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October 24, 2018

Bill has been rightly pointing out the utter idiocy of relying on, or even mentioning, the results of tiny pitcher-batter matchups during TV broadcasts. Sometimes, I wonder, though if the inverse proposition  might have some validity. The only value I can see in mentioning the results of tiny sample-size matchups is the possible absence of the opposite conclusion.

Suppose Abe Atter has 3-for-5 with a homer and double vs. A. P. Itcher. Bill might say "Means absolutely nothing," and he’s right—Atter could then go 0-for-5 against Itcher, which would be easily explained by a mere reversion to the norm, and it shows nothing about how well Atter hits Itcher.

But might we draw from the initial 3-for-5 the implication that Itcher certainly doesn’t dominate Atter?

Unless we’re willing to entertain the possibility that Atter is the single luckiest SOB on Green’s God-Earth, that these are the only three hits he will ever get against Itcher if he bats against him until the Thursday before Doomsday, we must concede that until about that Tuesday, we’re certainly going to let Atter take his licks against Itcher.

Without a willingness to attribute these three hits to blind luck prevailing over all rational thought, we must concede that Atter seems to see Itcher’s pitches well, that he gets the bat around on him ok, and that he must have a fair amount of confidence when he steps in the box facing Itcher. Of course, given the small sample size, we keep an open mind as to the nature of Atter’s three hits, which might be due to luck if they are a swinging bunt, a Texas League blooper, and a grounder to the hole that the shortstop had trouble digging out of his mitt, but in my example the homer and the double denote something of some significance.

Not a lot, but maybe some little thing? Maybe something as small as "Itcher hasn’t figured out yet what location he should try to throw to against Atter" or maybe it’s just that Itcher has figured that out but needs to execute better. Will he figure it out? Will he execute better? Probably, but those first five at-bats indicate, at least, that he hasn’t done so yet.

Five at-bats is just too small a sample size to have meaning, but that will not restrain the Joe Bucks and the Ron Darlings from drawing their conclusions, and then changing those conclusions out loud every few at-bats from that point on. If I understand Bill’s thesis correctly (always a dangerous premise—I’ve gotten about one "That’s right" from him for every five "No, no, no, you imbecile!"s), the prevailing, or even overwhelming, influence on someone’s ability to hit is simply that batter’s inherent ability, and not the batter’s hotness, or the pitcher’s coldness, or really any other factor. Everything else is just the luck of the draw. Someone who hits at, say, an .800 OPS clip, in other words, is going to hit .800 in July, at home, with runners on 2B, in almost any conceivable situation, given enough at-bats.

Of course, that .800 clip is subject to certain predictable, rational adjustments: if his home park is conducive to hitting, it would go up in his home park. If he’s batting against lefties as a lefthanded batter, it goes down by the typical platoon disadvantage. If it’s July, his OPS goes up at the rate that batting universally goes up in the warmer weather. And so on. We err when we start attributing any sort of irrational hocus-pocus to variations in someone’s performance, such as "clutch ability," "big-game performance" (which always makes me think he does well facing lions, water buffaloes, and elephants), or some special talent facing particular pitchers or teams.

Over the course of a career, I’d also suppose that an .800 OPS guy is more like an .850 OPS guy near his peak, and maybe .775 OPS as he gets started and as he winds down his career.

But most of the fluctuations, apart from these predictable influences, are random, simply due to small sample size above all else.

