Unintentionally Found: Rob Murphy, OG Stat Nerd


Whilst perusing the gentleman’s Internet, I came across the above picture. It features baseball, but it also features a depiction of an antiquated piece of technology. I thought people might find that funny. I also thought people might see it as a pointed commentary on our society’s relationship with technology — i.e. how we can barely learn and become comfortable with something before another newer, better thing is thrust upon us. The second group would probably be reading too much into it, I continued thinking, but that’s OK because discussion is vital for growth.

I was kicking around a couple of ideas for an article. One involved Murphy’s internal dialog as he played a text-based computer game. Another had him hacking into the stadium’s scoreboard.

But then I did a little research on Mr. Murphy, trying to figure out what set of circumstances would cause him to bring a portable computer anywhere near a baseball field. Rob Murphy isn’t just dicking around here. Rob Murphy is a legit geek.

I encourage you to read the whole article, but it talks about how Murphy built his own computer program to project the future success of race horses, using that information to make investments via public horse auctions. This is an impressive endeavor, perhaps more so when one considers that this article was written 26 years ago.

The system could also be used to try and pick race winners (though he preferred not to use it that way), and he even used it to give Pete Rose some advice on which ponies to pick at the track, which just adds to the intrigue and gives some smile-/cringe-inducing foreshadowing.

I find it interesting that there are no quotes from people stating how Murphy is ruining the sport of horse racing — how real races are won on the track, not in a spreadsheet. It may sound like I’m being facetious, but I’m not. Imagine if Murphy were trying to make educated insights into baseball using his computer. The article would most certainly have a different tone to it.

But let us not ruminate on the perhaps-mostly-invented skirmishes between the stat-oriented and the traditional. Let us instead celebrate Rob Murphy, OG Stat Nerd.

Those who are about to tweak their relational databases solute you.

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David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.

8 Responses to “Unintentionally Found: Rob Murphy, OG Stat Nerd”

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  1. badmotorfinger says:

    Eh, Murphy’s idea is good and all, but can it measure a horse’s will to win?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Guy says:

    The funny thing is, that’s not even a computer….it’s a wrist watch.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. BubbaBiscuit says:

    He totally looks more like what the kid in Big would look like as a grown up than Tom Hanks.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. KB says:

    That same Upper Deck Series features a card with a giant cell phone. Can’t remember who, though.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. David says:

    Is it just me, or does that dude look freakishly similar to Jason Alexander?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Bill says:

    The computer is not plugged in. From what I remember about the battery life of “old-timey” electronics, Mr. Murphy is, in all probability, smiling delightfully at a blank screen.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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