For most things, you can get your news and analysis in a lot of different places. There’s NPR, CNN, the New York Times, the Kansas City Star, and a slew of other traditional media. YouTube, Twitter, and podcasts are increasingly valuable in the media landscape. And nowadays, you aren’t simply limited to specific types of media, but voices within said media. If you’re a Kansas City Royals fan, you can read The Athletic, follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter, peruse Fangraphs, or read the latest Royals Review blog.
If you want to consume a live Royals game, though, your options disappear like a Zack Greinke curveball under the bat of an unprepared batter. You’ve got radio and you’ve got television. Sure, if you have MLB.TV and in the right part of the country you can watch the opposing team’s broadcast, but that’s hardly a lot more choice. Any way you slice it, how the broadcast team implements information and what information it incorporates in the first place plays a huge role in how fans consume the sport.
Fortunately—mostly, at least—the broadcast teams are aware of their influence. When I had the good fortune to talk to Ryan Lefebvre a few years ago about statistics in the broadcast, he discussed the minutia of both WAR and UZR all on his own. His broadcast style is deliberate and geared toward the “average fan” who just wants to turn on baseball for a few hours’ entertainment and not have to learn a new stat every evening, which, fair; gun to my head, I don’t know the difference between SIERRA and FIP, and SB Nation has been sending me actual cash money to write about baseball for almost six years.
With that being said, I would like to implore Fox Sports Kansas City, for the love of all that is holy and good in the universe, to stop putting up being so darn basic about statistics in 2020, such as only displaying batting average, runs batted in, and home runs when discussing a player’s previous batting line, or discussing pitching wins and losses like they actually matter.
In another day and age, I would spend the next portion of this blog arguing why this is the case. I’d talk about why batting average by itself is an essentially meaningless talent evaluator, why RBIs are an even worse example of talent, and how there are better ways than simple home runs to denote how much power a player has at the plate.
Thankfully, it’s not another day and age. It’s 2020, bitches! Advanced statistics have won! I don’t need to argue with you about the supremacy of on base percentage or why rate stats are better or why OPS and WAR and FIP are just better than freakin’ batting average or pitcher wins. Every MLB front office and coaching staff uses those stats, and you can peruse any article on college baseball to discover how insatiable collegiate players’ appetites are for more data. They do not give one teeny weeny itsy bitsy yellow polka dot poo about runs batted in.
But as long as FSKC and other television broadcasts refuse to discuss and display even rudimentary statistics like on base percentage, your average baseball fan won’t ever learn what is actually going on in the game today and what’s actually being valued. This is doubly true when Rex Hudler is spouting off nonsense that gut feelings about defensive positioning is more important than what the numbers say in a shortened season and just generally disparaging the concept of analytics in general during nearly every broadcast.
Look; I’m not asking for FSKC to only display and discuss things like DRS, BABIP, and wRC+, though that would be dope. All I’m asking is for FSKC to talk about and display meaningful stats, just the dang simple ones like walk rates and OPS, so that we can drag the corporate discussion of baseball from the stone age to the industrial age.
It’s possible that FSKC has some stuff in mind as the season goes on—they were displaying things like OPS last year rather routinely, which was nice—but that’s only part of the puzzle. However, simply displaying it isn’t enough. The broadcasters and the broadcast need to be better at informing the viewing public. That doesn’t mean providing stats lessons every night, but it does mean phasing out some of the outdated stats and modes of thinking that still linger because it’s simply easier to keep them around.