Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

NY Times: Modern Stats Bring WAR to Broadcast Booth (B.A.B.I.P., Too)

As players, managers and front office executives embrace the esoteric statistics, teams increasingly want their radio announcers just as fluent in the language of WAR, VORP and B.A.B.I.P. (Those stand for wins above replacement, value over replacement player and batting average on balls in play, for those of you dusting off your radios as the season begins.)

“They wanted a broadcaster who is at least comfortable with exploring the idea of discussing advanced statistics and what they mean,” said Robert Ford, 33, who was hired by the Houston Astros in the off-season, along with Steve Sparks, 48, a former pitcher, to call the team’s games. The advent of advanced statistical analysis, Mr. Ford said, has “changed the way we think about baseball.”

Now, as the two settle into the Astros’ broadcast booth, they and their colleagues across the country face a balancing act. How much do listeners want to know about these advanced numbers? How much is informative? And how much would prompt the audience, a group that spans all generations, to tune out?

Listeners and announcers alike say that striking the right balance will be a challenge.

bobm Posted: April 02, 2013 at 08:15 AM | 64 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, broadcasting, indians, mets, radio, statistics, television, tigers, yankees

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Spectral Posted: April 02, 2013 at 10:40 AM (#4401909)
While I love numbers, I recognize that they're a big turnoff to others when presented en masse via audio. It seems to me that their correct place when calling a game is drive at specific points, not just presenting them without comment. For example, if a pitcher has an unusual BABIP that might be telling us something about him, bring it up.
   2. zack Posted: April 02, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4401944)
I think that's true of all numbers, not just advanced ones. All statistics are ultimately meaningless, it is the interpretation of the statistics that provide insight. It's just that for the basic stats we have an intrinsic understanding of them.

The problem for broadcasts is that the broadcasters must not only know what the new statistics are, they must know what they mean.
   3. Steve Treder Posted: April 02, 2013 at 11:45 AM (#4401961)
And interestingly, Bernie Taupin feels like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford.
   4. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 12:04 PM (#4401983)
The primary job of the radio announcers is to report the event they're watching to the listener. I'm not interested in their predictions of how a player is going to perform, nor is it their job to tell me.

And, yes, as one announcer says in TFA, I'm much more interested in stories from the clubhouse, and stories generally, than I am in amateur number crunching to propagandize for the team's front office.
   5. JE (Jason) Posted: April 02, 2013 at 12:35 PM (#4402018)
There's no need to do any serious "number crunching," SBB.

If an announcer can say, "Leading off the game is Joe Shmoe. He is hitting .250 with one home run and 20 runs batted in," then there's nothing wrong with adding in a more insightful number or two.
   6. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: April 02, 2013 at 12:35 PM (#4402022)
I can see BABIP being accepted pretty easily. It's simple enough to calculate, and it's informative when this year's Kyle Lohse is cruising at 12-3, 2.33 ERA in mid-August. Fans wonder why player X is having a surprisingly good year. Once in a blue moon, it's a Mike Scott scenario where a journeyman masters a pitch. More often than not, that kind of surprise is not going to last and BABIP, while not telling why some few batted balls are falling in, helps us understand the flukiness that we are seeing.

SBB, and you don't think the stories from the clubhouse mainly propagandize the team's front office? I have some pets.com and Enron stock to offer at Friends of BBTF prices! :)
   7. JE (Jason) Posted: April 02, 2013 at 12:48 PM (#4402029)
I have a question for the English majors here at BTF: Why would the NYT editors allow acronyms WAR and VORP to go without periods after each of the letters but not B.A.B.I.P?
   8. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 02, 2013 at 12:55 PM (#4402032)
Concur with Edmundo in No. 6. BABIP is a completely different animal from WAR or VORP.
   9. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:00 PM (#4402033)
If an announcer can say, "Leading off the game is Joe Shmoe. He is hitting .250 with one home run and 20 runs batted in," then there's nothing wrong with adding in a more insightful number or two.

Like what ... his WAR? That's silly.

It's amazing how pushy and annoying its acolytes have become about WAR, a metric with enormous flaws. Now they're insinuating that a radio broadcast of a baseball game is somehow deficient if the measurement isn't referenced? Absurd.

Fans wonder why player X is having a surprisingly good year.

What does "surprisingly" mean here? And how do you know what fans are "wonder[ing]"?
   10. JE (Jason) Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:04 PM (#4402038)
Like what ... his WAR? That's silly.

Like his OBP and SLG? But yes, even WAR is more useful to describe a leadoff hitter than his RBI total.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4402040)
Why would the NYT editors allow acronyms WAR and VORP to go without periods after each of the letters but not B.A.B.I.P?'


