Tag Archives: MLB Network

Hear Apu, Chief Wiggum and Moe the Bartender Do Play by Play for Famous Moments in Mets History

Nobody could confuse Hank Azaria with a real major league play by play announcer.  But it was still a lot of fun to hear him don his most famous characters while he visited MLB Network’s “MLB Central” show earlier this week, riffing some play by play for some of the most famous moments in Mets history.

A lifelong Mets fans—and really, don’t the funniest people in the world all seem to be? What’s the deal with that?—Azaria infuses his calls with the wry, arch fatalism that characterizes the Mets fan base in general.  So while his efforts here are not necessarily steeped in technical proficiency, they are, nevertheless, right on the money and funny as hell.

His entire six minute and thirty-three second segment is worth watching, but if you want to cut right to the chase, then go to the 4:48 mark and start watching there.

Enjoy!

 

Statcast Debuted Last Night, but It’ll Be a While Before It Really Matters.

Yes, very essential, but what does this all mean? (h/t Fangraphs)

The actual Statcast tool has been around for a little over a year now, and we’d seen snippets of it here and there since then, particularly during last year’s World Series.  However, yesterday’s Cardinals/Nationals game on MLB Network was the first in which Statcast was used throughout a game as a device fully integrated into a game broadcast.

The tool, which is being audaciously touted as “one of the largest advances in instant replay that we’ve seen in the last 50 years“, is intended as a way for us to finally quantify the game in a way which is impossible to do with the naked eye: completely, even exhaustively. With multiple HD cameras set up in each of the 30 major league parks, providing a complete view of the field and its adjacent environs, and connected to a system that will immediately spit out all the related data accurate to a fraction of an inch, absolutely action, no matter how small, will be left unseen and free from analysis from this point forward.

And that’s a good thing, right? Well, that depends on how you view the game of baseball.

The real constituents of the system, the major league teams themselves, will absolutely love this tool.  By being able to analyze and quantify every movement made by every player on the field, they will be able to evaluate their own players in context against all other players in the majors at that time, and should be able to properly value their performance as it occurs during live game action.  This should in theory help them more accurately determine what they should be paying their talent.  I’m pretty sure that as the cost of this system drops over time, organizations will be arranging Statcast systems to be set up at their minor league affiliates’ facilities as well.

The players themselves will benefit or be penalized versus the prior expectations of them that had been set for them under less perfect observational or statistical methods.

As for the fans, StatCast is sure to drive a yet deeper wedge between the “sabers” and the traditionalists.  The former group will welcome this development with open arms and spreadsheets; the latter will likely moan that one more nail has been driven into the coffin of baseball as the game of romanticism, poetry, and whatever other ethereal qualities define for them the pastime they love.

As for me, I like that the data are now being made available during broadcasts, but I am more looking forward to the day that we can review the results within the proper context of league norms.  Since we are in the infant stage of the technology, analysis of the data is very immature.  All we have at the moment are raw numbers and the inevitable SWAGs that will follow in their wake, at least in the short term.

Here’s what I mean: in the middle GIF above, Jon Jay’s first step to get to that batted ball was timed at 0.3 seconds, his top speed was clocked at 14.8 MPH, and the distance he covered was measured at 31.8 feet.  To which I ask: are these good numbers?  Is his first step better than average?  Average?  Worse than average?  Same with his speed and distance: are these results good, bad, or so-so?  I have no way of knowing this yet.  You probably don’t, either. These are just numbers so far.  I mean, sure, Jay caught the ball, but does that mean that he necessarily has an earlier first step and/or faster top speed and/or greater distance-covering ability than average? Of course it doesn’t, because we don’t know what those averages are yet. Maybe Jay was just lucky this time that the ball was hit near enough to him for him to reach it.

You can see that I have acknowledged that because we are in Statcast’s infancy, we don’t have this context available to us yet, so I am in no way making an unrealistic demand that I be provided this context, like, yesterday. But I think I can safely say that until enough data to provide this context are gathered, the information will be more like “somewhat interesting” than it will be “really useful”.  It will probably be a while before we get to that point, likely measured in years, but until we do, I have limited interest in the Statcast data, at least as of April 22, 2015.

