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Rethinking Stats For Television

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As we get closer to actual baseball and actual baseball games on television, it's time to revisit a pet peeve of mine.

Ever since some technologically inclined people discovered a way to put type over moving pictures, the quality of baseball broadcasts has improved. Graphics allowed the picture to convey important information about the game, that would otherwise come across as incredibly dry if the announcers were to bring similar information. The graphics were used to describe the situation of the game and the stats of the players. We're so used to seeing this now, but 30 to 40 years ago, this was quite revolutionary.

In the early days, the graphics were usually yellow (it shows up better!) with no background or shading. And get this... They just popped on the screen. There were no fades and no sound effects (I'm looking at you, FOX) to help announce them.

But the problem is, as the style of the graphics has evolved, the substance of the graphics themselves hasn't changed at all.

The lineups are still presented prior to each team's first turn at bat. The score is still presented on the lower third of the screen when the broadcast is heading toward a commercial...

Not much has changed in the last 20 years.

And batters are still introduced with their current batting average, home runs and RBI.

I realize this would take some extra work on the part of the television production crews, but the way the batters are identified needs to change.

Does it really matter when we watch a game in July that Juan Pierre has one home run and 15 RBI? The Cubs are insisting Pierre bat leadoff, so why not tailor his stat line for his role? We can keep batting average since that's a universal stat that everyone understands, but let's substitute something else for home runs and RBI. How about doubles and on base percentage? That would give us a much better idea of Pierre's value (or lack of value) as a leadoff hitter.

Do we really need to know Joey Gathright has one home run?

(And forget steals. That stat doesn't make a bit of difference while the speedy leadoff hitter is at the plate. Save it for when he's on base. And then tell me how many times he's been caught.)

With the sluggers, we should drop the batting average altogether. (In Cincinnati, Adam Dunn is nodding his head in agreement.) Let's swap it out with slugging percentage. That gives us a much better idea of who is earning their keep as a power hitter.

Wouldn't Travis Hafner loom even larger if we saw he owned a .650 slugging percentage?

I noticed a couple of years ago some broadcasts began showing a players game line as though it were on a scorecard. Interesting thought, but it doesn't really add anything. It basically takes the same information and repackages it in a more visual manner. It's a nice touch, but it's kind of unnecessary. The type of change I'm talking about has much more substance.

The idea altering how players are introduced isn't revolutionary or even bold. But it's an idea whose time has come. The screen is so littered with scores and tickers and such, there's a good chance that the casual fan won't even notice the difference. But to those of us who watch the game with interest, a change along these lines is welcome and long overdue.