According to Times style, it's because WAR and VORP are acronyms, spoken as war and vorp, while BABIP is merely an initialism, with all five letters spoken individually. This distinction is most evident in the Times' treatment of AIDS and H.I.V.

By the way, Times style often differs wildly from AP and other conventional stylebooks, Mr. Epstein.
   12. JJ1986 Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:09 PM (#4402044)
According to Times style, it's because WAR and VORP are spoken as the words war and vorp, while BABIP is not spoken babip, but all five letters are spoken individually. This distinction is most evident in the Times' treatment of AIDS and H.I.V.


I've heard it said Ba-bip.
   13. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:09 PM (#4402046)
Like his OBP and SLG? But yes, even WAR is more useful to describe a leadoff hitter than his RBI total.

"Useful" to what?

The overriding assumption here is that people listen to baseball games to garner data points about which players are better than other players and why -- as if the existence of a baseball game, by definition and by its very nature, must prompt and occasion a seminar in the proper way to grade and rank baseball players.

As noted herein many times, reporting baseball games, and analyzing baseball players' performance, are two entirely different disciplines. One has always been very interesting and remains -- especially in the right hands -- very interesting. The other used to be interesting -- even extremely interesting -- but is becoming old, boring, and tiresome, even as it becomes more "advanced."
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:16 PM (#4402052)
I've heard it said Ba-bip.


I'm sure there are a lot of the abbreviations that are occasionally used as acronmyms. The Times must make their own determination.

I'm a B-A-B-I-P guy, myself.
   15. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4402057)
I don't necessarily disagree with SBB here, but wouldn't it be interesting or inevitable for an announcer for a team with the Astros' front office to try to present some of these advanced metrics if for no other reason that they seem to be guiding the team's decision-making and who is being put on the field and traded away? The announcer doesn't necessarily need to be cheerleading these decisions either. They can be entirely explanatory, even critical mentions of the stats. It seems to eschew any reference to these stats is to ignore part of the story of the current Astros.
   16. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:20 PM (#4402060)
The Times must make their own determination.

What do they do with APBA? "Ap-buh," as the brochures said, or A.B.P.A. as my friend most devoted to it insists?
   17. JE (Jason) Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:20 PM (#4402061)
"Useful" to what?

And on what on Earth can you hope to glean from learning about Denard Span's RBI total?

In contrast, WAR allows one to get an important, albeit imperfect understanding of a leadoff hitter's value as a player.

If ESPN's Baseball Tonight -- the show for the non-thinking fan -- is willing to post the statistic for its viewers then what's the problem with the occasional mention on an Astros telecast?

EDIT: Again, I would be even happier if announcers simply used the slash line alongside home run totals.

EDIT no. 2: Thanks, Mr. SoSH.
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:21 PM (#4402062)
I don't necessarily disagree with SBB here, but wouldn't it be interesting or inevitable for an announcer for a team with the Astros' front office to try to present some of these advanced metrics if for no other reason that they seem to be guiding the team's decision-making and who is being put on the field and traded away? The announcer doesn't necessarily need to be cheerleading these decisions either. They can be entirely explanatory, even critical mentions of the stats. It seems to eschew any reference to these stats is to ignore part of the story that is the current Astros.


Agreed. I think it's logical that there's some natural difference between how the Phillies and Astros broadcasters would deal with advanced metrics.

   19. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4402067)
And on what on Earth can you hope to glean from learning about Denard Span's RBI total?

How many RBIs he has.

In contrast, WAR allows one to get an important, albeit imperfect understanding of a leadoff hitter's value as a player.

Put "imperfect" in bold and it would be closer to right.

Again, Rule Number 1: The announcers are there to report the happenings in a newsworthy event to people interested in what transpires in the event. They aren't there to help two guys on a barstool in Moe's Tavern or Kelsey's Bar win an argument.

   20. Steve Treder Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4402068)
Both Jon Miller and Dave Flemming on the Giants' broadcasts will occasionally work in a reference to OPS or WHIP, and I'm pretty sure once I heard Miller talking about OPS+. They'll reference them when they're relevant to the situation, in a tone that's neither cheerleading nor mocking.

