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homer at the chalkboardIt’s been a while since the Chicago Cubs nabbed a top name in the industry to bring into the front office fold, so I just assumed they were slipping.

I kid, of course, because it’s impossible to keep up with the pace at which they were grabbing guys last year, but the Cubs have locked down a truly impressive get: sabermetric star Tom Tango, who now consults exclusively for the Cubs.

Tango, one of the authors of “The Book – Playing the Percentages in Baseball,” and the man behind an intelligent and wide-ranging blog that has been linked here from time to time (and which now lives here), is a computer/database/statistics whiz. I’d love to give a deeper, less glib description, but that’s the gist. Last year, before I knew that he’d consulted from time to time with the Mariners and Blue Jays, I tweeted at him that I couldn’t believe that a baseball team hadn’t tried to hire him. He mentioned his consulting gigs, and I got the sense that a full-time front office job might not be his cup of tea. Well, the Cubs landing him as an exclusive consultant is probably as good as it was going to get. Well done, Cubs.

If I could think of just one way to impress you with respect to the Cubs locking down Tango exclusively, it would be this: he’s the guy who invented FIP. What has become one of the favorite sabermetric pitching statistics ’round these parts, FIP – “fielding independent pitching” – measures only what a pitcher can control, taking the fielding behind him (which could be good or bad or lucky or unlucky) out of the equation.

Tango was a forerunner of the modern sabermetric era, and, like many sabermetricians before him, he did it all in his spare time while otherwise living a “real” life. Even those of you who are familiar with Tango’s work might not know that “Tom Tango,” like “tangotiger” is merely a pseudonym. A deeply private person, Tango feels no need to reveal his real identity (“There are a lot of old-timers who think that I should sign my Christian name,” he wrote in 2008. “I don’t see why it’s anyone’s business other than mine.”). Indeed, back in a 2010 interview with McClean’s, Tango said, “I’ve actually only met one person on the sports side [of my business]. Take all my past and current employers, colleagues, peers and readers, and I have met exactly one person.”

(As an aside, can you imagine courting someone like that? It had to be at least a little difficult just connecting in the first place and setting up interviews, if necessary. The Internet is amazing.)

This isn’t the first time that a Theo Epstein regime has reached out to the burgeoning sabermetric community to bring in a bright mind – in 2003, early in his GM career, Epstein, Larry Lucchino and John Henry brought in Bill James to consult with the Red Sox.

  • Carl

    Even though this year and maybe even next year won’t be so hot, it’s impossible not to be super excited about the long term health of this franchise. The farm system went from terrible to pretty good in 2 years, Wrigley will be renovated and more money will pump into the team, and Theo is assembling the smartest front office in MLB. This is great.

    • http://www.Chicagocubstalk.blogspot.com ChicagoCubsTalk

      I agree with you here. The Cubs have made many improvements over the past 2 years. Looking forward to see how it all unfolds

  • TWC

    Does “Tom Tango” let the Cubs FO call him by his real name, or do Theo and Jed have to refer to him by his pseudonym?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Honestly, I bet they call him Tango. It’s possible Theo and Jed know his name, but it seems like, when he’s doing this stuff, he prefers to be Tango.

      Maybe I should go back to Ace …

      • TWC

        Uh, in my book (and others’), you’ve never stopped.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          And I heart you for it.

      • hansman1982

        They’ll have to know his name to 1099 him.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Payroll, sure.

        • TWC

          That’s assuming he’s on payroll. He could very well have an exclusive consulting contract and have set up a corporate front (eg, “Tango Tiger Analytics, Inc.”) for all billing stuff. He remains anonymous.

          • Spriggs

            That’s probably exactly what he does. As long as the IRS has that business name and EIN – it’s all good and in the open too. He would be in the “Accounts Payables” rather than Payroll and would get a 1099-Misc.

            • hansman1982

              Ya, as soon as I put that out there I remebered that route which would allow Scott “Tom Tango” McScott to remain in the shadows.