I do hope, though, that as with HITf/x and PITCHf/x data, StatCast data are made available outside of MLB organizations, if not freely available to the public, then at least on a licenseable basis in which websites such BrooksBaseball.net can obtain it, dissect it and disseminate at least filtered versions of the it to the public.  That’s the really the only way the data will be meaningful to fans who are interested in it.  Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of numbers.

In the end, MLB may well be right that this will be “one of the largest advances in instant replay that we’ve seen in the last 50 years.”  If that turns out to be true, I think it will take a few years before any of us see that to be the case.

 

MLB Network ratings spike during busy Winter Meetings

How often are you glued to a television watching men chat in a hotel?

If you’re like me, that’s what you did during the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings, held Dec. 7-11 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. But don’t feel too bad for spending hours of tube time on what many baseball outsiders may see as the TV equivalent of watching paint dry.

Since launching into our living rooms in 2008, the MLB Network has been a game changer in terms of how we get our baseball fix. It’s baseball 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a concept I couldn’t imagine while growing up in the 80s and reading box scores and game recaps in the morning newspaper.

The network offers its viewers a plethora of options from games and highlights to loads of chatter from a talented, knowledgeable and entertaining – I could listen to Billy Ripken talk all day about baseball – group of studio hosts and reporters.

MLB Network has developed a successful formula for attracting viewers and giving them a reason to put down the remote. Its live coverage of the Winter Meetings serves as a prime example.

According to Forbes’ Maury Brown, MLB Network’s primetime coverage set a new ratings high for the network by attracting 179,000 viewers, an increase of 48 percent over the previous record.

“The record speaks much to how deals that go down during the meetings, when there is so much interest, and yet often times, when the meetings yield little in terms of such critical contracts that create a domino effect, can affect television ratings,” wrote Brown on Forbes.com.

Much of the interests, as Brown notes, was the Jon Lester watch. For which team would the lefty sign and when. Would it be the Cubs? Or, the World Series Champion Giants? How about a return to Boston? There was even talk the Yankees were lurking, waiting to swoop in at the right moment.

That’s a lot of drama, even for night-time TV.

I’m not a fan of any of the teams that were reported to be targeting Lester at the time, but being a baseball fan, I wanted to know the minute he committed to a team, a city. I knew MLB Network had us covered.

And sure enough, when I hoped out of bed at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday and turned on the television – the channel was still, of course, on MLB Network from my previous night’s viewing – I saw in a little red box on the bottom right of my screen that Lester had indeed agreed to be a Cubbie.

“Yes,” I said with a half-hearted fist pump. As I said, I’m not a Cubs fan, but I was excited for their fans, one of which is my 9-year old son, Ty.

But it wasn’t just Lester drawing us in. This was one of the most active Winter Meetings, in terms of players swapping teams, in recent memory. Free agent signings, trades and persistent rumors of both types of transactions left us feeling like we couldn’t turn away from MLB Network.

I couldn’t.

Being a Nationals’ fan, my ears perked up even more when there was talk of my team potentially making a trade that would “blow the roof off this place.”

According to MLB.com, 79 players – 15 of those were All-Stars – changed teams during the 2014 Winter Meetings through free agency, trades or the Rule 5 Draft.

“Teams handed out more than $500 million in guaranteed contracts and signing bonuses this week in deals that either became official or were agreed upon at the Winter Meetings,” MLB.com reported after the meetings broke up.

The Winter Meetings were gold, and so was MLB Network. It provided us baseball enthusiasts with the ability sit in our living rooms and man caves and track the hot stove league in front of, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, “TV’s warm glowing warming glow.”

MLB Network Numbers Highest Ever, Even as Game Numbers Go Down

In contrast to actual game broadcasts, the viewership for MLB Network has never been better.

