VORP: An acronym for “value over replacement player.” Coined by baseball statistician Keith Woolner circa 2001 as a way to measure “how much a hitter contributes offensively or how much a pitcher contributes to his team in comparison to a fictitious ‘replacement player,’ who is an average fielder at his position and a below average hitter” (definition source: Wikipedia).
In the years since Woolner invented VORP, the term has been adopted by tech startups as a means of grading employees, writes Dan Lyons in Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, a memoir published earlier this month. Lyons, who had been laid off at 52 from a reporting job at Newsweek, considered himself lucky to be hired as a “marketing fellow” by a 10-year-old Boston company called HubSpot, which sells “software that lets companies, most of them small businesses like pool installers and flower shops, sell more stuff.” (The company line, writes Lyons: “Our spam is not spam. In fact it is the opposite of spam. It’s antispam. It’s a shield against spam—a spam condom. HubSpot has even created a promotional campaign, with T-shirts that say make love not spam.”) Lyons had spent most of his career writing about technology, and knew nothing about marketing. Still, he needed a job and prided himself on being a quick study. Besides, as he writes in a New York Times op-ed: “I thought working at a start-up would be great. The perks! The cool offices!”
Instead, he found himself working in a place that looked “like a cross between a kindergarten and a frat house,” where a “culture code” – based on one pioneered by Netflix – dictated a sports-team model for the company. That’s where VORP comes in. From a Boston.com story about Lyons and Disrupted:
At HubSpot, Lyons said workers were given a VORP rating of 1 to 5 based on how much value they add to the company, compared to someone who could take over their position for a smaller salary. Lyons recalls getting a 3, maybe a 2.
“I thought this was ridiculous,” Lyons said. “It seemed like the cruelest thing in the world.”
Lyons also writes about other HubSpot jargon, including “graduate” (an employee is never fired or laid off; he or she “graduates”) and “delightion,” a word invented by a HubSpot founder that means “delighting our customers.”
A year and a half after starting his job, Lyons “graduated” from HubSpot (he was given one day’s notice). Not to worry: He landed a job writing for the satirical HBO series Silicon Valley. The chief marketing officer at HubSpot during Lyons’s tenure, Mike Volpe, has also “graduated”: He was found guilty of ethics violations in his “attempts to procure” a copy of Disrupted before its publication.
For Lewis Carroll fans, VORP may evoke vorpal, a word Carroll invented for his poem “The Jabberwocky”: “One, two! One, two! And through and through / The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! / He left it dead, and with its head / He went galumphing back.” Unlike galumph (a blend of gallop and triumph) and other Carroll coinages such as slithy (a blend of slimy and lithe) and chortle (chuckle plus snort), vorpal has no clear antecedents; in context, it means sharp or deadly. In the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, a vorpal blade or vorpal sword is one capable of decapitation.
VORP is also an acronym for Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of the Central Valley (California), which assists Fresno’s Christian churches in making peace between criminal offenders and their victims. There’s a similar VORP in Denver that does not have an overtly religious mission.
Vorped.com analyzes sports “through the perspective of data and data visualization.” VORP occasionally appears as a verb, as in “VORPing the Less Fortunate,” a subhed on Baseball Prospectus (where Keith Woolner was an early contributor).