The Problem With Baseball Broadcasts

John Kruk was a good baseball player.  Three All-Star Games, an exact career batting average of .300, and 100 home runs.  He played from 1986-1995.  Pre-Moneyball.  Pre-sabermetric.

So one would say, “It’s okay if he’s not aware of sabermetrics.”  Fine.  But what he doesn’t realize, is that now, everything that’s happening on the field is based off of them.

During a game I was watching last week, that had Kruk as one of the announcers, a home run was hit.  A bomb.  I can’t remember the player, because I forgot what teams were playing, but this ball was crushed.

After the home run, ESPN showed a graphic that displayed the launch angle, ball speed coming off the bat, and measure of the home run.

Kurt went “I’m not sure what all that means.”, as the play-by-play announcer read through the statistics displayed on the screen.

It’s not just Kruk.  It’s almost everyone in a baseball broadcast booth.  Why?  Because sports media companies like color analysts who played the game.  Who’re experienced with baseball.  The guys who still have a “classic ” view on the game, not a sabermetrical view.

That’s why Tom Verducci is a huge step for sports media.  He’s a writer.  He’s got no MLB experience.  He’s a baseball writer who’s got a voice good enough for a broadcast booth.  But do you hear him talking about sabermetrics in the booth?  Not really.  Perhaps it’s his producers telling him no, or his own decision.

The point: We need someone in the booth with a knowledge of sabermetrics, because what’s happening on the field is based off of it.

ESPN has put Jonah Keri on Baseball Tonight, which again, is huge.  But I can tell the true Jonah Keri, the writer Jonah Keri, hasn’t came out on the show.  I don’t know whether the producers are him telling not to, but I do know that we need some influence of sabermetrics on baseball broadcasts.  It makes fans more educated, and announcers more educated on the game they’re covering.

Except for beat writing, sabermetrics are everywhere in baseball writing.  And people are opposed to it.  They claim “It affects the integrity of the game.  This isn’t how baseball is supposed to be played or understood.”.  Yeah, but do you understand that every MLB team is using them?  And that 75% of the things happening on the field are based off of them?

Saber metrics are changing the way people think.  How players think.  How GMs think.  How teams as a whole think  It’s not changing how announcers think…. yet.  But someday, it will.

So, Who Are The MLB’s True Playoff Contenders?

The Trade Deadline has passed.  We’re hitting the homestretch of the baseball season.  So, who’s gonna be in the playoffs?

We can’t answer that, but we can figure who’ll be in a strong position to make them, and who’ll be on the fence coming down to the last week of the season.

To do this, we’re gonna go division by division, ruling teams out and leaving the door open for others.

AL East:

  • New York Yankees
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Boston Red Sox

We knew coming into the season that this division was gonna be great, or really bad, or very mediocre.  And turns out, it’s very mediocre.

Boston did nothing at the Trade Deadline that made it seem like they’re planning to contend.  It’s been a lost year.  They were the division favorites; sometimes the expectations can take advantage of you.  That’s what happened to Boston.  They haven’t been able to pitch or hit, and have a sub-par outfield.  We’ve been through this already.  This is the time of year where we start to only care about the contenders.  Boston isn’t one of them, and they haven’t been all season.

The rest of this division is anyone’s guess.  The Yankees sit 5.5 games up on the Orioles and Blue Jays, and 7.5 games up on Tampa Bay.  Out of anyone in the remaining four, Toronto looks the scariest.  They went all in at the Trade Deadline, grabbing more offense and an ace.  This team has a run in them, and man, are they a likable team now.  They’ve got an insane fan base behind them.  They haven’t made the playoffs in 21 years, the longest current playoff drought in the league.   Their playoffs odds have risen to 57%, per FanGraphs.

The rest of the division has much lowers odds.  The Playoff Probability chart hates Baltimore’s chances, at 24.7%.  They’re even lower on Tampa Bay.

The Rays were one of baseball’s best stories in the first half, but have now tapered off and are 7.5 games back in their division.  However, they’re only two games back in the AL Wild Card race; a race that I’ll get into later, because it’s completely insane.

Due to that 2nd Wild Card, you have to leave those four teams in the race.  You can’t count them out.

AL Central:

  • Kansas City Royals
  • Minnesota Twins
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Cleveland Indians

What was supposed to be one of baseball’s best divisions has faltered.  The Indians got off on the wrong foot to the season, thanks to a horrid defense.  I was never high on the White Sox, and saw this coming from the start of the season.  And just lately, Detroit became the latest victim to the surprising Twins and rolling Royals.

Detroit sold at the deadline, which is a cover-up way of saying “We’re done.”.   That leaves the Twins and Royals, who’s playoffs odds couldn’t be more different.  The Royals have a 98.5% chance of making the postseason, per FanGraphs.  That’s insane, but still trails the Cardinals’ numbers.

They’re 8.5 games up on the Twins in the division, which leaves the Twins in the middle of the jumbled AL Wild Card.  Minnesota won’t be winning the division, and are now having trouble keeping their WC spot.  A leaky bullpen has been their biggest problem, and even after trading for Kevin Jepsen, they still have issues.  Minnesota’s bullpen has been in use quite a bit this season, since they don’t have any starters that they can rely on too much.

Minnesota won’t be winning this division.  Since that’s the case, it’ll be a true fight to make the playoffs.

AL West: 

  • Houston Astros
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Texas Rangers
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Oakland A’s

Another very mediocre division….  The Astros now have a three game lead on the Angels in the AL West.  The slide since the All-Star Break has hurt the Angels, but hasn’t dropped their playoffs odds drastically.  They’re still at 64.8%.  Houston’s surprise season has bolstered them to high playoffs odds at 95.3%.

