Craig R. Wright

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Craig R. Wright is a baseball writer and historian who is a major proponent of sabermetrics.

Career[edit]

Major League Baseball[edit]

He was a very early pioneer in integrating science into Major League Baseball and first began working under that premise for the Texas Rangers,[1] after the strike of 1981. He soon became the first front office employee to work under the title sabermetrician, but he abandoned the title around 1990 because he felt "... the meaning had shifted too far from a scientific approach to baseball to one focused on statistical analysis of baseball."[2] By the end of his career he appeared to be more comfortable being identified with the scouting community than with statistical analysts. In the 2000 media guide of the Colorado Rockies, he was listed in their scouting section as "Special Assignment Scout." This remained a hot topic in his philosophy in his writings during retirement. In a rare in-depth interview in 2010, he steadfastly maintained his alligiance to the value of a science of baseball while at the same time speaking at length about the dangers of focusing on statistical analysis to understand the game. "I’ve said it and written it many times: statistical analysis is too often taken for being science itself rather than a tool of science."[3]

He worked full-time in major league baseball for over 20 years, mainly in the area of scouting, player evaluation and acquisition. His longest association with one big league team was the Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom he worked ten years as a year-round consultant during a period when they had the second best record in the league behind the Atlanta Braves.[4] With Los Angeles, he significantly helped advance the career of Mike Piazza from non-prospect to blue chip prospect. Wright was an early proponent of Piazza's ability as a hitter and also argued for his staying at the catcher position. He pushed hard for Piazza's rapid advancement to the big leagues while persuasively arguing for the moves that cleared the way for Piazza to be the club's #1 catcher in his rookie year.[5][6]

Along with Wright's consulting arrangements, from 1989 to 1996 he also provided a supplemental Advance Scout service for post-season play that was used by six pennant winners and four world champions. He ended that service to have the time to serve two years as a year-round consultant to the Arizona Diamondbacks in preparing for their expansion draft. The Diamondbacks' draft is the only expansion draft to produce a 40-homer player (Tony Batista) and two All-Stars (Batista and Damian Miller).

Work outside of Major League Baseball[edit]

Writing[edit]

Wright was the primary author of The Diamond Appraised (1989) with 10% of the material being provided by pitching coach Tom House.[7] With most of Wright's work taking place outside the public domain, it was a rare look at the type of work he was doing and how it was being used - or not used. In this book Wright was the first to give a sabermetric perspective on many issues within baseball, including the optimal way to utilize a bullpen and pitching rotation, how to better develop pitchers so that they are primed for future success, the significance of home field advantage, and catcher's ERA (CERA).[8] Wright's chapters on pitching included a ground-breaking study on pitcher workloads and how they might be better managed. They inspired a wealth of studies, and looking back at the book a dozen years later, Rany Jazayerli, one of the founders of Baseball Prospectus, called Wright's study one of the five most important ever done in baseball.[9] After The Diamond Appraised was translated into Japanese, the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League became a client of his consulting service. The other client of Wright's business that was not a major league team was STATS, Inc.. For a dozen years they used Wright as a consultant to design their products for major league teams.[10]

Sabermetric community[edit]

Despite his reservations about a central focus on statistical analysis to understand the game, Wright was well known for his general support of the sabermetric movement. He was one of the very early members of SABR, served on the Board of Directors of Project Scoresheet, the forerunner of Retrosheet, and he was very open about his appreciation of the early work by Bill James when such a view was still anathema in MLB. In turn, James called Wright a "brilliant analyst of the game," praised his pioneering work, and singled him out for his generous contributions to Bill's work in fine-tuning his concept of Win Shares. Wright repeatedly gave recommendations, help, and encouragement to those who aspired to similar careers in baseball, including Eddie Epstein, Mat Olkin, John Sickels, Keith Woolner, and Bill James. In his retirement from major league baseball, he has responded to offers of employment from the teams by making recommendations of others in the sabermetric community.

Radio show[edit]

Wright was the researcher and writer of the radio show A Page from Baseball's Past which was a pre-game show for various major league teams for 26 years.[11] He created the show with producer Eric Nadel who was also the voice of the show. In 2008 Wright began doing a subscription text version that is still popular today. Bill James, author of the popular Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract has praised the new text version as "... just excellent. I learn a lot from reading it."

