Here are some things that have been said on national television by a man paid millions of dollars to be an expert in baseball.
"You can talk about on-base percentage all you want, but I didn’t give [Votto] $225 million to put him on base.”
"[Trout] is not scoring runs." Mike Trout led the AL in runs scored at the time.
"Adam Dunn could hit .300. I really believe that."
"I'm not sure why we are all upset that the best player isn't winning the MVP." This was obviously a pro-Miguel Cabrera argument.
“I'm being straight up honest. I have no idea what run differential is.”
“I don’t agree with that math.”
That man is Harold Reynolds and those quotes come from the delightful Twitter account @HeardOnMLBT.
Harold Reynolds is the man that will replace the at-times senile Tim McCarver on Fox’s national postseason broadcasts, becoming one of the faces of baseball. This is really disappointing.
For the last few decades, between the rise of Bill James, Baseball Prospectus, Moneyball (the book, NOT the movie) and so many others, baseball has undergone a statistical revolution that is simply unmatched by any other sport. Wins Above Replacement can be found on ESPN’s player pages and virtually every major team blog maintains a statistical focus.
Baseball has always been a statistician’s dream because of the large sample sizes and individualized performances, which has lead to a brain-gain among their fanbase in the last decade. It’s not too crazy to think that things like batting average on balls in play, weighted on-base average and fielding independent pitching could very well soon penetrate the casual fandom.
The major obstacle to this is how networks continue to broadcast the sport. You get guys like Reynolds on national broadcasts, along with some of his former MLB Network cohorts like Mitch Williams, who once said “The biggest rally-killer in the world is a home run,” with what I would approximate to be only 10 percent of his tongue in cheek.
Locally, it’s almost a stereotype to get an old-school, affable former player with more yarns to spin than players to seriously analyze. Hawk Harrelson of the White Sox asserted the only advanced stat he cared about was “the will to win.”
F.P. Santangelo of the Nationals proclaimed the Baseball Writers Association of America should have a rule that winning the triple crown should mean an automatic MVP award. Chip Caray of the Braves used a mom’s basement joke unironically. It’s sad, but I could probably go on like this for another 1000 words.
Networks owe it to their fans to not mail this kind of stuff in because it is almost disrespectful to just assume the first mention of line drive rate will cause fans’ eyes to glaze over.
Baseball fandom has evolved in astounding ways, but it has hit an intellectual ceiling that will never be broken so long as it remains okay for “analysts” to remain willfully ignorant of the new ways to evaluate the sports they are paid so much to do.
I’m not even asking for an analyst with Baseball Prospectus experience. At this point I would simply take a guy who knows what run differential is.
How do you feel about baseball statistics and their value to the casual fan? Email Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org to let him know.