Neither Kuiper nor Krukow will ever get there. And that's okay too.
   21. Kiko Sakata Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4402070)
it's because WAR and VORP are acronyms, spoken as war and vorp, while BABIP is merely an initialism


It never occurred to me not to pronounce BABIP as a word (ba-bip). My 11-year-old son, on the other hand, for a long time, referred to players' W-A-R's (I think he's started using the word, war, probably because I do in our conversations on the subject).
   22. JE (Jason) Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:29 PM (#4402072)
Again, Rule Number 1: The announcers are there to report the happenings in a newsworthy event to people interested in what transpires in the event. They aren't there to help two guys on a barstool in Moe's Tavern or Kelsey's Bar win an argument.

Again, Denard Span's RBI total is not newsworthy (i.e., important).
   23. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4402080)
Again, Denard Span's RBI total is not newsworthy (i.e., important).

That's debatable on many fronts, definitional and otherwise. For these purposes, suffice it to say that the number of RBIs a player at bat in a major league baseball game has, has been deemed worthy of communicating to the listening and viewing publics, and the patrons in the stands, for many, many decades.

There's no reason, much less a compelling reason, to revolutionize that harmless tradition by replacing RBIs with something as uninviting and unappealing and inexact as WAR.

(By the way, what's the verb the announcer should use with "WAR"? "Produced" is about the best you can do, which isn't exactly pleasing to the ear. Nor, of course, is it accurate -- at no point can we say honestly that Denard Span has produced 1 WAR in the same way we can say he's batted in 22 runs -- but that's a different issue.)
   24. Rusty Priske Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4402082)
I was listening to some Jays Spring Trainign games and Dirk Hayhurst pronounced BABIP as Bah-Bip.

Speaking of which... is Dirk doing Jays games all year? He was quite entertaining.
   25. JJ1986 Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:40 PM (#4402083)
I wouldn't list WAR either, but I don't know why Runs or OBP/SLG aren't just as much 'events' as RBIs.
   26. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:41 PM (#4402086)
I wouldn't list WAR either, but I don't know why Runs or OBP/SLG aren't just as much 'events' as RBIs.

As pertains to me, that's a strawman. I've never suggested that announcers shouldn't use OBP or SLG, nor do I think that.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4402088)
Like what ... his WAR? That's silly.


How about babip....
Announcer: Pitcher A has a "high" era, but a lot of people feel that is a lot of bad luck, as his babip has been relatively high and with normal luck his era should go down.

Or era+
Announcer: Don't let his 4.75 era fool you, his era+ is 100, if he was pitching in St Louis, that would mean he is posting an equivalent era of 3.75(note numbers made up) but due to the higher scoring environment of Coors field, his raw era looks worse than it really is.

What is wrong with that. Babip is one of the stats announcers/analysts should be using. Same with era+, ops+, obp, ops etc.

I'm a B-A-B-I-P guy, myself.


I was, but ba-bip sounds cool in my head.

Rarely am I in agreement with SBB, but War would be a dumb stat for announcers to use. It's fine to tell the story of the mvp last year if they want to rehash the debate as part of the story, and it is ok if you are using last years total to tell a comparison story between players during a broadcast, but in season war is even more useless than wpa or homeruns hit at night on a full moon type of stats.

   28. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:54 PM (#4402095)
What is wrong with that. Babip is one of the stats announcers/analysts should be using.

It distracts attention from the game transpiring on the field, and insinuates that "knowing" how or why a participants' ERA is what it is, is more important than what he's doing on the field.

If the announcer needs to fill time with information about the pitcher, I'm more interested in where he's from, when he was drafted, how he was acquired, where he played in college, or any number of similar details, than I am in his BABIP.

As always in these conversations, I would commend the broadcasts of Games 6 and 7 of the 1986 World Series, wherein the "cursed" history of the Red Sox was barely mentioned, if at all and Vin Scully saw no need to place the drama on the field in a broader "context" for the viewer or, better yet, the 4th game of the 1976 World Series when, on the eve of the most revolutionary offseason in the sport's history, the NBC announcers uttered barely a peep about the future of either team, or the coming of free agency.
   29. cmd600 Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:59 PM (#4402098)
For these purposes, suffice it to say that the number of RBIs a player at bat in a major league baseball game has, has been deemed worthy of communicating to the listening and viewing publics, and the patrons in the stands, for many, many decades.


That we did something 50 or 100 years ago is not an effective argument that we should still do it.

What if we used "batting runs" and "runs from baserunning", etc? There's no stigma from an acronym, those numbers are compared to average, something much easier to grasp than replacement level, and if you account for them separately, there's no complaint that we're magically creating one be-all, end-all number.
   30. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:26 PM (#4402127)
What if we used "batting runs" and "runs from baserunning", etc?

You'd be describing a composite that doesn't exist. Why would a baseball announcer reporting a game do such a thing?

