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Advanced Statistics & Broadcasts: Where Should The Two Meet?

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During Saturday's Fox Sports North telecast, Dick Bremer and Jack Morris were discussing the Minnesota Twins rotating crew of misfits in the the outfield. More specifically, they were talking about how injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia have caused the team to play a 1B/DH hybrid in RF (Colabello) and whatever middle infielder they can find in LF (Nuñez, Escobar, Bartlett).

Dick then went on to say (I'm paraphrasing a bit here, but the context is the same): Imagine if the Twins pitchers had average defense behind them. There have certainly been more runs allowed and charged to the Twins starters because of these out of place defenders - just imagine what the starters' ERA could be if not for the poor defense behind them.

The funny thing is, you don't have to imagine. There is an advanced metric built to tell you that very thing. It's called Fielding Independent Pitching (or FIP) and it does exactly what it sounds like. It gives a rating of what a pitcher's ERA should have been, assuming all balls in play were fielded with an average defense.

The very thing that Dick and Jack were wondering about was able to be easily answered but they either a) were not aware this stat existed or b) were unwilling to discuss this "advanced metric" on air.

For what it's worth, Mr. Bremer - here's the answer to your question:

# Name W L IP ERA FIP xFIP
1 Samuel Deduno 0 2 23.2 3.42 2.91 3.89
2 Phil Hughes 4 1 41.1 3.92 3.30 3.84
3 Kyle Gibson 3 3 38.0 4.74 3.95 5.06
4 Ricky Nolasco 2 3 44.2 5.64 4.60 4.18
5 Kevin Correia 1 4 38.1 6.34 4.41 5.03
6 Mike Pelfrey 0 3 23.2 7.99 7.52 6.56

Deduno, Gibson, Nolasco and Correia would all have better numbers, while Mike Pelfrey would be horrible either way and Phil Hughes would still be solid.

This whole discussion raises a larger point, where should the worlds of advanced metrics and statistics meet with the traditional broadcasting presentation? While statistics like WAR, BABIP and O-Contact % may be a bit above the casual baseball fan's head right now, there are clearly moments where other advanced metrics - such as FIP (even xFIP) and OBP could provide great context to the game.

Each broadcaster seems to fall on a different spectrum when it comes to discussing advanced statistics and their usefulness during a broadcast. Dick Bremer, for instance told Twins Daily last year that: "I think the new math in baseball tends to exclude a lot of people because a lot of people don't understand it...yet". While the broadcasters for the Houston Astros have fully embraced sabermetrics and have worked the discussion into the fiber of the broadcast.

The answer, as with most things, lies in the middle. Are most fans ready to be inundated with WAR, BABIP and sabermetric talk during radio and television broadcasts without any explanation? I'd wager not. However, broadcasters can (and should) be willing to advance their viewers understanding when an opportune moment arises.

Yesterday, for instance, Dick and Jack could have simply changed their wording slightly and they would have easily been able to describe FIP to the audience and provide a great moment of clarity and understanding for the statistic.

When Brian Dozier makes his next unbelievable play - that's a great time to discuss his Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) or his Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and how it compares to the rest of baseball.

I believe that when these advanced stats are provided within the context of the game, as it's happening, they'll go from "excluding the fans" to enlightening them, it's all just a matter of embracing the opportunities as they present themselves.

Where do you fall on this discussion? Are sabermetrics too much for the "casual fan" or does baseball need to begin adapting its broadcasts and presentations around the new world of statistics?

Updated 05-11-2014 at 10:45 AM by iTwins

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Comments

  1. jorgenswest's Avatar
    FIP in particular requires a pretty large sample size to be meaningful as it is homeruns based and home rate needs a large sample size. It probably is not particularly helpful during the season but might give information over a full season when there is a significant difference in ERA.

    I would think the same about fielding metrics. It certainly is true about any split that is reported.

    Strike out rate and walk rates don't require large samples. They could be meaningful.

    I really think we are better off having broadcasters with a skilled eye sharing what they see happening on the field. Leave the stats and the analysis out of the broadcast. They are so easy to misuse due to sample.
  2. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
    As a fan of some of the more basic advanced statistics, I'd like to see more of them in the pop up graphics when a batter comes up to bat. More than BA, I think OBP is important, and when I can see SLG and OBP then I can quickly calculate ISO and OPS in my head. I like the numbers. Even BABIP is a number that I think most fans are familiar with. The announcers don't need to talk about them all, but putting them on screen is something I'd appreciate. Yes, I can quickly check FANGRAPHS, B-Ref, etc to get those numbers, but sometimes it's nice to just sit back and watch the game on the tube without digging for info on my cell or laptop.
  3. Sconnie's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pleiss
    As a fan of some of the more basic advanced statistics, I'd like to see more of them in the pop up graphics when a batter comes up to bat. More than BA, I think OBP is important, and when I can see SLG and OBP then I can quickly calculate ISO and OPS in my head. I like the numbers. Even BABIP is a number that I think most fans are familiar with. The announcers don't need to talk about them all, but putting them on screen is something I'd appreciate. Yes, I can quickly check FANGRAPHS, B-Ref, etc to get those numbers, but sometimes it's nice to just sit back and watch the game on the tube without digging for info on my cell or laptop.
    like pop up video? It's a great concept. I'd like to see some more situational stats on the live broadcast screen as well.
  4. Sconnie's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest
    I really think we are better off having broadcasters with a skilled eye sharing what they see happening on the field.
    this is what I really like about Jack, he has a wealth of knowledge and explains it well, just really dry
  5. iTwins's Avatar
    I like the idea of an overlay - simply putting the stats on the screen so those that are interested can have that information readily available. Maybe that would cause some fans to say, "What's BABIP?" and then look it up for themselves as well.

    I'd still like to see broadcasters take advantage of opportunities to advance the discussion when they arise. The FIP example from the post for instance - you don't have to go into detail or start a long discussion on it - but I don't know that pretending like it doesn't exist is the best way to go either.
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