It’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.