That we did something 50 or 100 years ago is not an effective argument that we should still do it.

Putting aside how trite an argument that is, nothing has changed over the past 50 or 100 years warranting a change in approach.
   31. booond Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:31 PM (#4402130)
If the announcer can't explain it to the audience in between pitches then he/she shouldn't use it.
   32. cmd600 Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4402143)
30 - Well they do exist. Some players are better or worse hitters or baserunners than the average, and this can be measured using the most important currency - runs. Now, we may not have it down perfectly, but we're close enough to look at those numbers.

And you may want to think nothing has changed in the last 50 to 100 years, but you'd be hilariously wrong. People used RBI because they couldn't do any better than tally another run on a piece of paper. They understood there was a lot of value in the guy who doubled the runner from 1st to 3rd to get knocked in by a sacrifice fly, but had no idea how much. Now we can get pretty damn close to that value.
   33. BDC Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:49 PM (#4402152)
Denard Span's RBI total is not newsworthy

I tend to agree: it's like the quarterback's rushing average (except in cases where the QB is RGIII or somebody). RBIs are not always very interesting to know about somebody, particularly if they're not at the heart of his offensive role.

That a given cleanup hitter has a lot more or a lot fewer RBIs than one expects at a given point in a season is certainly newsworthy, though (and might point to other interesting facts).
   34. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4402156)
30 - Well they do exist.

"Batting runs" and "Runs from baserunning" do not exist in the sense of being different from modeled fictions. A players' batting may or may not have led to actual runs. Same thing for runs from baserunning.

and this can be measured using the most important currency - runs.

The "most important currency" is actual runs scored in actual games, particularly to people reporting actual baseball games and people listening to or watching actual baseball games. Neither "batting runs" nor "runs from baserunning" are denominated in this currency.

People used RBI because they couldn't do any better than tally another run on a piece of paper. They understood there was a lot of value in the guy who doubled the runner from 1st to 3rd to get knocked in by a sacrifice fly, but had no idea how much. Now we can get pretty damn close to that value.

Since you're biased toward your obsession with "value," you've misread what RBIs are and their heritage. They measure particular things that transpire in actual baseball games and are thus interesting to an audience. As noted, nothing has changed over the past 50 or 100 years that would warrant not telling an audience how many RBIs someone has, or telling an audience how many WAR a player ... (still searching for right verb).
   35. Kiko Sakata Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:52 PM (#4402157)
nothing has changed over the past 50 or 100 years warranting a change in approach


Actually, one thing that has changed over the past 100 years is that RBI was recognized as an official statistic by Major-League Baseball 93 years ago.
   36. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:59 PM (#4402165)
What does "surprisingly" mean here? And how do you know what fans are "wonder[ing]"?

I cannot believe that you are not arguing just to argue here. You've never had a discussion with anyone talking about baseball and either note yourself or your friend note that so-and-so is having a good year and you never saw it coming? That would connote surprising(ly) in the English language that I've been taught. "Mike Sharperson making the All-Star team"-like surprising. That you would have a discusssion about the, if I may use the word, SURPRISE, of the good year. My English teachers would not have docked me for using the word "wonder" in that context.

Or in the off-season, did you and your friends ever wonder (gasp!) if the guy who stunk last year will stink again, even if he was good for the 3 previous years and is only 29 years old?
   37. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: April 02, 2013 at 03:03 PM (#4402168)
Just last night, I heard the analyst-supreme, Gary "Sarge" Matthews, talking about how Dale Murphy belongs in the HOF because of 2 MVPs and 398 HRs. And he bullied the PBP man into changing his mind on the topic. Surely, a WAR-ish type stat would belong in such a discussion. If Murphy ranks say in the 300-400 range of best players and there are 225 players in the HOF (made up numbers, mind you), this is certainly the time to talk about such a stat.
   38. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 03:08 PM (#4402173)
The announcers aren't doing their job if they're babbling about the HOF during a game, either. It's hard to believe that (most) baseball announcers can't think of things to say about what and who they're watching, and have to default to the patois and content of the guy on the far left stool at Moe's -- but I guess that's the state of the craft today.

Who the #### cares about Dale Murphy and the Hall of Fame on Opening Day 2013?
   39. cmd600 Posted: April 02, 2013 at 03:08 PM (#4402175)
34 - I'm not biased towards value any more than anyone else is. You're trying to pretend that people aren't actually saying "player X has provided Y value" when they rattle off RBI numbers, but that is what's happening. We don't treat RBI total as interesting trivia, we compare players to see who has racked up more. When we discuss someone knocking in over 100 runs, the conversation is very different than when we discuss someone getting 10 triples.

