Quick Hits: Former Cubs Consultant Tom Tango and the Narrowing Gap Between Private and Public Metrics

You might have read Tom Tango’s name in my posts or some other dude’s post. If Bill James is considered Godfather of advanced stats, Tango is Godfather Part II. He created wOBA and FIP, two of the most commonly cited “advanced” metrics today.

What you might not know is that Tango was actually hired by Theo Epstein as a consultant for the Cubs. Yes, one of the legends of baseball analysis used to work for the Cubs. Today, he works with MLB Advanced Media to develop new tools based on Statcast technology.

I bring this up because we just talked about the shortcomings of PECOTA projections [I need to insert link once posted] and defensive statistics [ditto on the link]. The major knock on these two ideas is that both factor incomplete data, thus painting a muddy picture of what a player is going to produce or what he is truly worth. Maybe in the not-so-distant future, we will have better tools because of Tango’s work and we’ll look back one day at the primitive statistical implements we once used.

What’s most interesting about Tango’s new role is that he could be part of the force that narrows the gap between accessible public data and private, team-owned data. Many baseball fans are also data scientists by trade or are familiar with math in some capacity. If these fans have access to the same kind of data or tools MLB teams use, imagine the possibilities.

One example of a fan/data scientist is Andrew Perpetua, who created one of the coolest stat databases to date: xStats. Perpetua essentially converted Statcast batted-ball data to expected batting average, homers, wOBA, ERA, and almost any stat of which you can think. You should really check out his work if you’re not already familiar with it.

Because of the work pioneered by Tango and perpetuated by Perpetua, maybe Ben Lindbergh’s recent prediction in The Ringer will eventually come to fruition:

As more and more Statcast data trickles out to the public, we’re approaching a point when the stat-savvy fan can form a nearly complete picture of a player’s performance on the field [emphasis mine]. Teams have already reached that point, but they also have a handicap that narrows the gap between public and private knowledge: They lack the public’s ability to crowdsource with a brain trust whose size is limited only by the moderate difficulty of communicating online. “Now more so than ever,” the former scouting exec says, “secrets are harder to keep secret from the public at large. An enterprising independent analyst is likely to come closer to reverse-engineering insight into a team’s roster-building process than many clubs would be comfortable admitting.”

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