Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Boneheaded broadcasters

I received a couple of e-mails during the past few days from a reader in Japan. (Ain't the Internet grand?)

Chris Oleson is, according to his messages, a former MSU J-school student roughly my age (his time at MSU corresponds closely to mine at the University of Minnesota) now in Japan. As such, his exposure to the World Series came with Rick Sutcliffe.

Message one (slightly edited), under the subject line "Rick Sutcliffe is an idiot"):

I had to relate what Sutcliffe just said on the international World Series broadcast (I'm in Japan). He said that in the National League a good manager is worth 20 or 25 games because the job is so much more difficult since it [doesn't have] the dh. He then said that [Charlie] Manuel liked managingin the league because the job was more cerebral. I [nearly] choked on my popcorn.

Message two, subject line "Rick Sutcliffe is an idiot: Redux!"

In a later game he calculated that 65% of Jimmy Rollins' game is running the bases and stealing. I'm not much of a Rollins fan, but such "math" is indeed questionable.


Taking the second claim first: The Baseball Info Systems baserunning analysis I wrote about in a Sunday post says Rollins (photo above) added 15 bases to the Phillies as a basestealer — and zero as a baserunner. If that's two-thirds of what Rollins does for the Phillies, he's out of a job.

Of course, it isn't. He's a former MVP; he's won (and deserved) Gold Gloves. He didn't have a real good 2009, but he contributes more than 21 bases a season to the Phillies.

As for the notion that a National League manager can be worth 25 wins a season for his tactical acumen: That's about one a week. The Phillies won 93 games last season. Does Sutcliffe really believe that if (picking on a manager who gets a lot of grief from his team's fans) Trey Hillman were managing the Phillies they'd become a 68-win team?

Nonsense. The truth of the matter is that, in terms of tactical moves — when to bunt, when to pinch-hit, when to order a steal or hit-and-run — managers are pretty much interchangeable. The DH makes a difference in how often teams bunt, but the difference is that the bunt in automatic with pitchers in the NL. Indeed, as Bill James detailed back when Sutcliffe was pitching, there is more variation in the AL about when to bunt than there is in the NL.

Sufcliffe's forte as an announcer is the totally made up stat, delivered with Olympian emphasis and self-assurance and ludicrous to anybody with a functioning mind. He is, as an analyst, worse than useless; he peddles fiction and nonsense.


As long as I'm bleating about broadcasters making stuff up, here's a lovely nugget I've saved up from the Twins-Yankees playoff series. The glories of Skip Carey on TBS were such that I resorted for a time to turning the sound off on the TV and listening to the radio. That didn't last long, mainly because the radio description was about eight seconds ahead of the TV images.

Anyway, at one point Dan Gladden started in on Andy Pettitte and steroids. In Gladden's universe, Pettitte blamed it on tainted supplements.

Wrong! That's the excuse of Juan Rincon, J.C. Romero, David Ortiz and assorted others, including a few football players.

Pettitte, upon being implicated by Brian McNamee (once Roger Clemens' personal trainer), admitted injecting himself once with human growth hormone while dealing with an elbow injury. Then, by Pettitte's description, he thought better of it and abandoned that course of action.

There's a big difference between Ortiz's explanation and Pettitte's. And those differences aren't that difficult to find.

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