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Voros McCracken

Voros McCracken

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Robert "Vörös" McCracken (born 17 August 1971 in Chicago, Illinois; now residing in Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is the capital, and largest city, of the U.S. state of Arizona, as well as the sixth most populated city in the United States. Phoenix is home to 1,445,632 people according to the official 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data...

) is a prominent sabermetrician. Vörös is a nickname from his Hungarian heritage, meaning "red," specifically "blood red." He is most widely recognized for his pioneering work on Defense Independent Pitching Statistics
Defense independent pitching statistics
In baseball, defense-independent pitching statistics measure a pitcher's effectiveness based only on plays that do not involve fielders: home runs allowed, strikeouts, hit batters, walks, and, more recently, fly ball percentage, ground ball percentage, and line drive percentage...


DIPS published

McCracken first publicly disclosed his ideas about DIPS on November 18, 1999 on the rec.sports.baseball newsgroup
A usenet newsgroup is a repository usually within the Usenet system, for messages posted from many users in different locations. The term may be confusing to some, because it is usually a discussion group. Newsgroups are technically distinct from, but functionally similar to, discussion forums on...

 on Usenet
Usenet is a worldwide distributed Internet discussion system. It developed from the general purpose UUCP architecture of the same name.Duke University graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis conceived the idea in 1979 and it was established in 1980...

http://groups.google.com/group/rec.sport.baseball.analysis/msg/b450fe58c05a5a82, with this announcement and request for advice: "I've been working on a pitching evaluation tool and thought I'd post it here to get some feedback. I call it "Defensive Independent Pitching" and what it does is evaluate a pitcher base[d] strictly on the statistics his defense has no ability to affect. . . ."

McCracken's findings implied that major league pitcher
In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throwsthe baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the...

s had little control over the outcome of balls put into play against them. Specifically, McCracken found that the percentage of balls put into play against a particular pitcher that fell for hits did not correlate well across seasons. This implied that elements beyond the pitcher's control, including his defense
Defense (sport)
In many team sports, defense or defence is the action of preventing an opponent from scoring. The term may also refer to the tactics involved in defense, or a sub-team whose primary responsibility is defense...

, ballpark effects, the weather, and most importantly, randomness
Randomness has somewhat differing meanings as used in various fields. It also has common meanings which are connected to the notion of predictability of events....

, had significant effects upon his performance. This theory flew in the face of conventional wisdom, but has been confirmed (at least in its simplest form) by many researchers.

His subsequent publication of "Pitchers and Defense: How Much Control Do Hurlers Have?" on the Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Prospectus is an organization that publishes a website, BaseballProspectus.com, devoted to the sabermetric analysis of baseball. BP has a staff of regular columnists and provides advanced statistics as well player and team performance projections on the site...

 website on January 23, 2001http://baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=878http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=890 sparked immediate intense and broad interest among baseball researchers. The very next day, ESPN
Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, commonly known as ESPN, is an American global cable television network focusing on sports-related programming including live and pre-taped event telecasts, sports talk shows, and other original programming....

 baseball writer-analyst Rob Neyer
Rob Neyer
Rob Neyer is a baseball author and writer for SB Nation. He started his career working for Bill James and STATS, and then joined ESPN.com as a columnist from 1996 to January 2011 before becoming SB Nation's National Baseball Editor...

 in his widely read ESPN.com column touted McCracken's surprising discovery.http://static.espn.go.com/mlb/s/2001/0115/1017090.html After explaining McCracken's findings, including reporting some of his own calculations from the previous years' pitching statistics and describing the aspects of DIPS that were most original, Neyer concluded: "And it seems to me that anyone who wants to project pitcher performance should read McCracken's article, because it'll blow your mind." In his book The Numbers Game, Alan Schwarz
Alan Schwarz
Alan Schwarz is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter at the The New York Times best known for writing more than 100 articles that exposed the seriousness of concussions among football players of all ages...

 writes that McCracken told him “all hell broke loose” after Neyer's column appeared. McCracken received nearly 2,000 emails in the next couple of days and thousands more in the ensuing months.