And this conversation has been rehashed too many times here, but you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater when you ignore a player's contribution because the guy before him couldn't get on, or the guy after him couldn't knock him in. Go ahead, get the last word on it, but I'm not going down this road.
   40. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 03:12 PM (#4402183)
You're trying to pretend that people aren't actually saying "player X has provided Y value" when they rattle off RBI numbers, but that is what's happening.

No, it's not. You can say it until you're fuschia in the face and it won't change that.

We don't treat RBI total as interesting trivia, we compare players to see who has racked up more.

Who's "we"? I certainly don't.

But that's not the point, anyway. Reporting Denard Span's RBI total is just that -- reporting Denard Span's RBI total. There's no more to it than that. The rest is just your imagination, and your worry about other people "misusing" the data is of no real moment.
   41. Baseballs Most Beloved Figure Posted: April 02, 2013 at 03:44 PM (#4402228)
If it were up to me the announcers would be pushing OPS+ and ERA+. If they are explained they are very easy for viewers to understand.
   42. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: April 02, 2013 at 04:05 PM (#4402254)
Who the #### cares about Dale Murphy and the Hall of Fame on Opening Day 2013?

A team playing in Atlanta on Opening Day, when Murphy, who also played for the Phils, is in the opposite booth.

You're trying to pretend that people aren't actually saying "player X has provided Y value" when they rattle off RBI numbers, but that is what's happening.

No, it's not. You can say it until you're fuschia in the face and it won't change that.

You live if a world that is different than mine and ALMOST** everyone I've talked to about baseball. I've chatted baseball with folks who followed baseball in the 20s and 30s when I was young and now that I'm in the old bracket, with young'uns and there is always some kind of correlating good/bad and in between when discussing stats with those folks.

** My wife has very little interest in stats and comparative values, though she knows that Mike Schmidt was great and Mini-Mart sucked. My one son only likes to go to games because they are events, although he will keep score sometimes. My other son follows baseball as closely as I do and does rotisserie to boot, so you know he's using stats comparatively. Even my 89 year old Mom will talk about a guy's batting average in terms of a good year or bad year, hence comparing against other players.
   43. Good cripple hitter Posted: April 02, 2013 at 04:09 PM (#4402257)
Speaking of which... is Dirk doing Jays games all year? He was quite entertaining.


No, Jack Morris beat him out for the regular radio colour commentary spot. IIRC, Hayhurst hosts a daily baseball news talkshow on the radio.
   44. Moeball Posted: April 02, 2013 at 06:33 PM (#4402451)
No, Jack Morris beat him out for the regular radio colour commentary spot. IIRC, Hayhurst hosts a daily baseball news talkshow on the radio.


Does Jack call the game to the score?
   45. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 02, 2013 at 07:38 PM (#4402485)
"And Denards batting average on balls in play is"

How hard is that? It's clear, descriptive, and can lead to an interesting discussion of why its higher or lower than expected. BABIP is the next Saber Super Stat for the mass audience of baseball fans, and probably first since the invention of ERA and RBIs.
   46. Steve Treder Posted: April 02, 2013 at 07:43 PM (#4402490)
BABIP is the next Saber Super Stat for the mass audience of baseball fans, and probably first since the invention of ERA and RBIs.

You mean, since Saves.

<ducks>
   47. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 02, 2013 at 07:54 PM (#4402503)
It's clear, descriptive, and can lead to an interesting discussion of why its higher or lower than expected.

It's not really clear or descriptive and only makes sense together with batting average, in which case batting average tells you what you need to know.

More importantly, though, is the fact that no one wants to have such a "discussion" in the middle of an actual baseball game. (*) We certainly don't want our announcers doing so. Denard's batting average would be higher if more of the balls he's hit in play were base hits? Talk about dog bites man. Who doesn't know this already?

(*) And as with the term "surprised" upthread, it's unclear what "expected" means here. What's Denard Span's "expected" average?
   48. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: April 02, 2013 at 08:56 PM (#4402579)
SBB, don't play dumb.
   49. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: April 02, 2013 at 09:30 PM (#4402625)
Is OPS+ pronounced OPS Plus or Relative OPS?
   50. Dan Evensen Posted: April 03, 2013 at 12:54 AM (#4402845)
I understand what SBB is trying to say in this thread, and I respect his position. I can see it making sense to report only on counting statistics that a player has produced, and to try to leave the analysis portion out of the broadcast as much as possible.

