Fox’s alternative, sabermetric-oriented broadcast of the NLCS gets mixed reviews


Over the weekend, Fox offered an alternate broadcast of Game 1 of the NLCS featuring its Just a Bit Outside crew, including Rob Neyer, Gabe Kapler, C.J. Nitkowski and Kevin Burkhardt, all of whom were joined by Padres manager Bud Black. The idea was to provide an analytical/sabermetric experiment in calling a game.

I didn’t see it for various reasons, but I’ve read a couple of reviews of it all from sources who one would assume are sympathetic to the exercise: one from Baseball Prospectus and one from Beyond the Box Score. UPDATE: Here’s another good review from The Big Lead. The verdict: mixed.

Both reviews laud the effort and note times of interesting and novel insight. Both, however, noted that there may have been too many voices involved, the commentary didn’t track the game so well early, focusing on broader concepts and that the split-screen approach (the game on one side, the commentators and various graphics on the other) further served to disconnect the commentary and the viewer from the game. As the game went on, however, adjustments were made, more full-screen action was featured and the analysis tracked the game action more closely.

On a more big picture scale — again, with the caveat that I didn’t see this broadcast and that I’m going off the reviews here — my sense is that networks would do better to integrate more advanced analysis and fresher voices into existing broadcast paradigms rather than silo it off in its own sabermetric world. Just as baseball teams have integrated old and new school methods into team construction, broadcasts would do well not to overload on one approach but, rather, to take the best aspects of conventional and unconventional broadcasting techniques to make something that is smart enough to appeal to those who want more from their broadcast but accessible enough for the majority of people who are content with someone giving you a more in-the-moment play-by-play.

All of that said, I think you have to give Fox credit for trying something new, and the hope that this is merely the first stab at an ongoing experiment to rethink how games are broadcast and not a one-off. That network has the rights and lots of games to broadcast, so there is no reason it can’t play around with the format a great deal and see if they can’t find a fresh approach.

Cardinals beat Brewers, both clinch postseason berths

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS (AP) Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee, and the Brewers also earned a playoff spot Sunday via help on the West Coast moments later.

St. Louis (30-28) will be the fifth seed in the NL and open a three-game wild-card series at San Diego on Wednesday. By winning, the Cardinals avoided having to travel to Detroit for two makeup games Monday. St. Louis finished the regular season with 23 games in 18 days as it made up a slew of postponements caused by a coronavirus outbreak in the clubhouse.

“You had to throw some of the expectations out the window not knowing what to expect after taking those couple weeks off and all those doubleheaders and so many new guys,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “It was very different, very fulfilling to make the playoffs.”

The Brewers (29-31) locked up the eighth seed and a third consecutive postseason berth after the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 in a game that ended about 15 minutes after St. Louis’ victory. The Giants finished with an identical record as the Brewers but lost out on a tiebreaker due to an inferior intradivision record.

“It’s fitting for 2020 and everything we went through,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said. “It felt just as good as past years. This year’s a unique one. There’s so many challenges we had to go through on a daily basis behind the scenes, things you don’t deal with in a normal year.”

Milwaukee will face the top-seeded Dodgers in Los Angeles in a three-game series that also starts Wednesday.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. Milwaukee and Houston will be the first teams ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing mark.

“It’s a celebration,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re in the playoffs. That’s how you see it. There’s no reason to apologize for getting into the playoffs.”

Cardinals starter Austin Gomber allowed one run, one hit and two walks and struck out three over four innings.

Giovanny Gallegos (2-0), Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes combined to pitch the final five innings. Reyes got his first save.

“We’d have been happy getting in as the eight seed,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’d have been happy being the one seed, but people can say we got in if there was no expanded playoffs so that’s even another feather in this group’s cap.”

Brett Anderson (4-4) surrendered a triple to Bader and a walk to Tyler O'Neill to start the third inning before departing with a blister on his left index finger. Anderson opened the season on the injured list with a blister on the same finger and did not make his debut until Aug. 3.

Freddy Peralta replaced him a day after being activated from the paternity list, and O’Neill promptly stole second. Kolten Wong then hit a line drive off Peralta’s leg that Peralta threw into right field to score Bader and O’Neill.

Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong each added RBI singles to push the St. Louis lead to 4-0.

After Milwaukee scored in the top of the fifth, Bader hit his fifth home run of the season.

“That was a big counterpunch,” Shildt said of Bader. “Got them on their heels again.”


Yadier Molina grounded into a triple play in the eighth inning when he hit a one hop grounder to Jace Peterson at third base in the eighth inning. It was Milwaukee’s first triple play since Sept. 23, 2016, when Cincinnati’s Joey Votto lined out to first base. Molina was also the last Cardinals player to hit into a triple play when he grounded out to third base at Boston on Aug. 15, 2017.


Brewers: Counsell said it was too early to prognosticate Anderson’s status after departing with the blister.

Cardinals: St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak announced that RHP Dakota Hudson will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Monday. Hudson went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts before leaving his start on Sept. 17 at Pittsburgh with right elbow discomfort after two innings.


Brewers: The Brewers head to Los Angeles and will likely be without two of their top starters in Anderson and Corbin Burnes, who sustained a left oblique injury on Thursday.

Cardinals: This will be the fourth postseason series between St. Louis and San Diego, who faced each other in 1996, 2005, and 2006 in the Division Series.