And sample size is always going to remain too small. Put another way, by the time that one player’s sample size of at-bats approaches "large enough to take seriously" that player has almost certainly changed enough to make his previous body of at-bats meaningless. It’s only when we look at many players’ at-bats—a team’s, or a league’s, or all batters in MLB—that we can confidently identify meaningful trends. Suppose you’re looking at a batter who has a reputation for being a clutch hitter—let’s call him Jerek Deter—and let’s say he hits very well in certain situations. Those situations could easily be explained by dumb luck when the sample sizes are tiny: if Deter hits safely three times in his first five post-season at-bats, we can safely dismiss that performance as due to the small sample size, not any real clutch ability, and even when he’s hit safely twenty times in his first fifty post-season at-bats, we know that a .400 average in only fifty at-bats isn’t really a big enough sample to register a meaningful difference from his non-clutch BA of over .300. By the time Deter has enough at-bats to begin to approach a meaningful figure, and we start to having to wonder if his post-season hitting is more than a statistical fluke, however (and post-season at-bats really don’t get near that point for anyone), Deter is in his late thirties, and his game—the game that got him to  that point—has changed, often radically. Maybe he has focused on greater plate discipline rather than sheer muscle. Maybe he has become more of a breaking-ball hitter to compensate for his slower reflexes on the fastball. Maybe he is now more reliant of his vast knowledge of pitchers’ strategies rather than his diminishing bat-speed. The point is that he’s now a different Jerek Deter than the one who racked up those previous "clutch" at-bats.

Individual pitcher-batter matchups don’t begin to approach even the small sample sizes of one batter’s post-season performances, of course. By the time Abe Atter has faced A. P. Itcher a number of times large enough to qualify as "non-comical," both of them will have aged, made adjustments to their game, suffered game-changing injuries, re-thought their goals, etc. to render the previous body of at-bats less than relevant.

Few players accumulate enough at-bats in the World Series to begin to approach significant sample sizes, though this doesn’t stop yammerers from yammering about itsby-bitsy teeny-weeny sample sizes. There are a few, mostly New York Yankees of the 1950s and 1990s-2000s, who get enough appearances to be acclaimed as World Series performers, but often there’s a funny thing about even such sample sizes: they sometimes break down in surprising ways.

We’ve been talking, over in Reader Posts, about one such World Series star, Whitey Ford, and his spectacular performance in Series play from 1950 through the early 1960s. Through game 4 of the 1962 Series, Ford had pitched 118 innings with a 10-4 W-L record, and a 1.98 ERA. Stellar, right?  In the first inning of game four of the 1962 Series, he was his usual stellar, spectacular self, allowing 0 runs against the powerful Giants’ lineup, lowering that 1.98 ERA just a tad—

But from that point on, Whitey Ford turned into Whitey Fraud:

Starting in inning 2 of game four, he stunk out the joint. His World Series record, after coming out to the mound to start the second inning, was 0-4 in his final 27 IP, and his ERA from that point through his last World Series in 1964 was a horrendous 6.00.

Wha’ hoppen?

Maybe his career was headed downhill, and his Series play simply followed suit?

Plainly not—two of his most intimidating seasons were in the period, 1963-64, that his World Series performance was so abysmal:  he went 41-13 in those seasons.

It’s obvious (BJOL caveat: obvious to me) that he just experienced a regression to the mean, as the sample size of his innings pitched increased. Whitey Ford, in other words, just played more like Whitey Ford –and since he was playing above Whitey Ford-levels up to that point, he pitched his final 27 World Series innings, quite understandably, below that level.

It sometimes works the other way, of course. When I was a kid, I was vaguely aware of Hank Bauer being in the pantheon of World Series stars, having hit 7 HRs in Series play, which is a ton, considering that most players never get 7 World Series at-bats. What I didn’t know was that in Bauer’s first five Series, he was a big bum:

In his first five World Series, 1949-1953, Bauer had 80 at-bats but a puny 13 hits, 11 of them singles, none of them HRs.  That’s a .163 BA, rounding up. Bauer did all his damage in his final four Series, when he batted 108 more times and got 33 hits, including 7 HRs and 33 RBI. That’s a .306 average, and the power numbers are impressive if we multiply the at-bats by six to yield a full 648-AB season: that’s 42 HRs and a Hack Wilson-breaking 198 RBI. Pretty fair hitting.

Did Bauer suddenly learn how to hit in the Series? Did Ford suddenly forget how to pitch? Which one is the real Hank Bauer? Which one is the real Whitey Ford? Neither, or none, of course. Even both halves taken together don’t give a truly representative sample of either man, but the larger samples are more meaningful, and also closer to both men’s lifetime performance numbers. If you judge young Whitey Ford by his first decade of Series play, or old Hank Bauer by his second half, you do him the same injustice if you judge either man by his less-stellar performance. I've always felt that Ted Williams got a terrible, undeserved rap because of one unrepresentatively poor Series, and that Barry Bonds got a chance to redeem his reputation simply by getting to play in the post-season beyond his initial poor showings.

