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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BtBS: Interview With Dirk Hayhurst: Sabermetrics in Broadcasting

Blake Murphy: As a Jays fan I was privy to your work with Sportsnet over the summer. I appreciated you occasionally mixing in some of the more advanced stats that may not be familiar to everyday fans. Was this something that was requested of you or something you wanted to incorporate on your own?

Dirk Hayhurst: When I started with Sportsnet for Baseball Central at Noon, Sam (Cosentino, his co-host) and I had never met each other before. So we’re going to work together on this show and I had never done broadcasting and he had never worked with me. So we were trying to get each other felt out, and he said, “I think it’d be great if we did advanced sabermetrics because that’s stuff’s getting big!” and I was like, “sure.” But I didn’t want it to be like Dungeons and Dragons conversation.

So I was intimidated. I’m not great with stats. Actually, most of the players I know don’t do any of their research themselves; it’s all brought to them by somebody who is hired to do this. So we’d get color sheets, just these squares with colors, and you want to go at the blue ones and stay away from the red ones, and that’s about it.

So I’m thinking we’ll have somebody at the radio station who does this, surely. It’s a ubiquitous part of the game, Moneyball and all. Everybody has to understand this by now, we just need somebody to make it stupid for us. But I found out no, it’s not like that in the outside world, you’ve gotta do all this yourself. I thought, “oh this will be easy, I’ll just hop online and figure out advanced sabermetrics,” thanks to Fangraphs or Baseball Reference, and they don’t explain it to you either. They’ll explain some things, but not others. And then some stats, WARP and VORP and such, are different for each site, the math that’s used for each individual site.

I actually contacted Baseball Prospectus and said, “you’ve gotta explain this to me, because I’m going to be using your site a lot.” So I got a front row seat at a lecture from the Baseball prospectus people and they broke it all down for me.

Thanks to DF.

Repoz Posted: October 31, 2012 at 09:46 AM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcing, sabermetrics

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   1. Too Much Coffee Man Posted: October 31, 2012 at 03:17 PM (#4289419)
Great interview. I read Bullpen Gospels, and it's clear he's a bright guy.

One of my favorite quotes from the article:
I think there are better stats now. For example, I feel that WHIP and FIP are better evaluations of a pitcher than ERA, and I feel they should be used more. And people say, "yeah but people aren’t gonna understand FIP." But you just tell people what it is consistently and they’ll figure it out. I think if you give the right context and you give a clear explanation, once you get it, all it takes is an explanation to people.
   2. asinwreck Posted: October 31, 2012 at 05:56 PM (#4289550)
I call on Tom Tango a lot. When I don’t understand what I’m doing, a contact him and he does a good job breaking it down for me. He slammed my book on his website for not giving him enough inside the locker room math, and I like jumped him, and ever since then we’ve become good friends.
   3. Esoteric Posted: October 31, 2012 at 06:37 PM (#4289586)
Hayhurst really seems to be making a solid transition from journeyman baseball player to on-air guy. Couldn't happen to a more deserving fellow.
   4. Esoteric Posted: October 31, 2012 at 06:44 PM (#4289592)
Really liked his final thought in this interview (and RTFA because it's interesting all the way through, lots of great bits):

DH: I would say the one thing I wish fans understood more than any is that they are talking about human beings...A lot of those guys can’t make the separation between who they are as a person and who they are as a player. They hear what other people think about them, and it’s impossible to separate yourself from what the world around you perceives you as.

A fine example is look at Ricky Romero. He implodes this year, he feels like everyone hates him, he’s getting hate on Twitter to validate that. Even though of the amount of people that follow him on Twitter, probably a fraction of those were actually mad at him for any reason. The angry local sports population represents a small population but nonetheless that stuff gets back to the player. And the player is a person, and so he gets damaged by it.

The negative stuff for performance, the hatred, that branding, it’s damaging. It’s hard for those guys to separate their personal life from their private life because sports are so frenetically over-covered. If you feel like everyone in the world looks at you as a failure as a human being because you have bad stats, it’s crushing if you can’t separate it. It’s stress, a huge amount of it, and I always feel bad for the guys that go through this because they’ve done something as trivial as fail at a baseball game.
   5. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: October 31, 2012 at 10:34 PM (#4289719)
When I clicked on the article I thought it was about a new approach to using sabremetrics to measure broadcasters. This would take us beyond simple errors made and into vocal range (both offensive and defensive), depth of history, use of advanced statistics, articulation index, octaves below replacement, and so on.

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