The scarcity of advanced statistics in major league baseball broadcasts is a big issue for people who worship at the Church of Bill James. Good news for the mainstreaming of sabermetrics: there’s an MLB broadcast team out there who will be sort of embracing advanced stats in 2014.
The bad news? That broadcast team is arguably the least qualified to be at the vanguard of the long-hoped-for sabermetrics TV revolution.
Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone waving the flag for BABIP and WAR and all the rest of that scary new-fangled probable Communist hippie jive? Wha?
Stone revealed the plan for White Sox broadcasts to include more sabermetrics alongside traditional boring tells-us-nothing numbers like batting average, ERA and wins.
“I just want to mention one thing that you’ll be really interested in,” Stone told Boers and Bernstein on 670 The Score. “I have actually been studying up, and will continue to, because we’re going to kind of introduce — we might not call it this because this is, y’know, the evil empire — but we’re going to introduce some sabermetrics into the broadcast this year.”
You can tell Stone isn’t entirely sold on the idea by his next quote. “We’re going to actually explain to our viewers a bit about how it’s used as a tool, and try to explain that it’s not the tool, but it’s a tool, and used correctly.”
Speaking of tools…I wonder how this guy took the news that he will now have to not only acknowledge the existence of sabermetrics but actually learn enough about them to speak coherently on the subject on air.
Who am I kidding? When has Hawk Harrelson ever been coherent about anything?
Look, sabermetrics are out there and they’re a thing, and as more people who grew up with sabermetrics and know from sabermetics get older and achieve decision-making positions in the media, we will naturally see an increase in the use of advanced stats during broadcasts.
It’s as inevitable as the arrival of the steam train in the Old West, the iron horse trampling the virgin beauty of nature and making old indians cry like babies at the passing away of all that was once harmonious and good.
But there’s a right way to transition into the super-stat era, and this isn’t the right way. Turning poor Hawk Harrelson into a stat-regurgitating quasi-nerd is not going to help the cause and it’s not going to make for good broadcasts. It’s only going to make Harrelson angry and turn off viewers who otherwise might be capable of embracing the approach.
As a sabermetrics layman who recognizes their value and is not entirely averse to the idea of their increased use in broadcasts, I say please don’t make Hawk Harrelson talk about sabermetrics. Let Hawk Harrelson do what he does best: sit there saying nothing for long periods of time.
When the Harrelsons of the world are finally swept away, then may the true nerd way take over all, as has been foretold.