Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Truths, Damned Truths and Sabermetrics

Today's "New York Times" had a front page story on how baseball teams are encouraging/ordering their radio announcers to use the no-longer-so-new-but-still-probably-improved alphabet soup of advanced baseball statistics such as WHIP, WAR, VORP, etc. during their broadcasts. They're even hiring announcers they think are more comfortable with this information than in noting "played his high school baseball in Twentynine Miles From Nowhere, California. If you're ever there, make sure you get the almond crunch surprise at Velma's. It's right next to the Mobil station" during a pitching change.

This may or may not be progress. Math is hard, and it's harder still on the radio. But the most startling part of the article is that the team announcers whom the Times chose as the lead example in the story were the broadcasting crew of the Houston Astros!

The Astros, who lost over 100 games in 2012, are prohibitive favorites to do so again in 2013, and who agreed to change leagues in an effort to stir up fan interest, want to give their fans MORE information about their players? Really? Really. It is management's hope that use of advanced statistics will explain why they selected the unknown rookies and other hopefuls who make up the team's roster and astonishingly low payroll.

Advanced or basic, all baseball stats stem from two main roots -- the scoreboard and the standings. No metric ever invented can put a nice spin on how those are gonna look for Houston.

My guess is that by mid-June, whatever radio listeners the Astros have left will be stealing Charlie Brown's line from the classic "Peanuts" baseball cartoon and screaming "tell your statistics to shut up!"


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