Occasionally, even in the relatively small sample sizes, we will see remarkable (seeming) consistency. Both halves of the real Derek Jeter’s post-season heroics are equally impressive: in Jeter’s first 79 post-season games, he had a .308 BA, .384 OBP, and .461 SLG, with 10 HRs. In his next (and last) 79 post-season games, the BA stuck at .307, the OBP fell to .364 and the SLG rose to .468.  His OPSes were a mere .013 apart. With exactly 10 HRs. Hard to do that so precisely without some serious planning.

But even within that remarkable-seeming consistency lies an awful lot of practical inconsistency: take one sample of 32 consecutive post-season at-bats from Jeter. In the sixteen at-bats from October 10, 2005 (facing the Angels) through October 6, 2006 (facing the Tigers), Jeter got 10 hits, including 2 HRs and 4 doubles. Presumably hot as hot can be, in his next sixteen post-season at bats against Detroit and Cleveland (in 2007), he got 2 singles. (And of course you understand that Jeter had been ice-cold just prior to the hot at-bats I cherry-picked for this example, and hot again after the "cold" 16 at-bats.) In this most consistent of post-season performers, sixteen at-bats is just way too insignificant to be of any predictive use, yet you will hear announcers intoning constantly about much smaller samples of at-bats of one batter’s history (often ancient history) against a particular pitcher in the postseason, as if there  were any value in that data point.

We all know why announcers prefer repeating this fallacy to simply shutting up about: as nature abhors a vacuum, TV abhors silence. Better to intone nonsense or gibberish than to deliver more than a few consecutive seconds of dead-air. Imposing a narrative, to use Nora Ephron’s concise summary of what artists must by their nature do, is where announcers go wrong. They think they’re artists. But announcing a game is not an art—the "narrative" of a game does not exist, except in retrospect. While fiction-writers must identify meaningful threads running through the fabric of their storylines, and emphasize those threads so that their readers notice them, baseball announcers have close-to-zero meaningful threads to point out: who’s up, who’s pitching, what the count is, and every so often the score and who’s warming up in the bullpen. I almost never need to know the history, or lack thereof, of the batter/pitcher combo, the batter’s history against this team, or in his last four games, or with runners where they are right now, or almost any of the extraneous and useless information I’m bombarded with on a regular basis.

A player who’s doing well can start doing much better at any point in the game, or suddenly do much worse. TV announcers have no more insight into the future than anyone else has—all they do have that the rest of us lack is tons and tons of data, most of it sheer garbage: batter-pitcher matchups, how a team is hitting recently with two men out, or with men on base, or relievers facing their first batter—all this data, and much much more, takes the form of a meaningful narrative because the TV announcers are desperate to seem knowledgeable about areas where no knowledge is available. I sit here, watching the Dodgers play the Red Sox, and all I think, over and over, is "Bullshit, bullshit, utterly without predictive significance, more meaningless bullshit, shut up, yet more bullshit, truism, total coincidence, still more bullshit." Maybe I should watch with the sound off?


COMMENTS (36 Comments, most recent shown first)

Steven Goldleaf
Marc--most people's jobs are difficult. That's why I want competent people doing them.

addendum to my last comment below: have i identified the source of desperation? Or do you find something else besides the grammatical ambiguity as desperate?
3:56 PM Nov 4th
Steven Goldleaf
Do you think Buck is deliberately shooting for the ambiguity caused by the lack of punctuation you have presented here? "I'm Joe Buck the Hall of Famer John Smoltz is with me" is a fused sentence. Depending on where you put the period and comma, it could be punctuated as "I'm Joe Buck, the Hall of Famer. John Smoltz is with me" or as "I'm Joe Buck. The Hall of Famer John Smoltz is with me."
3:53 PM Nov 4th
They could go for the biggest sample size they could get. How rarely do they quote a player's career numbers? Or, say: "Steve Pearce began with five years in Pittsburgh, OPS .668. Last five years, OPS .829." The stories are in the numbers, if you look for them.

