2015 SABR Analytics: Analytics in the Broadcasters Booth

This is a reprint of an article that ran on the SABR website on the use (and lack of use) of advanced performance analytics by broadcasters before and during the games.

SABR is so well known for having pioneered the use of such analytics that the name of the organization is a key component of the colloquial term used to describe them.  Yet the adoption of such analytics by broadcasters has been relatively slow in the past couple of decades.  Three broadcasters gave their point of view on this during the SABR Analytics conference in Phoenix during the month.


 

At the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference on Thursday, March 12, in Phoenix, our Analytics in the Broadcasters Booth Panel offered perspective from baseball play-by-play announcers on how they use analytics in the broadcast booth. Panelists included, from left, Josh Suchon of the Albuquerque Isotopes; Doug Glanville of ESPN; Steve Berthiaume of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and moderator Joe Block of the Milwaukee Brewers.
At the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference on Thursday, March 12, in Phoenix, our Analytics in the Broadcasters Booth Panel offered perspective from baseball play-by-play announcers on how they use analytics in the broadcast booth. Panelists included, from left, Josh Suchon of the Albuquerque Isotopes; Doug Glanville of ESPN; Steve Berthiaume of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and moderator Joe Block of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here are some highlights from the Analytics in the Broadcasters Booth Panel at the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference:

ON THE IDEAL USE OF SABERMETRICS IN BROADCASTS

  • Suchon: “I think the best place for (analytics) is pregame television. You can work on it in advance, you can build graphics, you don’t have to worry about the next guy hitting into a double play and ending the inning. … Or maybe it’s the weekly show, where … you can introduce some of these stats. Eventually, it’s going to catch on but it’s going to take time.”
  • Berthiaume: “The more that context evolves and the more it becomes second nature (to fans), the more that analytics will become second nature. I think we’ve seen it with OPS, we’ve seen it with WHIP, they’re in the graphics now, which I think is a big step. And I think we’ll see more of that down the road.”

ON BEING AROUND THE GAME EVERY DAY

  • Berthiaume: “I think it is a tremendous luxury to be at every game. And when you’re on the clubhouse and in the buses and on the planes and in the hotels, you become less analytical about it. … I do believe the ninth inning is different from the eighth inning, I do believe in clutch … I think you do factor in the human element, team chemistry, good clubhouse guys. And as we take a closer look and a more useful look and a more frequent look at analytics, some of the analytics community has to take a step back and say, “Well, maybe this isn’t a negative thing.’ Because when you’re on the road for 162, that stuff matters. You learn that quickly.”

ON WHETHER ALL FANS SHOULD LEARN ANALYTICS

  • Berthiaume: “I don’t think not knowing (analytics) detracts from your enjoyment of the game. I think the goal of analytics is to enhance it. You obviously don’t get to benefit from that, but … you don’t know what you don’t know, right?”
  • Glanville: “I think in the big picture, it’s valuable. Everyone can watch a game and take different types of enjoyment from things they’re focusing on. … How you digest it, whether you’re hanging out at the bar or whatever, can dictate a lot about what becomes important (to you). But I think if you play fantasy, and how you’re looking at the value of players, why they make certain moves, why they trade a guy — and if you want to understand those things, it’s available.”
  • Suchon: “It all depends on what you want to get out of it. … Do you have to watch every episode of (the hit TV program) Breaking Bad to understand (Breaking Bad spinoff) Better Call Saul? Well, it’s gonna help. And if you’re going to smile and laugh at references that you know. … But you can still enjoy Better Call Saul because it’s a great television show. Maybe you’re a high school baseball coach and you’re watching ESPN and you can learn something from Doug Glanville. If you’re just tuning in because you just want to be entertained, you just want to hear Vin Scully’s voice. You don’t care if he’s telling a story about Campy (Roy Campanella), you just what to hear his voice because he’s soothing.”

ON LINGERING OPPOSITION TO SABERMETRICS

  • Berthiaume: “I find that we’re not big fans of ‘different’ in this country. … And (analytics) is new, it’s different. But thanks to groups like SABR, it’s becoming not different anymore. And we’re growing generations of (fans) for whom it isn’t different, they’re used to this. That’s going to keep getting better and better. But when you start jamming stuff in there, a lot of people take it as different and they don’t like it. And that’s quickly changing.”

For more coverage of the 2015 SABR Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.