In the top of the sixth during the Padres-Braves match up tonight, Matt Vasgersian and Mark Grant were discussing Padres 2008 second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and his hitting troubles this year.
Vasgersian, using Iguchi’s single on a 3-2 count as an example, proclaimed that Iguchi’s key to hitting success, along with the key of many others in the game, is to work the count. Let me say that you’re not going to get much of an argument from me about that. Working the count and taking walks are an important part of not making outs, which in turn is important to winning ballgames. However, a quick check of Baseball-Reference.com shows some amusing numbers:
|Year||Pitches per PA||OPS+|
Pitches per plate appearance of course are the most elemental aspect of “working the count”.
30 seconds. 30 seconds is how long it took me to fire up B-R and check if the facts support a theory. It probably would have been faster if I spelled Iguchi’s name right my first try.
This is more than just one event
I don’t want to hang this one on just Vasgersian and Grant. The segment sounded like it came from a producer. Reason being that when the subject was introduced, a quick recap video of Iguchi’s previous plate appearance was cued up and ready to go. It’s just a guess from me, but the whole segment seemed a bit polished to be just Vasgersian rambling to kill time. (If it didn’t come from a producer, then I’ll admit that changes things. I don’t expect the play-by-play guy to check b-r for every off the cuff remark on a live broadcast, I know it’s a hard enough job.)
This gaffe represents the Padres’ broadcasting crew, run by Cox communications, and their poor regard for the proper use of statistics. Statistical sampling issues, among others, abound on nearly every broadcast. Arbitrary constraints are thrown in to samples sizes which apparently make the information “interesting”, but end up being misleading and not at all helpful to the fan’s understanding of the game. The number of outs made on Tuesdays that Brian Giles tans before the game are what we end up hearing about, and it sucks.
Things may not get better. Producer Ed Barnes had this to say regarding statistics recently, courtesy of the Union Tribune:
“I don’t want it to be wall-to-wall stats,” he said. “I’m not the guy who’s going to be introducing EqA – equivalent average – to the show or something like that. . . . If we can find a way to put a nice bow on something and provide a nice context, then I don’t think a new stat is necessarily a bad thing. But we are not going to be scanning ‘Baseball Prospectus’ from this year and putting that on the air.”
This isn’t what I’m asking for, wall to wall nerdiness. Except maybe equivalent average, I am asking for that. Because it’s easy, and it includes a buttload more information than just hits divided by at-bats. Plus it’s set to the scale of batting average, so .260 is about average and .320 is very good. That doesn’t sound too terrible does it?
What I am asking for, is a little responsibility. Spend 30 freaking seconds on Iguchi’s pitches per plate appearances, even less time if you can spell. Don’t needlessly limit sample size “for fun” without telling people that doing so totally craps up the data. Times are changing. It’s funny that it the improvement on the subject had to happen from the bottom up. It’s time for those with all the resources to respond to the innovations made by those who don’t.
Anyway, this kind of turned into a rant. I’m only halfway sorry about that.
PS: I still love you Matt Vasgersian.