And to Joe Buck's credit, he has FINALLY stopped beginning with "I'm Joe Buck the Hall of Famer John Smoltz is with me", so he's presumably realised how desperate that sounded.
4:13 AM Oct 31st
Marc Schneider
I don't really understand the animosity toward Smoltz and Buck. I find Smoltz's comments about pitching very insightful. Buck is fine. Yes, sometimes they make statements that I think are wrong, but I don't see why people get so bent out of shape. As someone else said, I think what they do is difficult. You could pick virtually anything to pieces.
2:46 PM Oct 30th
Speaking as one who doesn't fail to appreciate a more dramatic delivery (and BTW who wishes that more of the political folk on my side had a lot more fire in theirs and continually feels enraged that they don't and can't understand how they're able not to, but forget that), I find Bill's talk- and interview-style just fine. I'd love to hear him as an in-game analyst.
(Love love love.)
3:27 PM Oct 28th
I've noticed that I frequently tune out the announcers while I'm watching a game. I wasn't even aware that I did this until I noticed my wife questioning the intelligence of things they said. In most cases, I hadn't heard them. 50 years of watching sports on TV conditioned my to tune out broadcasters and commercials. As a kid, I used to tune out in church and in many classes at school. Same phenomenon, I guess.
11:44 AM Oct 28th
"Wouldn't you love to hear Bill James and Rob Neyer broadcast the World Series?"

I've never heard Neyer speak, so I have no idea. As for Bill, I'll just say he has a voice ideal for newspapers. That's not to say he can't be insightful or interesting, like he was in that pregame show on MLB a few days ago. But having him broadcast a three-plus-hours game is a whole 'nother matter.

I'm OK with Joe Buck, probably because I heard his dad for many years. But I'd love to hear a really good broadcaster whose team is out of the postseason, like a Tom Hamilton or a Denny Matthews, do a World Series for television. I think it'd be fun and entertaining.
7:51 AM Oct 28th
Steven Goldleaf
Smoltz, in the top of the 6th: ”…if you’re Alex Cora, I don’t think you can use Eovaldi unless you have the lead but again I’ve had a hard time following the strategies employed that, uh, each team’s gone…”

He then trails off, Buck starts yakking. In other words, Smoltz, thinking out loud, speculating about when or if Cora should use Eovaldi, realized that he had literally nothing to say beyond what any of us might think, and as his thought collapsed, so did his sentence structure.

Silence is a big improvement on these two yutzes. I learn nothing from them, other than turning off the sound is wise.
4:18 PM Oct 27th
Steven Goldleaf
Not that Buck is good. My friend Scott Russell on FB today:

I'm sure that Joe Buck is a nice man and no doubt a great husband, father and respected person in his community. Therefore, I decided to listen more closely to his broadcast of last evening's game (I normally avoid the stale conversations and concentrate on the action itself) three of the 2018 World Series and perhaps formulate a more flattering opinion of the broadcaster.......You know what? The man really is a yutz! Holy crap, is he bad!

To be fair, I grew up (not that I've actually ever grown up, but I digress) listening to the likes of Vin Scully, Connie Desmond, Russ Hodges, Red Barber, Bob Prince, Jim Woods, Curt Gowdy, Ned Martin and so many other great voices, so I'll admit to being spoiled.

If I were seated in a bar and subjected to listening to the banal blatherings of a Joe Buck, I would either take a seat elsewhere or relocate to another drinking emporium. Consider the following:
"What a heads up play by Max Muncy to tag up and advance to second after the tumbling catch by Nunez!"..........
Hey, putz, once Nunez fell into the stands, the runner is automatically awarded second base!
Then he follows up with, "Nunez flipped the ball onto the field from the stands. They may be reviewing that."
Hey, schmuck. The play is over once the player left the field of play! Time is out. Period.

