Statistics in broadcasts? Fine, as long as you’re not just “throwing obscure percentages” at viewers
Apr 2, 2013, 8:32 AM EDT
There’s a story in the New York Times today discussing advanced statistics and how some broadcasters are trying (in some cases failing; in some cases wondering how to try) to integrate them into the telecast of ballgames. It has a particular focus on the Astros’ broadcasting team of Robert Ford and Steve Sparks, who are tasked with explaining the team’s new direction and management philosophy to Astros fans, much of which does include advanced metrics.
The story uses Indians’ broadcaster Tom Hamilton as a counterexample — someone who is loathe to go that route. His quote:
But some old-guard broadcasters have resisted adding obscure percentages and acronyms to their banter and game descriptions. Tom Hamilton, 58, who is entering his 24th year as the radio voice of the Cleveland Indians, said he believed listeners would rather hear stories from the clubhouse than statistics from spreadsheets.
“Nobody after a game is going to remember numbers you throw at them, but they might remember a story about a player,” Mr. Hamilton said.
This, in my view, evinces a total misunderstanding of how stats can and should be meaningfully conveyed to ballplayers.
Because, actually, Hamilton is right: if you just rattle off numbers at viewers, they won’t make any impact. Indeed, if I ran a broadcast team which I wanted to go a bit deeper into advanced statistics, I’d fire them if all they did was rattle off “obscure percentages and acronyms.” That’s boring. Rather, I’d want them to explain the concepts behind the numbers, even if they never mention the numbers themselves.
There’s no real need to tell viewers some BABIP stat if you’re explaining the idea that many pitchers have bad/good years because they have bad/good luck on balls in play and apply that to the guy on the mound. There’s no need to list the WAR leaders as long as you’re explaining to them that a players’ all-around play — defense, baserunning and offense — matter when comparing them to others. Yes, you note that those things are measured and, sure, if you’re comfortable with them and your listeners trust you you can eventually go down the road of listing leaders and stuff. But the key idea is to get at what those stats are describing, not the numbers themselves. You can hip your viewers to these ideas — many of which are totally intuitive — without throwing math at them.
I don’t care if a broadcaster ever even cites WAR or whatever. As long as he’s intelligently explaining baseball and is able to simply and entertainingly convey the concepts, it’s all good.
Oct 25, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT
Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt came through for the Giants in the bottom of the sixth to put the Giants up 7-4 over the Royals going into the seventh inning.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:39 PM EDT
The Giants rallied against Jason Vargas and the Royals’ bullpen to tie Game 4 of the World Series at 4-4.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
Joe Maddon may not manage in 2015 as he wants to wait for the right opportunity to take over a new team.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
The Royals rallied and now lead the Giants 4-1 in Game 4 of the World Series.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
Montreal will host some more spring training games next year with the Blue Jays taking on the Reds.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
The Giants took a 1-0 lead over the Royals in the first inning thanks to Gregor Blanco’s speed.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
Are the Giants using outside help to slow down the Royals’ running game?
Oct 25, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton are your winners of the 2014 Hank Aaron Award.
Oct 25, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
Giants manager Bruce Bochy confirmed that Jake Peavy will start Game 6 and Tim Hudson will start Game 7 if the World Series extends that far.
Oct 25, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
Mo’ne Davis will throw out the first pitch before the start of Game 4 of the World Series between the Royals and Giants on Saturday night.
Oct 25, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
This is the second hernia surgery in the back-end of the Mets’ bullpen since the end of the season, as closer Jenrry Mejia had his earlier this month.
Oct 25, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT
Jason Vargas vs. Ryan Vogelsong.
Oct 25, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT
Wright is expected to be re-evaluated in a couple of weeks and hopes to avoid surgery.
Oct 25, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT
Sternberg has reportedly had discussions “with wealthy Wall Street associates” about moving the Rays to Montreal.
Oct 25, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Set aside a few minutes to watch this.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:29 PM EDT
The Pirates also designated right-handers John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez for assignment.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT
We learned yesterday that Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his foot. Everyone was caught off guard by the extent of his injuries.
Oct 25, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
After Joe Maddon stepped down as manager of the Rays yesterday, there was plenty of speculation about what his next move could be, but we didn’t hear much about who could replace him in Tampa Bay. Look for that to change soon.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:16 AM EDT
Yes, it would have been closer had Blanco continued to run, but it was a heck of a play by Perez.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT
Ned Yost was hoping that Jarrod Dyson made an out last night. Really.
- Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton win the Hank Aaron Award 1
- World Series, Game 4: Royals vs. Giants lineups 1
- Report: Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has discussed moving the team to Montreal 59
- Dave Dombrowski on Miguel Cabrera: “It’s worse than what we ever would have anticipated” 28
- World Series Reset: Can the Giants even things up? 4
- Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead 36
- Paul Konerko, Jimmy Rollins named co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award 4
- The greatest trick this Royals bullpen ever pulled … 3
- Shocker! Joe Maddon to opt out of his contract and leave the Rays (143)
- Erroneous Narrative Alert: no, the Giants are not a “gritty,” anti-stats organization (122)
- Pedro Martinez has some opinions about who the new “face of baseball” is (112)
- PANTY RAID! Homeland Security agents confiscate unlicensed Kansas City Royals underwear (109)
- The World Series ratings are low. So what? (106)