Stats In Broadcasting: How Much Is Too Much?
ESPN play-by-play announcer Jon “Boog” Sciambi wrote an interesting article for Baseball Prospectus recently entitled “Building a Better Broadcast.” In it, Sciambi discusses the challenge of using sabermetrics in baseball broadcasts (you can read the article here.)
It’s an issue I think about often while broadcasting PawSox games. What stats should I be sharing with the audience, and how often do I need to explain what the various letters (OPS, WHIP, etc . . .) stand for?
Like a bunch of baseball fans, I’ll never forget the first time I read Bill James Baseball Abstract. It was sometime in the late 1980’s and it completely changed my view of the game. Suddenly I realized that walks were underrated, sacrifice bunts were overrated, and fielding percentage was a fairly worthless way of determining the best defensive players.
Twenty years later, I’m amazed by how much we continue to learn from the latest sabermetrics.
As a broadcaster, I try to be more of a storyteller than a statistician. I think if you bombard the audience with a bunch of numbers — especially on radio — the stats become monotonous and lose their impact.
But the goal of any baseball announcer is to entertain and inform the audience, and using advanced statistics is one of the best ways to inform.
Typically, when a batter steps to the plate, the announcer lists his batting average, home runs, and RBI. Occasionally, the broadcaster might mention OBP or slugging percentage. This year, I’m planning to give those numbers in every at-bat. Those stats are a better indication of productivity and are widely understood by fans — why stop at the triple crown stats?
Additionally, I plan to selectively introduce other advanced stats to the audience when they can be used to make interesting points about the PawSox and their top prospects.
Vin Scully famously said that, “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.”
I’m hoping to illuminate. If there are stats that you would like to hear on a regular basis, you can e-mail me at email@example.com.