Wright's perspective on Moneyball[edit]

Few details were publicly known about Wright's pioneering career until he wrote a few vignettes about that period on his web site for The Diamond Appraised Baseball Column that he wrote for three years. Of particular interest is the very different take he has on those early days of sabermetrics in major league baseball that is quite at odds with the theme in Michael Lewis's Moneyball. Lewis portrayed the early practitioners within the game as simply being ignored. Wright acknowledges that very few teams back then were adding such a perspective, and that the general usage was at times on a frustratingly small scale, but he makes a strong case that there were pockets where it was not only valued but had real impact. He gives interesting examples from his career and he scores a key point with his question: "All my contracts were 1-year contracts. Do you really think teams are going to keep shelling out the money year after year just to have you give advice that they will ignore?"[12]

In remembering Wright's work with the Texas Rangers, GM Tom Grieve said in a 1999 interview: "He was an important asset to the club," and added, "The more I know Craig, the more I respect him."[13] Dodgers GM Fred Claire echoed that: "I was very impressed by [Wright's] approach, his evaluation process. ... Craig added some valuable input to the process. ... I felt he was very good as it related to players in not only their major league careers, but also in their minor league careers. ...Craig was able to add a different dimension with his own analysis. ... I can recall when we signed Tom Candiotti [in 1991] we were looking at free agent pitchers, and Craig felt he could be a guy who could give a lot of innings and pitch successfully."[14] (Candiotti proved to be the bargain of that free agent class. During his four-year contract he led the Dodgers in innings and ERA. His 3.38 ERA was actually the fourth best in the whole league.) After five years of working with Wright, Claire advised him that he would make a good GM and urged him to apply for a vacancy in St. Louis with his recommendation. This was in the fall of 1994, long before the Moneyball era.[15]

After Major League Baseball[edit]

Wright is semi-retired and lives in Montana where he continues to write about baseball. When asked if he would ever return to major league baseball, he has said it is "very unlikely," and that he would never accept a job that would move him from Montana. But he adds, "I have a distinct vision of where things should go from here in the application of the science of baseball within major league baseball. If a team wanted to explore that vision and decided they wanted my help in bringing it to life – that would certainly catch my attention." [16]

Wright currently maintains one subscription service: A PageFrom Baseballs Past. Rob Neyer, senior baseball writer for ESPN.com advised his readers: "I'm not one of those people who refuses to pay for anything on the Web, ... but if I could pay for just one thing, it would probably be Craig Wright's baseball writing."[17]

Wright's latest book Pages from Baseball's Past is a collection from the story series A Page from Baseball's Past and has received exceptional reviews. "There is no more passionate baseball historian than Craig Wright. His stories are fascinating, well researched and well written. Craig has a wonderful gift for telling intriguing stories that we have never heard, and providing little known details of familiar tales. ... The photographs are priceless, and the research notes impossible to ignore. For any baseball fan, this book is a true treasure....long overdue....a loving gift to followers of the greatest game in the world. [18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ RotoJunkie - Roto 101 - Sabermetric Glossary (powered by evoArticles)
  2. ^ DiamondAppraised.com
  3. ^ http://www.seamheads.com/2010/06/23/touring-the-bases-with-craig-wright-2/
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ "Piazza, Hall of Fame Catcher," The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009, 148-55.
  6. ^ Mike Piazza. Long Shot. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. ISBN 978-1439150221. p 84, 88, 279.
  7. ^ Craig R. Wright and Tom House. The Diamond Appraised. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989. ISBN 0-671-70719-1.
  8. ^ RotoJunkie - Roto 101 - Sabermetric Glossary (powered by evoArticles)
  9. ^ The Diamond Appraised – The Book
  10. ^ DiamondAppraised.com
  11. ^ Nadel, Eric, "A Silver Anniversary," 2009 Texas Rangers Souvenir Program
  12. ^ DiamondAppraised.com
  13. ^ Douglas S. Looney. Baseball People: Folks Who Make the Game Go - A Cool Head On a Hot Seat. The Christian Science Monitor. 24-JUL-1999.
  14. ^ http://www.baseball-analysis.com/article.php?articleid=2720
  15. ^ DiamondAppraised.com
  16. ^ DiamondAppraised.com
  17. ^ April 7, 2010 http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot
  18. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Pages-Baseballs-Past-Craig-Wright/product-reviews/0879465158/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

External links[edit]