Personally, I don't agree with this stance. I've listened to enough broadcasts from the 1930s to know what it's like when announcers focus only on the action taking place in front of them, with no analytical mention of rates, dugout strategy and so on. I would contend that baseball broadcasts that are entirely void of analysis are absolutely boring, both on radio and on television.

I also don't understand why AVG, OBP and SLG (which SBB mentions he is not against including in broadcasts in #26) are fine, whereas ERA+, OPS+, WAR and others should be discarded as "composites that [don't] exist." Where do we draw the line between statistics that are "too analytical" (and therefore boring) and statistics that are okay for public consumption?

Surely SBB's stance is not that leadoff hitters are better analyzed by their RBI totals than by their OBP, OPS+, Linear Runs, Runs Created or any other "new statistic." I believe his position is that RBI totals are better used in broadcast than these new statistics because they are less analytical -- or, perhaps, because they are a worse descriptor of what offensive value these players add. If that's the case, I strongly disagree with his viewpoint, and would urge him to listen to more classic broadcasts for examples of how analysis really can add to the listener's overall enjoyment.

I believe that broadcasters should try to help the viewer get in the mind of the men in the dugouts. If the managers and coaches are thinking in terms of OPS+, ERA+, WAR or those of any other "new statistic," the viewers should be informed of this. That's what makes Vin Scully broadcasts so great -- you feel like you're in the mind of the manager when you listen. Filling time by ratting off a list of statistics with no context and no point is boring, which is why we shouldn't hear about how many RBIs the leadoff hitter has.

Baseball games are actually very interesting if you pay attention to what is happening on the field. Using statistics correctly will assist you greatly. If I ever hear anybody talk about Win Expectancy during a broadcast, I'm going to start jumping up and down in the living room.

I cannot believe that you are not arguing just to argue here.

This is also a possibility -- in which case SBB has performed a horrible trolling job. #26 strongly hints at a trolling-for-the-sake-of-trolling stance.

By the way, I've always called "APBA" by its "officially recognized" pronunciation ("App-buh") -- though my proununciation is still different than APBA players from other parts of the country (Bill Staffa, for example). For me, WAR is WAR and BABIP is B.A.B.I.P, though I've never had the need to actually say these acronymns out loud (I have boring friends). I would say OPS Plus if I ever had to actually say it (though I like the sound of Relative OPS more).

I'm also envious of those who have children old enough for discussions about advanced statistics. My 3 year old son looks at me funny and drags me over to his toy trains.
   51. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 03, 2013 at 01:15 AM (#4402854)
I understand what SBB is trying to say in this thread, and I respect his position. I can see it making sense to report only on counting statistics that a player has produced, and to try to leave the analysis portion out of the broadcast as much as possible.


I agree. Just give me a player's WAR and WAR components and be done with it.

That we did something 50 or 100 years ago is not an effective argument that we should still do it.

Putting aside how trite an argument that is, nothing has changed over the past 50 or 100 years warranting a change in approach.


This is why SBB's argument fails. In baseball there have been huge changes in the past 50 to 100 years: Our understanding of the game is very, very different. On air discussions of the game should of course reflect that change in understanding.

The idea that we should talk about the game the way we did in 1913 is preposterous on its face. We do that with no other subject or activity. Unless someone wants to argue that we should talk about baseball differently than we do every other subject on the face of the earth. let's move on.
   52. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 03, 2013 at 01:22 AM (#4402858)
double post
   53. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: April 03, 2013 at 01:26 AM (#4402861)
Sugar Bear:

Could you post your complete set of allowable topics for baseball announcers? So far, I have noted that they are not to discuss:

- a player's likely ability to perform well or poorly in the future
- any statistics more advanced than those I understood as a pre-teen
- the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I would like to have the complete list so that I might be able to identify (and promptly stop listening to) announcers who follow it.

Best regards.
   54. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: April 03, 2013 at 07:47 AM (#4402892)
I'm also envious of those who have children old enough for discussions about advanced statistics. My 3 year old son looks at me funny and drags me over to his toy trains.


And I, sir, am envious of those whose sons drags them over to play with toy trains. :)
   55. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 03, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4402911)
Is OPS+ pronounced OPS Plus or Relative OPS?


I go with OPS Plus.
   56. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: April 03, 2013 at 09:43 AM (#4402952)
The announcers aren't doing their job if they're babbling about the HOF during a game, either. It's hard to believe that (most) baseball announcers can't think of things to say about what and who they're watching, and have to default to the patois and content of the guy on the far left stool at Moe's -- but I guess that's the state of the craft today.

