Dear Statcast: Please send context.

April 21, 2015

Tuesday night’s the night! After teasers and hints and delays over the last couple of years, it seems we’re finally going to see STATCAST in all its broadcastational glory.

I'm sorry, though. This sort of thing doesn’t really get me too excited:

Well, there are six pieces of statistical information there, and exactly one of those pieces seems truly interesting.

Are those DISTANCES COVERED interesting? Not without context, they’re not.

Are those MAX SPEEDS interesting? Not without context, they’re not.

Are those ROUTE EFFICIENCIES interesting? Well, one of them’s sort of interesting. Ellsbury’s 99.5% at least seems interesting, because it’s so bloody close to 100. You gotta figure that anything better than 99 percent is really, really good ... although (again) without any context, we can’t know for sure.

So far, in all the demos that I’ve seen on television, I haven’t seen a shred of context. And I’m not sure we'll ever see one. Or not routinely, anyway. Broadcasts have never been much for context, which is why we continue seeing fielding percentage referenced with authority, and why we keep hearing about players’ clutch hitting stats in April, etc.

What I think is that the Statcast information will be little more than a shiny toy in the broadcasts, about as useful as those cameramen who run on the field and trail a home-run hitter from third base to the plate.

I’ll be watching Tuesday night, though, and I sure hope I’m wrong!