The Awful Announcing blog reports that overall ratings for MLBN during Q2 2014 was the highest ever, averaging 206,000 viewers during primetime (Monday to Sunday 800pm to 1100pm Eastern) and 105,000 on average all day.  (The primetime number is larger than the all day number because the figures represent number of viewers for an average quarter hour, and not the total number who tuned in during the whole time period.)

The author of the post speculates that it is diehards who are driving up all-day MLB Network viewing, while game broadcasts viewership is down because it is casual fans who are abandoning those.  There might be something to that, but I wonder whether it’s not something more: that increasingly attention-challenged viewers are losing interest in committing to ever-lengthening game broadcasts, and instead are opting for the studio shows that summarize the sport and, during primetime, the up-to-fifteen games going on at once.  This would be especially true if your team is not one of those playing at the time—even if you’re a diehard, why commit to a game you don’t care much about when you can pop onto MLB Network and see three entertaining guys sum up things for you?

Read more here:

MLB NETWORK JUST FINISHED UP THEIR MOST-WATCHED QUARTER EVER

 

Costas cracks top ten; Chappell, Wedge, Virk, FS1 break in

Three new announcers, a new network, and one NBC stalwart replacing another in the top ten highlight today’s update to the national-telecast listing.

Fox Sports 1 became the first new network since 2009 to air an MLB regular-season game when it presented the Twins-Indians tilt from Cleveland on Saturday, April 5. MLB Network was previously the newest network in the fold; while TNT has aired five full games in the past (plus about 22 innings’ worth of overflow from TBS games that ran long), all of those were in the playoffs.

The Sydney Cricket Ground, home of the two-game LA/Arizona set in March is the 70th stadium to host a U.S. national television audience. With its first game, the Ground passed Colt Stadium (Houston),  Wrigley Field (Los Angeles) and Seals Stadium in San Francisco, which never hosted national TV. Later that night, based on Eastern time, the second broadcast from Sydney vaulted that venue past Aloha Stadium (Honolulu), Estadio de Beisbol Monterey and Sicks’ Stadium (Seattle), which each hosted but one game. The Ground now has 656 broadcasts to go before it catches Fenway Park for the most common host venue.

(Yes, even the lowly expansion Pilots hosted national television. The game was against the Tigers on May 31, 1969.)

That Australia series also introduced America to the 409th national commentator. Ian Chappell, the former captain of Australia’s national cricket team who now works for Channel Nine in that country, presided as a field reporter for the opening series.

Speaking of field reporters, FS1 used both Ken Rosenthal and Erin Andrews on the Giants/Dodgers game April 5. That was the first regular-season game with two reporters since Yankees/Tigers, on Fox April 6 of last year, and the first game to employ five commentators since Sept. 21, 2011.

ESPN’s Adnan Virk and Eric Wedge became the 410th and 411th announcers as the season continued stateside. Wedge analyzed the Red Sox/Orioles game on March 31 with Dave O’Brien and Rick Sutcliffe, while Virk teamed with Eduardo Perez to handle play-by-play of Astros/Blue Jays on April 9.

With the departure of Tim McCarver from Fox (and thus the dissolution of the Buck/McCarver tandem that had handled many Fox games for 19 years), O’Brien and Sutcliffe become the elder statesmen of active national-broadcast duos. The March 31 game, their only appearance to date this year, was their 220th game together. The pairing has appeared regularly for ESPN since 2002, also covering two games together since 2000.

In other news of longevity, Bob Costas cracked the top ten play-by-play announcers list, and he knocked out an NBC mainstay of an earlier age in the process. Costas, who started as a backup voice on the Game of the Week in 1982, then handled parts of three World Series and ten League Championship Series for the peacock network, called his 334th game when the Brewers met the Red Sox on April 4. That broke a tie with Jim Simpson, who appeared on NBC’s  Game of the Week from 1966 to 1979.

On tap: Fox Sports 1’s next game will be its fifth, as many full games as have aired on TNT … Tropicana Field is two appearances shy of 100 … The MLB Network broadcast Thursday night between Washington and St. Louis will make and break several ties in the record books as Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz and Sam Ryan each appear … Tom Verducci‘s next game will tie him with Peter Gammons at 74 appearances.