Digging Deeper Beyond the Obvious

In the top of the sixth inning, with two outs and the score 4-2, Casey Blake stood at first base with the pitcher Randy Wolf up at the plate. Curiously, Casey Blake would steal second base during the at bat, moving into scoring position fruitlessly as Randy Wolf would proceed to fly out to end the inning.

It was curious because as a general rule of thumb, you want to avoid having your pitcher bat. They are, on average, quite poor at the task. By attempting a steal of second with two outs, Casey Blake was highly increasing the risk of a third out on the base paths. An out that would result in the pitcher’s spot still being up to plate when the seventh inning came around.

Further curiously, the move was praised by the TBS broadcasting crew as a good chance to take by Joe Torre. Ignoring for a moment whose decision it actually was for Blake to attempt second base, I could not help but wonder immediately what that same crew’s reaction would have been had Blake been thrown out. They even mentioned how unusual of a move it was given Wolf at bat, but didn’t go any further than that.

This is a small example, but I think an important one, that illustrates my major beef with broadcasting crews. Where is the attempt to educate the viewer? First of all, taken in a vacuum, this was a terrible play. There was not enough emphasis on that, explaining why it’s such a risk generally. Secondly, there are a couple exceptions to that, and none of those were mentioned either.

Did Torre or Blake or whoever notice, because a steal attempt is so bad a move in that situation, that the Phillies were not paying enough attention to Blake? If Philadelphia were thereby allowing Blake a bigger lead and/or jump, his odds of making it second base successfully would rise, possibly tipping the play into a good risk.

Randy Wolf had thrown 73 pitches at that point in the game. If Torre had determined that the most likely outcome of the bottom of the sixth would be that Wolf would throw enough pitches that his day would be finished, then Torre would be utilizing a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh. With no fear of having the pitcher bad to start the seventh, the risk of the play would be decreased.

Neither of those possible explanations were mentioned — explanations that would help bring to the viewer’s attention some of the tactical considerations that goes into managing a baseball game. Nope, instead the uninformed viewer is left with an increased respect for some nebulous mystique for Joe Torre and his incredible judgment of when to send the running game into motion. Come on, TBS, you are not a representative of either team and you get to pick your best people for this.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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Big Oil
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Member
Big Oil

Unsurprisingly, I’m with Matthew here. However, since everyone here already knows how mediocre some of these crews can be when it comes to providing relevant information, I’d mention two of the things I’ve enjoyed so far this postseason from a broadcasting standpoint:

1. The display before the pitch of pitcher, batter, and the catcher’s sign in the bottom-center of the screen. I love being able to know the sign (and often also enjoy following pitch sequences and guessing), but often the camera is too busy focusing on Kate Hudson to show me the catcher’s call. This is mostly Fox.

2. Silence in the booth during big moments: pan the crowd going nuts, the apprehension (or lack thereof) on the managers’ faces, the concentration of pitcher/batter, then let the pitch and result tell the tail. Even the casual baseball fan knows what is going on. Less is more.

3. Not sure about the release velocity/velocity at plate graphic of Fox’s. Although it is growing on me, if accurate.

Big Oil
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Member
Big Oil

Horrible grammar. I’ll just say change tail to tale.

archilochusColubris
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archilochusColubris

I’m with you on the first two, but i gotta say i find that release velocity / velocity at plate courtesy of FoXXXtrax+++ remarkably annoying. What is it trying to say? I know pitches get slower as they travel through the air. Are they pointing anything out about the difference? Not really. I think it was John Walsh who wrote an article on the percentage of velocity lost during travel and found that there was almost zero variance in the statistic excepting knuckleballs (where it was still minimal). It might be sweet to see how batters react to the different subtractions of velocity in that context, but i’m getting nothing as is.

Though i will forward one other potentially blasphemous thing i’m finding surprisingly pleasant this postseason: Joe Buck. I can’t pin down exactly what’s changed, but i certainly am not finding his moralistic tone anywhere near as flagrant or annoying this time around. Maybe he’s getting better… or maybe i don’t mind it when he’s covering the Yankees.

Dan30
Guest
Dan30

Buck has been terribly offensive this post-season… i find his inability to do ANY kind of analysis more proof that he simply has a job because of who his dad was. He is a whiny nepotism pick who prefers football (thats on the record) and i wish he would leave our game alone.

pounded clown
Member
pounded clown

Tim Mcarver didn’t know that the initial and final velocity of a pitched ball were different…sad enough for a catcher but worse was that he admitted this during the game broadcast.