Baumann: The death of nostalgia in baseball broadcasting

From SABR member Michael Baumann at Baseball Prospectus on February 12, 2016:

Last Friday, Rian Watt stirred up some controversy in these pages by wondering if sabermetrics, as we understand the term, is going to be replaced by intersectional analysis—the study of baseball as it fits into the world at large—as the bleeding edge of baseball writing. As someone who writes and thinks primarily in the style he described, I certainly hope that’s where the future takes us.

But even the idea of the end of sabermetrics as we know it brings up a separate point. The concepts of turn-of-the-century sabermetric analysis have pervaded all aspects of independent media, and empiricism of some form or other is the byword of all 30 front offices. Even among casual fans, there’s a curiosity about the science of the game that just didn’t exist 20 years ago, and the kind of cranks that used to be ridiculed by Fire Joe Morgan, and their disciples, are now consigned to relative irrelevance, the last holdouts defending antediluvian ideals as the state of the art has passed them by.

But one area lags behind: the broadcast booth. Almost everyone hates the local broadcasters, and the sound of playoff baseball is the sound of millions of baseball fans groaning, “WHY, HAROLD, WHY” from sea to shining sea.

The solution to this problem is not to shoehorn framing runs or DRA or whatever new statistic happens to fit in with the state of the art. We already have instances of broadcasters passing along scripted segments from researchers in which they read leaderboards of stats they don’t understand, and it doesn’t work.

Innumeracy isn’t the disease—it’s a symptom. The disease is nostalgia, which makes itself noticeable in numerous ways.

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Originally published: February 12, 2016. Last Updated: February 12, 2016.