            • Lou

              Too bad I don’t work for the Social Security Administration anymore. Our database interfaced with the IRS. We had the resources to look up businesses like this and sometimes you could find out people(s) names running the business…not that I’d check that out or anything ;)

        • Cub Fan Dan

          I bet his real name is Clarence Beeks & Theo & Jed will have him frame Crane Kenney ala Louis Winthorpe III.

          • Mike

            What do you think the bet will be for? One dollar, perhaps?

    • hansman1982

      Scott

      • TWC

        Heh

    • Rich H

      As far as the using a Pseudonym is concerned I do understand his point. Being a writer myself I have another name I use as a alias for a number of reasons. The number one for me being avoidance of being pigeon holed into a certain genre. But the privacy it grants me is also a plus.

      • TWC

        Wait. You’re *not* Rich H.?

        Mind = blown

  • Gcheezpuff

    My wife is a teacher, I blame her every time I get sick. True story, she is like super immune to everything and never gets sick, but instead brings every sickness known to man home to me and my son. I do however make her wait on me hand and foot every time I get sick… I mean it is only fair right?

    • Gcheezpuff

      Somehow I managed to write this post under the wrong article which makes it look completely out of place here…

  • 2much2say

    They’re backkkk! PED The usual suspects plus Arod Melky we know, Gio we hardly knew ya
    Nelson shame on you.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s discussed in this morning’s Bullets, in case you missed it.

  • ETS

    Whoa. This is pretty big.

  • EQ76

    with a new TV deal coming soon.. we could have both Tango & cash!

    • TWC

      ::rimshot::

    • Wilbur

      Tom Terrific?

  • GDB

    As delighted as I am with all the pro-sabermetric moves this front office has made since taking over (and this seems like another excellent addition), it does highlight the glaring issues with the previous regime’s lack of statistical awareness.

    Legitimate question – Were the Cubs the least stats aware team in all of Baseball in the last 10 years?

    • fromthemitten

      They definitely had a laughably small front office compared to other big market teams. Look no further than their abysmal draft record all the way back to the MacFAIL era

  • @cubsfantroy

    They should have hired Doc, not Tango.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No! Then we’d lose him!

    • DocPeterWimsey

      aw, my blushes….

      I must admit, that kind of job has always seemed “fun” to me: but, then, so does mine! I suppose that it’s better to have less invested emotionally: I’ll always be rooting for Cubs (and, yes, still Sox) players, whereas I never really root for hypotheses. (I mean, I’m glad for them when they win and all, but there will never be a “1984” or “1986” or “2003”….)

  • Sully

    Totally agree Carl. I think we have great owners and in the near future, we’ll have alot to be happy about.

  • BluBlud

    Man, My Boss has had me in meetings all morning. I missed two BN post. I hate that. The nerve of that guy. to think that because he provides me a paycheck, he can dictate my damn schedule and keep me away from Cubs news.

    On the topic of the post, cool hire, if you are into top secret sabermetricians.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Cool for Tom T. A small part of me is envious!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I kid, by the way in the earlier comment – if you ever need a letter of reference …

    • BluBlud

      so Doc, what exactly do you do.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        I’m an evolutionary biologist who focuses largely (but not exclusively!) on fossils (i.e,. paleontology). Most of my research involves looking at how rates of evolution (and rates of preservation in the fossil record) vary over time, space, different animal groups, etc.

        In other words, the same stuff I do with baseball! (And both have the “it’s just fun to watch/play” aspect too: I mean, fossils are cool!)

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          For those who need that drilled down (pun intended?): Doc is a big-time scientist.

          • hansman1982

            He is the Sheldon Cooper of BN.

            I CALL LEONARD!!!

            • Stinky Pete

              I was thinking Ross Gellar.

              • hansman1982

                mmm, tough choice. Rachel or Penny…

                • Stinky Pete

                  Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel Rachel. Eh, maybe Penny, I guess…

                  Actually, I fancy my self more of a Bernadette kind of guy…

                  Wait. We’re not really talking about Tom Tango anymore, are we?