In his next column on January 26, Neyer began: "I received an immense amount of mail regarding Wednesday's column, including a pair of messages from 'celebrity sabermetricians' Craig Wright
Craig R. Wright
Craig R. Wright is a major proponent of sabermetrics, a baseball writer and historian.He was a very early pioneer in integrating science into major league baseball and first began working under that premise for the Texas Rangers, after the strike of 1981...

 and Bill James
Bill James
George William “Bill” James is a baseball writer, historian, and statistician whose work has been widely influential. Since 1977, James has written more than two dozen books devoted to baseball history and statistics...

." In this long column Neyer printed Wright's entire letter which cited a slightly different study he had done on the same topic and wrote, "I agree that this type of hit rate is not as heavily influenced by the pitcher as is commonly believed, but at the same time I am distinctly uncomfortable with McCracken's conclusion: 'There is little if any difference among major-league pitchers in their ability to prevent hits on balls hit in the field of play.'" Wright went on to conclude "... some [pitchers] emphasize pitches that are tough to hit sharply enough to get your share of hits on balls in play. I don't think the latter is a primary way for pitchers to distinguish themselves from others, but I do believe it is a more significant factor for some groups than others." He specifically cited two groups, knuckleball pitchers and flyball pitchers, as examples of those who tend to allow fewer hits on balls in the field of play. Subsequent independent research by Phil Birnbaum, Clifford Blau, and Tom Tippett confirmed Wright's findings, but Wright still praises McCracken as "... the guy who really got people to understand that most folks overestimate the pitcher's ability to influence the number of hits that result from balls batted into the field of play."

James, too, expressed some skepticism but recognized the potential value of McCracken's findings if further research bore them out. He argued that "the research really should be done, for several reasons. First, if McCracken turns out to be correct, this has important consequences, even allowing us, to a certain extent, to predict movements in pitcher's records. . . ."

Although he maintained some reservations about how McCracken's findings were being interpreted by others, James became a convert. In his New Historical Baseball Abstract (2001), James acknowledged that McCracken was correct, that the results were significant, and that James himself felt "stupid for not having realized it 30 years ago."

McCracken continued to refine his new statistic, including addressing the issue of knuckleballers in his DIPS 2.0 in 2002. He published DIPS statistical results as well as extensions and improvements to his initial formulas in other forums, including Baseball Primer (now called Baseball Think Factory) http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/primate_studies/discussion/mccracken_2002-01-25_0/ http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/mccracken/dipsexpl.html http://www.futilityinfielder.com/dips2.html.

Red Sox

A year and a half after the publication of his "Pitchers and Defense" article, McCracken's discovery earned him a consulting position with the Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are a professional baseball team based in Boston, Massachusetts, and a member of Major League Baseball’s American League Eastern Division. Founded in as one of the American League's eight charter franchises, the Red Sox's home ballpark has been Fenway Park since . The "Red Sox"...

. An important consequence of this was that by early 2003, he ceased publishing revisions of his formulas or updated results. He announced this step with excitement on his website on February 18, 2003http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/mccracken/ and McCracken continued to work for the Red Sox through June 2005.

DIPS during and after Boston hiatus

What further changes McCracken may have made to DIPS since then have not been made public. However, other baseball researchers have continued to evaluate and to propose refinements to the measure. And McCracken continued to think about how to measure performance in a variety of organized sports, such as international football (American soccer).

Links to sources and works

See also

  • Defense-Independent ERA
    Defense-Independent ERA
    In baseball statistics,Defense-Independent ERA , created by Voros McCracken, projects what a pitcher's earned run average would have been, if not for the effects of defense and luck on the actual games in which he pitched.-Method:...

  • Defense Independent Pitching Statistics
    Defense independent pitching statistics
    In baseball, defense-independent pitching statistics measure a pitcher's effectiveness based only on plays that do not involve fielders: home runs allowed, strikeouts, hit batters, walks, and, more recently, fly ball percentage, ground ball percentage, and line drive percentage...

  • Sabermetrics
    Sabermetrics is the specialized analysis of baseball through objective, empirical evidence, specifically baseball statistics that measure in-game activity. The term is derived from the acronym SABR, which stands for the Society for American Baseball Research...

  • Diamond Mind, "Can Pitchers Prevent Hits on Balls in Play?" (2003)
  • Futility Infielder, DIPS 2004 and DIPS bibliography