Seriously, the way Buck announces baseball, one would think that he's attending his first game. It's like being seated next to a six year-old and having to explain the game to him. All right, in truth, that would be an honor, to be able to educate a child in regard to the intricacies and nuances of the game, but this guy is getting paid a considerable amount of $$$ to "inform" us about the action.

All right, John Smoltz is not exactly Ron Darling or Ken Singleton as a "color man," but even he has to be bemused by Buck's constant inept nonsensical yapping. Seriously, as I stated, I'm sure that Joe Buck is nice to his dog, contributes generously to his church and assists old ladies attempting to cross the street, but he really should seek employment in another field. Sadly, Joe Buck is to his great father, Jack, what Pablo Sandoval is/was to Brooks Robinson.

4:13 PM Oct 27th
Steven Goldleaf
from Aaron Gleeman's twitter feed: "Joe Buck tried to set up John Smoltz to talk about how good Walker Buehler must feel right now, and Smoltz turned it into yet another rant against modern baseball and pitch counts. Five minutes later he's completely abandoned Buehler as a topic and is now just complaining. Again."

It's not just me and it's not just us superior types on BJOL. Smoltz is one of the most reviled people on TV, HoF or no. He got to the Hall because of his arm, not his ability to articulate his thoughts.
4:04 PM Oct 27th
Matter of taste, I guess. Sometimes I think Smoltz is talking because the truck tells him to or he just feels he must, but every now and again he comes up with a real insight about what it's like to be out there competing.

Most of us here are pretty knowledgeable about baseball and sometimes we like to puff ourselves up by tearing down the people who call the games. Some of us might even think we know as much about baseball as the likes of Joe Buck (who has seen thousands of games more than any of us and who grew up with the game) or John Smoltz (who is after all in the Hall of Fame), or for that matter Tim McCarver or Joe Morgan. We don't.

And just as importantly, we probably lack the ability to talk about the game interestingly, in real time and off the cuff. I'm an experienced (and award-winning) public speaker, but I don't think I could do it. And I seriously doubt, based on what I've heard of him speaking in public, that Bill James could either.
3:05 PM Oct 27th
Steven Goldleaf
I'm still waiting for lively and engaged commentary from Smoltz--when I get some I'll let you know.

My first comment on this site was that I'd gladly pay three bucks a month to listen to Bill snore. I still would.
9:07 AM Oct 26th
Yeah, I do get something from Buck and Smoltz: first and foremost entertainment, but also a measure of insight. After years of skepticism, I've come to appreciate the contributions of color men who have actually been there and who know considerably more about playing baseball than I do.

I think you are grossly underestimating the degree to which a lively and engaged commentary can enhance the game. Remember when Sandy Koufax tried it? Deadly dull and impossible to listen to. Some people know how to speak in public, some don't. Koufax didn't and from everything I've ever heard, neither does Bill James.
4:53 AM Oct 26th
Steven Goldleaf
If you show them an effect, they can always come up with a cause.
2:26 AM Oct 26th
One of my pet peeves is the announcers who see everything in terms of results. If a guy gets a bloop hit, he "fought it off and found a hole." If he hits a line shot that's caught as a routine play, he's out and that's it. Or, when speaking of pitchers, if a guy makes a great pitch but the batter hits it anyway, it becomes a bad pitch. Or a guy hits a one hop screamer to the shortstop and 'the pitcher did his job - got him to hit into a double play.' I could go on. But I won't. Fortunately, this trend seems to be abating. Puig's home run in the NLCS game 7 and Nunez's home run in WS game 1 were both on very tough pitches to hit - and the broadcasters, in both cases, made note of that.
9:14 PM Oct 25th
Steven Goldleaf
Like Trump asked black voters, steve161, What do you have to lose? (Maybe not such a great example....)

It's not like Buck and Smoltz are providing such scintillating talk that two intelligent analysts could possibly be a step down. Are you getting anything of value from Buck and Smoltz? I'm sure not.
3:16 PM Oct 25th
"Wouldn't you love to hear Bill James and Rob Neyer broadcast the World Series?"

