Category: Research

Pitch Description

In an earlier post, we explained how tracking the result of each pitch can enhance your quality of information.

This entry covers the more basic—but fundamentally important—subject of pitch description.

Pitch description itself is self-explanatory.  Assuming the ball is not put in play by the batter, the listener needs to know what type of pitch was thrown, the location, the velocity, and the outcome (ball/strike/foul).

Pitch “description” can also be referred to as pitch “calling.”  However, the latter implies that simply identifying the type of pitch is sufficient, whereas incorporating the breadth of details mentioned above paints a much clearer picture for the listener.

An average baseball game might involve close to 300 pitches thrown between the two teams, the large majority of which are never put in play.  The batter/pitcher matchup is baseball’s most basic form, and the way each subsequent pitch changes the odds of an at bat’s eventual outcome is one of the game’s greatest intricacies.

Providing as much detail as possible on every pitch can help the listener visualize the drama of the batter/pitcher battle as it unfolds in real time.

Continue reading

Keeping Score Part 3 – Notes Boxes

A spotting board can be a tremendous resource for broadcasters of any sport.  One of the core concepts we drove home in our discussion about broadcast structure was organizing and consolidating as much information into as few sheets of paper as possible.  The more you consolidate in advance, the less time you’ll spend looking for the information during the actual broadcast.  Spotting boards might be the poster child for structure and consolidation in sports broadcasting.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a “spotting board” is essentially a hyper-detailed version of a team’s roster.  A spotting board includes relevant statistical and biographical information for each player in addition to the “names and numbers” found on a traditional roster.  By consolidating information for every player on a single sheet, spotting boards assist the broadcaster in delivering high-quality information to the listener in a timely manner.  They are especially useful in sports like football, hockey, and basketball where the players on the field/ice/court are often in motion at the same time and moving in different directions.  Football spotting boards usually resemble a traditional “formation,” and organize the players by position.  This helps the broadcaster visualize the location of a player on the field, and really comes in handy when trying to identify who executed a key block or tackle.  Hockey spotting boards are generally organized by line or defensive pairing, and as a result, are commonly referred to as “line charts.”  Below is an example of a football spotting board.

Broadcasters Edge Football Spotting Board

Interestingly, there are very few spotting boards designed for baseball.  I’m not sure if this has to do with the natural pace of the game versus other sports (baseball lends more time in between plays to consult non-spotting board resources), the fact that the players generally stay in the same area versus other sports, or the mere presence of a scorebook (baseball is the only sport where the broadcaster can sequentially document every play while still calling the game, so a scorebook serves as something of a “real time” spotting board).  I’ve seen plenty of baseball broadcasters utilize portions of the game notes pertaining to the starting pitchers, the hitters, or the bullpens.  They serve the same purpose, but aren’t necessarily true spotting boards, because they span multiple pages.

Continue reading

Grow Your Tool Box: Split Stats

Baseball announcers incorporate statistics into their broadcasts to provide the listener with additional insight.  Listeners can use this information to form their own predictions of what to expect as a game unfolds.  There is no guarantee a .330 hitter will collect two hits, but the listener can deduce the player is performing at a high level just by hearing his batting average.

Split stats, commonly referred to as “splits,” divide a team or player’s total numbers into two or more related categories.  Splits help identify performance trends that the overall totals can’t reveal on their own.

Imagine the following situation: The tying run is on second with two outs late in the game.  First base is open, and the current batter is hitting .330.  The on-deck batter is hitting .250, but the defensive team elects to pitch to the current batter.

At first, fans of the defensive team might be wondering why the current batter wasn’t intentionally walked at such a critical juncture.  However, the broadcaster reveals that while the current batter is hitting .330 overall, he is hitting just .190 against left-handed pitching, and the defensive team happens to have a lefty on the mound.

I’ll leave the hypothetical outcome to this hypothetical scenario up to your imagination as a means of emphasizing that the process and methodology behind this type of decision is always more important than the actual result (expect a future post on this subject).  What’s important is that the batter’s splits (in this case, his left/right split) influenced the manager’s strategy.
Continue reading