Friday, March 02, 2012

Writing from ESPN The Magazine - on Ricky Williams, Stan Conte & Brandon McCarthy

There were three excellent pieces from the Mar 5 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Shortest of them was the Chris Jones back-page commentary "Peace out" on my favorite NFL player, Ricky Williams, announcing his retirement. The writing is solid to be sure, but the subject in Ricky is so captivating to me with a guy who has taken his own path through life and (as posts to his Twitter account seem to indicate) really seems to love what he's doing. Additionally, the commentary by Jones on going to Australia to write a 2004 Esquire profile on Williams is just riveting stuff.

The two other pieces stood out not so much for their Point Break-esque "finding you on a beach in Australia" imagery, but for simply being on really interesting subjects. "Saviormetrics" was written by Eddie Katz and details the advanced statistics (yes, Moneyball type statistics) tracked and strived towards excellence in by Oakland A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy.

Also about baseball and tending towards the detailed (it was the Analytics Issue of the magazine, after all) was "The Hurt Talker" on LA Dodgers Director of Medical Services Stan Conte. It was a fascinating piece by Bryce Duffy that overviews Conte's attempts to profile player acquisition candidates to predict whether they'll suffer injury. Concept could well be described as rigorously applying past data (both aggregate on injuries and specific on players) to make the completely unknown a little bit... well, known. An inexact science to be sure, but very interesting reading about someone approaching it as a science rather than just a guess and a prayer.