If there's any book that a good majority of baseball fans have read, "Moneyball" has to be up there. One of the many featured baseball minds in that book was one Robert "Voros" McCracken. Voros, since leaving as a special consultant with the Boston Red Sox, has joined the blogging world and can be found here and today he can be found at DRays Bay for a good ol' fashioned Q&A session with me.
Jake: For Rays fans who don't know who you are, who is Robert "Voros" McCracken? Where might have we heard of you before and what have you done in the vast landscape of baseball and baseball stats?
Voros: I invented/discovered/whatevered Defense independent Pitching Statistics, the upshot of which was underlining the importance of walks, home runs and strikeouts and reducing the importance of hits allowed.
JL: You worked for the Red Sox and I believe that you got a nifty watch from them. What did you do when you worked for the Sawks?
VM: I said 'no' a lot. Did a lot of work on college statistics and the amateur draft. Went into a large amount of debt.
JL: Do you ever believe that you'll work for a baseball team again(the Rays, maybe?) as a consultant?
VM: You'd have to ask a baseball team that. I'd be happy to assist them if I was of any assistance. My big mistake was giving away my "Psychotic Reaction" moment for free. Oh well.
JL: What are some misconceptions that you, DIPs and other sabermetricians face?
VM: For everything about me or other sabermetricians, folks more or less have us nailed. As for DIPS, the biggest misconception is that I've ever argued that there is no difference between pitchers on hits per balls in play. From around day 2 of when I first released it eight years ago, I've stated that the differences were surprisingly small and could be gotten at using other defense independent stats.
JL: Any opinions on the new Rays ownership, front office, players or farm system that you'd like to pass along?
VM: Well for the time being anyway, for the first time in their existence I'd hand out mostly passing grades. The Rays started out their existence with some questionable approaches to building a club and it went very badly. But these things can get turned around. The Mariners are a good model.
JL: The Rays, at times last year, had 2 different "ace" pitchers in Scott Kazmir and James Shields. While Kazmir had problems in the 1st half, immaturity mixed with erratic control, he finished the season on a good note and finished 2nd in the majors in Ks(due to a 1-game playoff). Shields, on the otherhand, went deep into most of his starts and racked up a large amount of Ks while having nearly immaculate control. If you had to choose either pitcher for a make-or-break start that would get the Rays in the playoffs (Hey, a man can dream), which would you choose?
VM: I'm a little concerned about the Home Run with Shields, and Kazmir has been doing this well for a couple of years now. I think Kazmir is the better pitcher and prospect, but Shields looks very good too. The tough thing with pitchers is that they can lose it at any time.
JL: What made you decide on making your own blog? A place to vent on the biasness and old-style opinions of ESPN and their assortment of Geniu(as)ses?
VM: Impulse. I started to enjoy baseball again this year (finally) and everytime I tried to get involved elsewhere, I'd get sucked into endless debates on DIPS. It's been 8 years, I want to talk about other things too.
JL: How often do you have to deal with "trolls" on your blog and what is your "Rules of Engagement" when encountered by one?
VM: On the blog? Virtually never. Eslewhere? All the time. To be honest I react very poorly to trolls, so I really shouldn't dispense advice on that score. I'm an emotional sort.
JL: You picked Phoenix over Chicago (I'm from a suburb of Chi-town)? You're only 37(if that)! Isn't that too old to be Arizona-bound?
VM: The cold was really starting to get to me. Not sure I made the right decision, but what's done is done. Chicago in the summer is fantastic. In the winter, it's hell.
JL: Here's an "off-the-wall" question for you, do you play fantasy baseball during the baseball season and if so, how well do you do? Also, if you did play, did you have any sleepers that panned out better than you thought they would've?
VM: I used to before the Red Sox. I was actually in a Diamond Mind league where I won my division three of the four years, but lost in the playoffs all four years without reaching the WS. Quit when the Red Sox hired me.
JL: Which came first, Bill James or Peter Gammons?
VM: Gammons by four years, 1945 to 1949. Oh you mean for me? Bill James.
JL: While I realize that you're probably not one of the people who swear by this, but what is all the hoopla on the intangibles of one Mr. David Eckstein? Is scrappiness a stat-to-be-named-later? I really don't get the intrigue of undersized, aging middle-infielders(which is why I never really liked Lugo with the Rays), and I was wondering if you did.
VM: I like anybody who can help you win more games. The main problem with the media portrayal of players is that everybody is either a superstar or a nobody. Useful players like Eckstein don't exist. When it comes to Eckstein, they reach for stuff like "scrappy," because a short dude with no power isn't supposed to be able to play at all. In truth it has nothing to do with being scrappy, but it's because he reaches base at an above average clip and plays a decent shortstop.
JL: Favorite baseball player of all-time?
VM: Tim Wallach
JL: What baseball team fan group are you a part of? Red Sox Nation? Die-hard Cub fans? Pinstripe Nation? etc.
VM: I grew up a Cubs fan, started rooting for the White Sox with my dad. Now I find it hard to root for any one team. Hazard of the business I guess.
JL: In your leisure time, we'd find Voros...
VM: Sleeping. The many wonders of Seroquel.
JL: Facebook, Myspace or neither?
VM: The wall of the Post Office
JL: Do you have a life-time membership at Baseball Prospectus? Will we ever see a Voros post on BP again?
VM: No. You'd have to ask them.
JL: What would we find playing in your CD/I-Pod right now?
VM: Old stuff: 7 Seconds, The Figgs, The Milkshakes and The Romantics
New Stuff: The Fratellis, The Hentchmen and Cat Empire
JL: Who gave you the "Voros" nickname?
VM: Myself (was an easy internet handle that grew beyond my control after DIPS).
JL: Words of wisdom to baseball fans everywhere?
VM: Some of the people for whom you have criticism (often rightly so) are sometimes some of the nicest people in the world. Pat Gillick, for example. Go after bad ideas, but be kind to the people who have them.
JL: Who hired you with the Sox? What was the interview like?
VM: John Henry sent me an e-mail. I had conversations with Theo Epstein on the phone and then interviewed with Theo in Boston. Theo was still Assistant General Manager at the time. Shortly after I was hired, the negotiations with Billy Beane fell through and Theo became GM. After that I worked mostly with Jed Hoyer, a great guy who was temporarily co-GM during Theo's brief hiatus. The interview was great only because I'd never been to Fenway Park, and I got to see a game there for free. Great stadium, not as good as Wrigley (and my memories are dim on Old Comiskey) but still very nice.