What's wrong with mentioning the Hall of Fame during a broadcast? It's not like it comes up a lot, but when it does (just from my memory, so I'm probably wrong here, heh), it tends to be regarding the opposing team's announcer/bench coach/manager/something like that [i.e. the Dale Murphy example above, or something like when Don Mattingly is the opposing manager], or the guy who threw out the first pitch or sang the seventh-inning stretch [any number of examples work here, though the classic one for Cubs fans is when Ron threw out the first pitch/was interviewed on TV], or if a notable figure in baseball has passed away/had something happen to them [Cubs fan me can think again of Ron Santo here]. Personally, I really appreciated whenever the guests who dropped by Pat/Ron's booth noted that they believed Ron should be in the Hall of Fame (unabashed Cubs homer me, of course). It's what comes up in the course of observing a game; I don't see the need to equate the logical flow of conversation with some kind of classist, "lowbrow" way of viewing the sport, but you're free to do what you like, I guess.

On the main topic, I recall a broadcast a couple of years ago, right after Mike Fast published that piece on BPro where he looked at catcher framing (the one with gifs to illustrate the pitch f/x findings - still one of my all-time favourite analytical pieces, and one which I like to show to people to show how liking advanced stats has made me watch the game differently) and Len Casper mentioned it to Bob Brenly. Brenly then went on to draw from both his own experience and from the catchers on the field (I think the Cubs were playing the Cardinals, so the opposing catcher was Yadier Molina? I'm not 100% sure) to explain the idea/logic behind the study and behind the coaching relative to the study, as well a few other indicators umpires look at which Fast had not noticed. I'd read the study already, but I thought Brenly's cogent analysis really improved how I understood baseball, and I was watching at the time with my father, who isn't really into advanced stats (though this is more because of the fact that he doesn't feel the need/have the ability to put the time into understanding them, more than some natural distaste for them) and he had a similar opinion. I like it when stats are discussed intelligently (and Casper/Brenly were always very good at that - there are myriad other examples, this was just the first which popped into my head) and I don't see how it actively harms the broadcast in any way (especially since if a Molina is the opposing catcher, you're going to discuss catcher defense at *some* point in the broadcast :p ).
   57. villageidiom Posted: April 03, 2013 at 09:52 AM (#4402960)
There is no reason to drop RBI from the broadcast, but I find the announcement of RBI totals about as useful as the NBA pregame announcement of what college or HS a player attended. They're both facts, and have some meaning, but are not revealing enough information about the player for me to care.
   58. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 03, 2013 at 09:55 AM (#4402962)
A good broadcaster doesn't need to talk strictly about the game to be interesting. In fact I don't think he should. Look at Scully, what makes him so brilliant is his ability to weave stories into the broadcast in a seamless fashion. As a viewer I can see what's going on, if the broadcaster wants to enhance the experience he can add something. Arjun's example of Brenly is a really good one and there are times when the right topic is the Hall or steroids.

The problem with those topics is not those topics specifically, it's that they seem to be the only topics that get discussed. Things like fielder positioning, statistical improvements, pitch framing, etc...get ignored.
   59. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: April 03, 2013 at 10:35 AM (#4403005)
I say OPS Plus. I like the stat. It's a handy shorthand that's fairly intuitive, even if it's by no stretch of the imagination perfect. ERA+ isn't quite as good, because of the scaling issues, but it does provide some context to an ERA.

I've also used WAR in discussions with my parents about Andruw Jones having had a better career than you'd think, largely due to his defensive prowess.
   60. tshipman Posted: April 03, 2013 at 10:57 AM (#4403029)
Both Jon Miller and Dave Flemming on the Giants' broadcasts will occasionally work in a reference to OPS or WHIP, and I'm pretty sure once I heard Miller talking about OPS+. They'll reference them when they're relevant to the situation, in a tone that's neither cheerleading nor mocking.

Neither Kuiper nor Krukow will ever get there. And that's okay too.


From last night's game, when discussing (I believe) Kenley Jansen:

KRUKOW (Paraphrasing): Now, you look at Jansen's numbers, take a look at the hits, only 33 in 66 innings, that tells you he's got stuff. Now take a look at his walks. When you add the walks and hits together, you add that up and you call it a "WHIP" (Didn't spell it out). Anytime you're under 1, that tells you a guy is nasty.

I was pretty surprised, and commented as such to my gf. But yeah, give Kruk a little credit.
   61. Steve Treder Posted: April 03, 2013 at 12:38 PM (#4403161)
As another broadcaster might have said, well, how about that!
   62. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 03, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4403168)
As another broadcaster might have said, well, how about that!

