Sciambi on stats on TV: "VORP, EqA, WAR, and Robert Parish are not walking through that door"

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ESPN’s Jon Sciambi — one of the better and brighter baseball broadcasters you’re ever going to hear — wrote a guest column for Baseball Prospectus today.  It starts out with a great Chipper Jones anecdote and (accompanying pic), and segues into the challenges broadcasters face in bringing more advanced stats to baseball games on TV:

We need to get to where the masses understand there is no choice. This isn’t subjective. I evaluate offense with OBP and SLG while you like RBI
and runs scored is not the same as “I like strawberry, and you like
vanilla.” It’s “strawberry is better than vanilla.” More accurate and,
therefore, more delicious. To be clear, I don’t speak for ESPN here,
just me, but I think we have a responsibility to inform correctly. If a
majority of teams are using advanced metrics to inform decisions, then
we should do some of the same in analyzing those decisions . . .

. . . If we eliminate the noise of RBI,
runs, etc., keep it basic and utilize the slash stats, I believe that,
slowly, the desert masses will drink the sand. The [Baseball Prospectus] base must
understand: VORP EqA, WAR and Robert Parish are not walking through that door. Not for a
while. But it can only help if the broadcasters are a team, too–in
uniformity (together, I mean, not wearing those blazers) while
patiently holding that door open.

This is probably the most clear-eyed assessment of the role of statistical analysis in the mainstream media I’ve seen (it’s basically a better-put version of what I said on the topic yesterday).  No, you’re not going to convince millions of casual baseball fans to accept very granular metrics while they sit on their couches and watch the Game of the Week, so you probably shouldn’t press it.

But broadcasters can be smarter about it. They can explain the general concepts behind advanced statistical analysis — e.g., not making outs is more important than merely getting hits; fielding percentage can be a very misleading measure of defense — and not get bogged down in the numbers. And if they do so, baseball fans will be a lot better off for it.

Video: Statcast’s 10 longest home runs from 2015

Giancarlo Stanton
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
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Here’s a pretty good way to finally break out of that turkey-induced Thanksgiving tryptophan coma.

It’s a compilation of the 10 longest home runs from the 2015 season, with’s Statcast technology providing data along the path of each blast …

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.