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Posted at 8:18 AM ET, 01/26/2011

Story pick: 'Sabermetrician In Exile'

By J. Freedom du Lac

Voros McCracken could probably walk through the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown without earning a second glance from even the game's most devoted fans. But he's something of a legend among the baseball stat nerds known as sabermetricians for his groundbreaking discovery of an idea known as Defense Independent Pitching Statistics, or DIPS.

Introduced by McCracken in 2001 on an obscure Internet newsgroup, DIPS, as Jeff Passan writes in an excellent piece for Yahoo's new sports-features site The Post Game, was "a premise so radical that even [McCracken] sometimes laughed at it."

His idea? "Pitchers have very little control over what happens on balls hit into the field of play."

McCracken used statistical evidence to support the claim, and his radical premise became a widely accepted metric for evaluating the effectiveness of professional baseball pitchers. It was a real game-changer.

"Nothing before or since has so upended an entire line of thought and forced teams to assess a wide breadth of players in a different fashion," writes Passan, a former Post intern who has become one of the world's best baseball writers.

"Of course," Passan adds, "one great idea guarantees nothing."

McCracken never became famous, or even semi-famous (outside of the sabermetrics world), and he didn't get rich off of his idea, either. Instead, after working for the Boston Red Sox, he found himself out of baseball -- and out of free ideas. Broke and broken down, he's had a fairly rough decade since the introduction of DIPS. Passan puts it all together in a piece that should be compelling even if talk of sports statistics tends to make your eyes glaze over.

By J. Freedom du Lac  | January 26, 2011; 8:18 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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