Televised baseball has gone way over the top with statistical information no one needs.
The other night, I was in a poker room where all the TVs were showing a Cardinals game. I glanced up as some player (I have no idea who) stepped into the batter’s box and a graphic informed viewers he has a “hard-hit percentage of 61%.” The sound was off, so I have no idea if the announcers explained what that means, but I’m not a baseball fan at all, so I had no idea.
The few times I’ve gone to a game or watched one on TV (e.g. when I had a daily radio show and had to know what was going on with the local team), I picked up none of the lingo beyond runs, hits, errors, batting average, runs batted in, and earned run average for pitchers. I recall hearing about slugging percentages and on base percentages, which I assume are attributes of good hitters, yet I have no sense of how they’re calculated. I don’t know why it’s important for us to know how many pitches have been thrown by the guy on the mound, or how fast a batted ball was going when it went over the fence for a home run.
I mentioned this to a friend who’s really into baseball, and he didn’t know what a “hard-hit percentage” was, either, but waved off my guess that it meant the batter had been hit by a pitch 61% of the time he stepped up to the plate. “Boy, Montero has some serious bruises on his left arm from taking fastballs to the bicep!”
I’m sure the stats geeks who compile the advanced data want to show it off to the world, but who else has any comprehension of acronyms like BABIP, WHIP, and WAR? If Major League Baseball is trying to attract a larger audience, cluttering the screen with too much information is the wrong way to do it.
Baseball broadcasters are not the only ones guilty of sharing too much information. I’ve watched tennis matches where a graphic showed how many times a player hit backhand winners down the line when ahead by at least one game in the second set with his mom in the stands.
During NFL games, we often get stats from AWS (Amazon Web Services) that tell us what the odds were of a receiver making a certain catch — after he’s caught it. They tell us how many incomplete passes a quarterback has thrown in the game, but not the number of times it was the tight end’s fault for dropping a ball that was right in his hands.
How about giving us some more entertaining information, like what’s the deductible on an NHL player’s dental insurance, which Major League Soccer referees have settled arguments with their spouses by giving them a red card, and how many child support payments a NASCAR driver has missed this year? That would be news I could use.