From the Pages of Vine Line: Talking stats with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies

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(Art by Jerry Neumann)

The following can be found in the Short Stops section of the June issue of Vine Line.

Sure, there will always be three strikes per out and three outs per half inning in baseball, but the strategies for success are constantly evolving. To keep pace, broadcasts have to change as well.

The 2003 book Moneyball, and the success of teams like the A’s and the Red Sox, have brought advanced statistics to the forefront of the game. Though most baseball insiders are well-versed in WAR, WHIP and VORP, many old-school baseball folks—White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson included—don’t subscribe to the numbers game.

That’s why Cubs broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies, both believers in sabermetrics, try to work the new stats into most broadcasts.

“We’ve found better ways to evaluate performance than the old-school batting average, RBI, runs,” Kasper said. “Counting stats can sometimes not really tell the whole tale. [Advanced stats] allow you to pull a player out of his team context and evaluate how he might be in a generic vacuum.”

As baseball moves away from traditional stats that don’t carry as much weight as they used to, it’s often up to the broadcasters to bring new ideas to the viewers’ attention—without being overbearing.

“We don’t want it to be a math class,” Kasper said. “I think always remembering the narrative of a baseball game is important, keeping the focus on what’s happening on the field. You can extrapolate some interesting notes about a player or a team without necessarily giving them raw numbers”

Though Kasper, who has been calling Cubs games since 2003, is all for the game’s evolution, he tries not to get carried away with new concepts.

“Sometimes [stats people] maybe overthink some of these situations,” Kasper said. “Sometimes guys are just good.”

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