," etc.

And I certainly can't take even a dollop of credit for any of it. McCracken did all the work, engaged in the hand-to-hand combat, has suffered for years from his inability to come up with another once-in-a-lifetime revolutionary ground-breaking earth-shaking insight. I was just sitting there, waiting for someone to blow me away.