The biggest issue for Los Angeles has been off-the-field distractions.  First, the power struggle between Jerry Dipito and Mike Scioscia, which concluded in the unlikely way of Dipoto losing his job.  Now, a strange story surrounding starter C.J. Wilson, and whether he’s truly hurt or not.

Total hot take on that coming….

I think it’s ridiculous for other players to wonder or not whether a guy is hurt, especially a pitcher with an elbow.  Sure, the Angels need him, but this is a pitcher’s elbow we’re talking about.  It’s not a sprained ankle that won’t go away.  Pitchers should never screw around with this, and it’s plain mean to speculate otherwise.

Anyway ways, these type of distractions have been the Angels’ biggest problem.  Their tough division doesn’t help either.

It’s gonna be Houston or Los Angeles winning the division.  The loser will be getting a Wild Card spot.  Both teams are too good.

But then there’s the Rangers, who may or may not be contending this year.  They’re only two games back of the Wild Card; just another example of how clustered it is.

Just because they landed Cole Hamels at the deadline doesn’t mean they’re wanting to make the playoffs.  That move was about the future, and the possible super-rotation they could have in the next few years.  There’s better teams in front of them, and no one good behind them.  That’s not a great sign.

Again, at this point, it’s tough to say who will and won’t make the playoffs, but I think this division, as of now, is only getting two teams.

Recap: Who’s left in the AL? (Current division leaders on top)

  • New York Yankees
  • Houston Astros
  • Kansas City Royals

  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Minnesota Twins
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Texas Rangers

 

NL East:

  • New York Mets
  • Washington Nationals
  • Atlanta Braves
  • Miami Marlins
  • Philadelphia Phillies

Welcome to the NL, where predictability rules.  Everything is pretty simple here, and isn’t crowded.

Talk about a true division race.  The NL East is the tightest race at the top in baseball right now, with the Mets up one game on the Nationals .  The playoff odds like the Nationals much more than the Mets, due to their preseason projection and experience.  Washington’s odds sit at 73.1%, while the Mets’ at 38.3%.

Playoff odds don’t take the standings into consideration as much as other statistics.  They care about offense, defense, pitching, and sabermetric totals.  They like talent, and they like teams that are closer to their preseason projection.  The odds aren’t fond of the Mets because they’ve blown away their preseason projection.  Really, the playoff odds think the Mets are a fluke, still.

In this division, the Mets and Nationals are all that matter.  Unlike other divisions though, the loser of the race has a better shot at the postseason, due to the minimal crowding in the NL Wild Card race.

NL Central:

  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Milwaukee Brewers

Arguably the best division baseball, the NL Central has three teams above 50% for the playoffs.  That’s pretty dang good.  And I won’t be shocked if all three teams make it.

The Cardinals are blowing everyone away, and are close to locking the division up.  Pittsburgh’s only 5.5 games back, but St. Louis is on another level, and have been all season.

The Pirates have came on as of late, and made some minor, but nice moves at the trade deadline.  The Pirates were a team prior to July I wasn’t interested in.  They were boring.  Then July hit, and now I love watching that team (Screw you, rain delays!  (In reference to last night’s game) ).  They were in the NL Wild Card Game a year ago, but lost to the World Series Champion Giants.  It’s possible we could see that matchup again.

That would leave the Cubs out, which is a bummer.  I want the Cubs in the playoffs.  I want them in the NLCS.  OK, let’s slow down.  Here’s why:

 

 

 

Oops on the grammar error in that tweet….  Twitter isn’t like Facebook where you can go in and edit a post.

They have to make the playoffs first, which is an easier task in the NL.

If the Cubs get the second Wild Card, that would leave the Giants and Mets out, assuming the Pirates get the No.1 spot.  The NL is about who’s better than who.  Not who’s gonna get left out due to a crowded race.  That’s where the Cubs, Mets, and Giants find themselves.

NL West:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • San Francisco Giants
  • San Diego Padres
  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Colorado Rockies

It’s the runner-up in the Division Of Mediocrity Sweepstakes.

The Padres and Diamondbacks are the teams that fuel it.  Both teams are just kinda there.  They aren’t bad.  They aren’t good.  They’re just kinda there, hanging in.  Neither team did anything at the Trade Deadline to signify their plans the rest of the season.  The Padres were expected to sell, but ended up keeping everyone.  I guess A.J. Preller thinks this current roster can make the playoffs.  Hahahaha.  The Diamondbacks did nothing either, and were expected to be buyers.  However, they should have sold, or at least I thought they should have.

The difference between Arizona and San Diego is their expectations for this season.  They’re totally opposite, yet they find themselves at the same spot in early-August.  Arizona was projected to suck, and San Diego was projected to dominate.  Yet, they’re both here.  At the same spot:  Mediocre

The good teams in the division are no surprise.  The Dodgers are three games up on the Giants as of this morning.  However, the playoffs odds aren’t high on the Giants.  Their playoff probability stands at 35.9%, which seems very low.  The odds seem to like the NL Central more, perhaps it’s due to the higher level of competition within the division.  The Giants are in the NL Wild Card race, and will be till the last day of the season.

It seems we do this every year.  The Giants are in the Wild Card hunt.  Some people like them, some don’t.  The odds hate them.  They end up making the playoffs and kill everyone else.  It happened last year.  I’m not saying it’s gonna happen again.  I’m just warning you.

Recap: Who’s left in the NL? (Current division leaders at the top)

  • New York Mets
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Chicago Cubs
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Washington Nationals

Playoff Odds are current through Monday.  Standings are current as of this morning.