                • Wilbur

                  Penny seems much more approachable than Rachel, but I definitely see the Bernadette connection …

                  Who says statistics are dull.

        • blublud

          Ok, similar to maybe a pathologist, but who goes more into detail.

          • hansman1982

            The word you may be looking for is Palentologist. A Pathologist studies disease.

            • blublud

              That would be a paleontologist, and yes, maybe that is what I meant.

              • hansman1982

                I never said I was a Orthographer, that title rests with others on this site.

                • DarthHater

                  What do birds have to do with this? ;-)

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Yeah, paleontologist is my main “hat.” The problem is that if I say that, then everybody starts asking me about dinosaurs! I study snails & friends instead. Also, the old labels are not really very useful anymore: most of us who study fossils primarily also study living things, and a lot of people who study living things primarily (well, recently living!) also deal with fossils a lot.

            Indeed, paleontologists/evolutionary biologists and sabermetrics go together quite well: it was Stephen Jay Gould who first pointed out the the loss of 0.400 hitters reflected a decrease in variance over time (we also have lost sub-0.200 hitters) rather than a trend towards lower batting averages.

            • D.G.Lang

              Titanoboa type?

        • ReiCow

          Doc,

          Where are you a researcher? Are you tenured?

          Moo.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Currently, Smithsonian; formerly, Field Museum. And, yeah.

            • ReiCow

              Awesome! The Smithsonian is fantastic.

              Moo!

        • ETS
          • DocPeterWimsey

            I was at the Field when we (they) acquired Sue. I was quite surprised that we got her: supposedly Michael Jackson was going to be a gazillion dollars for her.

            Sue was unveiled shortly before I got married, and my wife & I gave the out-of-town guests tickets to the Field to look at her (Sue). (The in-town guests were already well and truly sick of Sue at that point….) I actually watched the unveiling at home: the museum was such as zoo that day that they recommended that those of us who didn’t need to be there stay away.

            • ETS

              So is that a yes to going?

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  • OlderStyle

    Searching for Bobby Fischer? Tango down. (bada-bip)

  • cubzforlife

    Doc have you discovered any fossils from the last Cubs world series win?

    • DarthHater

      Find the fossilized remains of Three Fingers Brown’s missing fingers, extract some DNA, do a little cloning, and the Cubs’ pitching problem is solved. Oh, and change the name of Wrigley to Jurassic Park. ;-)

  • DarthHater

    According to Wikipedia, Tango also created wOBA, which I think is just as big a feather in his cap as FIP.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It absolutely is – I just didn’t know if that was quite as connectable to folks here since I don’t really write about it (though I do use it in my own personal research).

    • hansman1982

      Fangraphs has the same citation.

      It’s good to get the Godfather of sabrmetrics in house.

  • TWC

    Seriously, folks, read The Book.

    Or, try to. It’s pretty dense for those for whom maths are a thing of high school past.

  • WI Jeff

    Mr Tango
    When or What would Tango advise the cubs regarding Bourn?
    Only 3 years at 13 million is worth the 2nd round and the cash to sign Bourn…. Lots of emotion over this guy at age and abilities…… I am just curious from analytical perspective.

    • MichiganGoat

      I think he’d say pass especially with the new CBA, draft picks have never been more valuable than they are now.

      • DarthHater

        I think Tango would say pass because he invented wOBA and Bourn’s wOBA is worse than DeJesus’s.

  • I-CubsFanBoy

    I checked out the Tom Tango blog, It was insightful and a little entertaining. Might be the time of year, but he talks A LOT about hockey, theMapleleafs in particular, Doe anybody know if Mr. Tango is Canadian eh?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I believe he is originally from Canada, yes.

    • Lou

      He consulted for NHL teams as well and some of them have incorporated his game theory into their team creation and developmental strategies.

  • DarthHater
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