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.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.