Now if only we could get Krukow to say "It's a high pop, it may drop", then we'd have the best of both worlds.
   63. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 03, 2013 at 01:18 PM (#4403234)
I don't see the need to equate the logical flow of conversation with some kind of classist, "lowbrow" way of viewing the sport, but you're free to do what you like, I guess.


It certainly isn't "lowbrow" to talk about the HOF, just superfluous. If you want the technique taken to extremes, watch (if you can stomach) a college basketball broadcast with Dick Vitale on color. He talks about the game in front of him maybe 5% of the time. The rest of his utterances consist of his lists of the best coaches, top 5 "Diaper Dandies" and all the rest. Just a constant babble of bloviating and opinionating about things having nothing to do with the players or the game being broadcast. That's of course part of a wider trend wherein a game, instead of being a worthy, self-contained event as it used to be and should be, is merely a jumping off point to continue the ongoing "conversation" about baseball. Blabbing about WAR and player rankings would only perpetuate this odious trend.

It's interesting that you mentioned Kasper and Brenley, because WGN last season broadcast Sunday games that were called "Sabermetric Sundays" (in words or substance), in which the announcers made it a pre-arranged point to talk about various "advanced" stats. In no way could it be said that these broadcasts were better than the typical broadcast; they were simply baseball games in which the broadcasters would take breaks to talk about baseball analysis. They could have done the same thing in a rain delay, or the pregame/postgame shows.
   64. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 03, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4403246)
A good broadcaster doesn't need to talk strictly about the game to be interesting. In fact I don't think he should. Look at Scully, what makes him so brilliant is his ability to weave stories into the broadcast in a seamless fashion.

Yes, but typically stories about the players playing the game. And if not that, stories closely related to the players or happenings in the game at hand. Vin Scully doesn't spend any time ranking players or inviting the audience to rank players.

As to the latter comment, we should distinguish the following from "ranking players" -- (1) reporting the fact that so and so is "2nd in the league in doubles," and (2) So-and-so manager called Player X, "one of the best players he ever saw." The former is merely reporting; the latter is interesting because it's the opinion of someone of influence in the sport -- as opposed to the drunk at the local tavern.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
BarrysLazyBoy
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogBoston Red Sox prospect Deven Marrero enjoying turnaround in Arizona Fall League | MiLB.com
(13 - 7:00pm, Oct 25)
Last: Bug Selig

Newsblog2014 WORLD SERIES GAME 4 OMNICHATTER
(19 - 6:57pm, Oct 25)
Last: AT-AT at bat@AT&T

NewsblogGambling Bochy creature of habit when it comes to pitchers | CSN Bay Area
(5 - 6:56pm, Oct 25)
Last: Bug Selig

NewsblogOT: Politics, October 2014: Sunshine, Baseball, and Etch A Sketch: How Politicians Use Analogies
(3794 - 6:51pm, Oct 25)
Last: GregD

NewsblogYost's managerial decisions make for extra-entertaining World Series | FOX Sports
(13 - 6:43pm, Oct 25)
Last: The District Attorney

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 1959 Ballot
(8 - 6:29pm, Oct 25)
Last: Chris Fluit

NewsblogMLB - Royals' Ned Yost keeps managing to win - ESPN
(12 - 6:15pm, Oct 25)
Last: Cat8

NewsblogOT:  October 2014 - College Football thread
(454 - 6:11pm, Oct 25)
Last: stanmvp48

NewsblogDave Dombrowski: Injury worse than expected, Miguel Cabrera 'is as tough as you can possibly be' | MLive.com
(24 - 6:10pm, Oct 25)
Last: Random Transaction Generator

NewsblogOT: NBC.news: Valve isn’t making one gaming console, but multiple ‘Steam machines’
(872 - 6:02pm, Oct 25)
Last: Greg K

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - October 2014
(395 - 5:49pm, Oct 25)
Last: NJ in DC (Now with Wife!)

NewsblogBuster Olney on Twitter: "Sources: Manager Joe Maddon has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and is leaving the Tampa Bay Rays immediately."
(87 - 5:12pm, Oct 25)
Last: PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth)

NewsblogJohn McGrath: The Giants have become the Yankees — obnoxious | The News Tribune
(20 - 4:40pm, Oct 25)
Last: Baldrick

NewsblogOT: The Soccer Thread, September 2014
(936 - 4:29pm, Oct 25)
Last: Howling John Shade

NewsblogPhils' philospophy beginning to evolve | phillies.com
(12 - 4:08pm, Oct 25)
Last: Textbook Editor

Page rendered in 0.4143 seconds
52 querie(s) executed