There’s a lot more going on during a televised baseball game than you realize

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Friend of HBT Caryn Rose — of  Metsgrrl fame — went to an event called “Art of Televised Baseball” last night, where the main attraction was SNY’s Bill Webb talking about how baseball games are produced for TV.  Lots of fun insider stuff about the decisions Webb — the director of some 145 Mets games a year — makes in order to get the product you see on the screen. Among them:

  • When Keith is laughing and there’s nothing going on in the booth that’s funny, it’s because Webb is saying something to him in his earpiece. He told the story of the time Ralph Kiner sneezed, and Webb said “Gesundheit” and Ralph said “Thank you” on air.
  • [Webb] Mentioned both David Wells’ perfect game and David Cone’s perfect game as two of his most memorable ones. Someone then asked how he changed his coverage during a perfect game and he first said that he didn’t, but that he made sure that low 3rd, low 1st and CF cameras were always covering the pitcher so that if he blew it, the pitcher would be facing the camera.

It’s so easy to let a game wash over you when you watch it on TV. Then you realize that, as you’re sitting there, some guy in a production truck is changing the camera angles, putting up graphics and otherwise barking out orders every five or six seconds for three hours so that you can get your fix.

Good stuff. Tons and tons more of Webb’s observations are passed along. Nice writeup from Caryn. Check it out.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.