No. I've heard Bill James speak off the cuff: he speaks in a monotone and mumbles. (I've never heard Neyer.) Broadcasting involves skills other than pure analysis if it is to succeed as entertainment. Bill lacks those skills.

Now if you ask me if I'd like to hear a broadcast directed by James and Neyer...
3:10 PM Oct 25th
Marc Schneider
Steven, re your comment about Ted Williams. In his autobiography, Williams complained (fairly I think) about how the Boston writers focused on 10 games (7 games in the 1946 WS, one game playoff in 1948, and two games against the Yankees in late 1949) to "prove" he was not a clutch hitter.
2:15 PM Oct 25th
Steven Goldleaf
FrankD, I wasn't trying to use the data to show '63-'64 were actually Ford's best years as much as I was using it to show that he was far from in decline, despite his post-season performances.
8:44 AM Oct 25th
Small detail ('for the record'):
Clemens actually had 15 strikeouts (and 0 walks) in that game in his 1st year.

The reason that the "13" might stick in our heads is that in his discussion of what he made of it, Bill observed what I call his "Ripken-Williams rule -- i.e. he didn't draw the lines exactly at Clemens' numbers but at slightly more modest levels. He said that he thought there would be that kind of "signature significance" for any pitcher (maybe he said rookie pitcher?? I don't remember) who had a game with at least 13 K's and no more than 2 BB's.
10:37 PM Oct 24th
yes, you probably should shut the sound off. Many inane comments that seem to be uttered to fill silence. But they did have one interesting one (to me): I think Smoltz said that the last 14(?) WS winners played more games to get to the WS than their opponent - I dunno if that was true but its at least interesting. Small sample size is a bane of analysis. So is lumping unrelated data together and treating the data as representative samples from the same overall set. An aside, ignoring the paucity of Ford's WS data, it is not necessarily correct to use his seasonal wins/losses in the '50s and then in the '60s as representative of his performance. As Bill has mentioned: Stengel used Ford against the best teams in AL and kept him out of games against the bottom teams. After Stengel left then Ford was put in standard rotation, greatly increasing his W/L ratio but that does not show that he was a better pitcher in the '60 than he was in the '50s. It may be that Ford was a much better pitcher in the '50s than the '60s and this would then be in agreement but not prove that Ford WS performances were more in line with his seasonal performances.
7:00 PM Oct 24th
Steve, I thought the same thing when I heard the Benintendi comment.

Sometimes there is something that I think Bill James once referred to as signature significance. There was a game early in Roger Clemens's career in which Clemens struck out 13 without issuing a walk. Bill noted at the time that only great pitchers did that. So when I think of a BVP stat line that might mean something, I think of Corey Snyder against Roger Clemens. In Snyder's first three years, he was 0 for 16 against Clemens with 12 strikeouts.​rtDir=desc&MinPA=10&BatterType=1&PlayerID=100814

He would never strikeout against Clemens again, but ended his career 2 for 23 in the match-up.

