September 25, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) is intentionally walked during the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A Plea to the Fox Sports Detroit Tigers Broadcast Team


 

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?

 

 

 

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  • Matt Pelc

    I use the traditional stats mostly and I certainly don’t think they are as antiquated as a TPS report (although great line). I think the same stats we’ve used for 150 years are fine and valid. If people want to use their new style stats, then more power to them. I have actually began to learn about advanced stats much more in my time at MCB and I understand certain ones and discount others (like you with the RBIs).

    I certainly agree with you, though. FSD should be using the stats to appeal to all viewers. Even if they don’t comment on them specifically, at least display them. However, when I interviewed Mario Impembda a few months back, it doesn’t seem like these are coming anytime soon. Maybe its a Fox network wide thing? I dont think the national broadcasts have these stats either.

    Me: I’m an “old school” stat guy, but most of my Motor City Bengals colleagues use advanced metrics, or sabermetrics. Where do you fall in this debate? Do you still rely more on old school stats when making assessments on players performances or have you began to adopt more advanced metrics? Also, will FSD begin incorporating more of the “new school” stats in game broadcasts in the future?

    Mario: I am also an old school stat guy, but I am slowly starting to embrace some of the advanced metrics. I think they have a place in evaluating players and their performances, but it is very difficult for us to fully incorporate them into our telecasts. The main reason is that we have to keep things relatively simple. It is easy enough for us to explain on base percentage, OPS or slugging percentage during a telecast, but to delve into how we arrive at a player’s WAR would be difficult to do on air in the middle of a game.

    • Lee Panas

      I agree with Michael. I don’t think the mainstream is ready for stats like woba and WAR, but OBP and slugging are no more complex than batting average and are usually more informative. Other team’s broadcasts show them and FSD should too.

  • http://www.thirdwave.org/ Roy Schmidt

    I had a crazy idea, probably way too far out in left field, but I thought it would be cool for the network to flash or scroll “odds”-like stats, as they do for poker games. With a given pitcher/batter combo in action, runners on base, and 2 balls and 1 strike, what are the odds of various outcomes — that the next pitch is a ball, that the batter gets a hit, that the runner steals, etc. Would probably require a Watson computer to generate them fast enough, but I think it would be cool to see.