Never saw him deride. Ok, now that that’s out of the way…what has happened to Cohen?
Gary: Because we don’t talk about sabermetrics very often. And you know I think there are certain metrics that have come into play that are useful. But I think sometimes the people that are adherent to sabermetrics overrate the importance of them. In David Wright’s case, David has struck out a ton this year. Struck out 91 times. And yet he’s hitting well over .300. Now, one of the stats that the sabermetrics people like to throw at you is batting average on balls in play. And if you have a particularly high batting average on balls in play, they like to think that it’s because you’re lucky. In other words, if you have a high batting average on balls in play, it shouldn’t be that high, which means you’re having a fortunate year and you’ll come back down again.
Gary: Conversely, if a pitcher has a particularly low batting average on balls in play, they like to tell you it’s going to rise eventually. Well, to me that doesn’t make any sense. Certain guys hit the ball harder than other guys hit it. Certain pitchers induce more groundballs or more weakly hit balls than others. That’s part of what you’re trying to do. Am I totally off base with that?
Ron: No I totally agree with you, I think that for the average hitter, to have a high average putting balls in play, it’s probably because they do have some lucky hits. But certain hitters, like Wright, hit the ball hard almost all the time.
...I used to rave about Gary Cohen’s broadcasting and his quickness to embrace things like on-base and slugging percentages because those things made sense to me and I thought it was important (and commendable) that they be stressed above certain lesser things (batting average, RBI, and so on). I still like Gary a lot, but more for his game-calling and less for his grasp of the finer points of baseball analysis. Your average listener has no interest in understanding linear weights or regression analysis, but I think even casual fans can grasp the basics of things like BABIP (when explained properly) and FIP, and, contrary to what some may think, awareness and comprehension of these tools serve only to increase one’s appreciation for the sport and its players, not detract from it. It’s disappointing that Gary feels otherwise.