Let’s take a break from the hypotheticals of preseason breakdowns and analysis and turn our attention to something very real and increasingly annoying. Why does Fox Sports Detroit (FSD) refuse to expand the statistics it provides for each hitter prior to an at-bat during its television broadcasts of Tigers games? Right now, it’s just batting average, RBI, and home runs. The flaws of the first two have been well documented over the last few years. If it were up to me, in fact, I would have dumped RBI a long time ago. But I get why FSD keeps it, especially given the fondness the home broadcast team has for trotting it out for each and every Miguel Cabrera at-bat. The old manager loved it, too. It may be antiquated and about as illuminating as a TPS report, but baseball is about tradition and history and fathers throwing to sons and, darn it, batting average and RBI. So let’s not mess with that, at least for now.
My plea to the executives at Fox Sports Detroit is that they consider adding at least two more numbers, statistics that tell me, and many others, a heck of a lot more about the hitter who is about to step into the batter’s box. I’m not talking about the super-duper arcane stuff, like WAR or OPS+. No, I’ll settle for two stats, both of which have been around baseball for a long time: on base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG). And for good measure, I’d really like to see one more, which adds context to the statistical profile being presented: the number of plate appearances.
I don’t think it will clutter up the screen. Indeed, it appears one could fit a fathead of my cat in the space underneath the batter. Besides, other markets, such as Boston and New York, expanded their stat lines years ago. There are certainly no logistical reasons preventing FSD from adding to the batter’s statistical line on screen. Perhaps Fox’s refusal is more tactical. It’s afraid of somehow overwhelming its Midwest viewers with too many statistics or adding performance metrics that would alienate fans. But these reasons seem implausible. Statistics are the oxygen of baseball fans, after all. Adding a couple of stats that our grandfathers would recognize isn’t going to cause any kind of revolt.
Maybe the answer is simple: no one has ever really asked. Well, for what it’s worth, I’m asking. Even though the statistics I want are a quick browser search away, I generally don’t watch every inning of every game with a handheld or laptop by my side. (OK, actually, I do, but I’d rather keep my attention on the batter and what’s happening on the TV screen.) If FSD wants me to browse, then it might as well go ahead and dump all the stats. But clearly Fox considers including on-screen statistics of some value to the viewer. I certainly do. I just wish it would pick statistics that provide a slightly deeper probe into the strengths and weaknesses of the guy about to face Joba Chamberlain in the 7th inning of a one-run game. The technical quality of the TV broadcasts seems to improve every year. Why not apply some of that forward thinking to the statistical information presented to the viewer?