If someone is four for seven against a pitcher with three home runs, I don't mind hearing that. If someone is 0 for 2, don't even mention it.
6:38 PM Oct 24th
Steven, your complaints about "imposing a narrative" in sports broadcasting are well taken, but the problem is twenty times more serious in political and current events broadcasting, where the often-non-existent narratives imposed by pundits can have a really distorting impact on public perceptions and election results.
5:58 PM Oct 24th
Steven Goldleaf
Maybe the smartest comment I heard last night came from a player: in his post-game interview, Benintendi was congratulated on his 4 hits, and he said immediately that a couple of them were pretty lucky. I agree--the one that ticked off Pederson's glove should have been caught, and the first single was a ground ball that found a hole, nothing special about it. No announcer pointed either of those observations out.
4:35 PM Oct 24th
DJ, your comment reminded me of a writer who watched the Cubs as a kid and the announcers would say Roy Smalley Sr was due to get a hit. He said it wasn't until he was an adult that he figured out Roy Smalley was always due.
4:30 PM Oct 24th
Steven Goldleaf
Point taken. It's the entire industry, really, dumbing down content and appealing to unsophisticated listeners instead of educating them. Wouldn't you love to hear Bill James and Rob Neyer broadcast the World Series?
4:23 PM Oct 24th
It's not announcers, it's directors. You almost never hear this kind of nonsense without it also showing up on your screen in a graphic. The initiative is coming from the truck, not from the announcer. He's hearing in his headset while he's describing the game or talking to his color man that a graphic is coming and that he is to comment on it. (One of the many things that set Vin Scully apart was that he rarely read the graphics. You can get away with that if you're Vin Scully.)
3:46 PM Oct 24th
In addition to finding meaning in randomness and attributing good outcomes to good character, announcers also have to construct a hard-luck, if not downright tragic backstory to compare against a player's current success. If there's no obvious tragedy, they'll troll through the mix of good and bad circumstances that are part of anyone's past and try to turn the past bad circumstances into a tragedy which became the fuel for the good character which produced the current success. Announcers do even more of that with Olympic athletes, I guess because we often have never heard of them before this Olympics.
2:50 PM Oct 24th
Steven Goldleaf
Yes, how either is an improvement on "That brings up Duke Elder, who's whatever-for-whatever today" baffles me.
2:39 PM Oct 24th
"That brings up Duke Elder, who is 4-for-4. He's hot today. Watch out!"

"That brings up Duke Elder, who is 0-for-4. He's overdue! Watch out!"

Even as a kid I sensed discord upon hearing that announcer's schizophrenia.

2:28 PM Oct 24th
Steven Goldleaf
Great point, Bruce. I liked the stories, too. The problem there, I fear, is that there are a finite number of stories per announcer. If I have to sit through Ralph Kiner's fifteen colorful anecdotes again, I would expire. (As has Ralph, and not a decade too late for me.)
12:35 PM Oct 24th
Steven Goldleaf
Of course that's what Smoltz meant, Marc. But if he didn't constantly feel under severe time-pressure to fill up air-time, maybe he would say what he meant to say more often. It's a struggle to keep having to translate what they say to what they mean to say, especially if half the time they're spouting meaningless BS anyway.
12:33 PM Oct 24th
It is getting worse, definitely. I liked it baseball announcers better when they didn't have all of that information in front of them. They told stories, usually about ballplayers from the past. I first learned about Ernie Lombardi, Bucky Walters, Phil Cavaretta, and Dolph Camilli by listening to Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola on Saturday's Game of the Week. This was in the sixties and seventies, long after all of those guys were out of baseball.
12:32 PM Oct 24th
Marc Schneider
Imposing a narrative is done in all tv sports and in a variety of ways. For example, look at interviews of coaches or players after a football game. In many cases, the reporter will ask what lawyers call a leading question to get the statement they want, such as "now that you have won the Super Bowl, tell us about how Joe Ziffel changed the locker room and created the momentum for your team." They ask questions like that all the time because the reporters want a certain statement and want to impose their own narrative on the event. It drives me nuts.

I did notice Smoltz's comment about having to tie before you can go ahead, which was, of course, silly. But I think he meant that the Dodgers needed to stop worrying about being a hero and trying to hit a home run and just worry about getting the run in. He simply phrased it poorly. I think there is a tendency for viewers to unfairly castigate broadcasters for poor phrasing that they are, after all, having to do on the run. Smoltz obviously knows you don't literally have to tie before you go ahead (although technically, that is true in that the tying run has to cross the plate before the go-ahead run.)
12:18 PM Oct 24th
Steven Goldleaf
Is it getting worse? Or am I simply assuming knowledge that I hadn't had before? Or maybe I'm just getting old and cranky? I think it's getting worse.

Last night, Smoltz actually imparted the info that before you can go ahead in a game, you must first tie the score, which in addition to being a truism is actually not really even true.
10:49 AM Oct 24th
You might as well ask fish not to fly or pigs not to eat.

They been doing this since they had to carve the postgame writeup in STONE.
10:14 AM Oct 24th
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