Earlier this season, Jeff Francoeur, then of the Atlanta Braves, asked what he must have thought was a rhetorical question: “If on-base percentage is so important, why don’t they put it up on the scoreboard?”
The grand irony, of course, was that the Braves DO put on-base percentage stats on the scoreboard, and that’s becoming a real trend around the Major Leagues. Where you used to go to Yankee Stadium and get shown only AVG/HR/RBI, now you can look up at any point during an Alex Rodriguez at-bat and see that despite a relatively low batting average, he’s still rocking a .910 OPS. By putting “voodoo stats” like OBP and OPS on the scoreboard, the mainstream is finally admitting that there’s more to a player than their batting average, and by extension, fans at the ballpark are beginning to realize this as well.
Which brings us to something positively thrilling that David Cone said this afternoon. Did you ever think you’d hear a Yankees broadcaster, or any broadcaster for that matter, begin a sentence with “according to Fangraphs.com…”?
I thought it was surprisingly forward-thinking of Cone when, on Friday’s broadcast, he repeatedly quoted numbers on the league’s swing percentage vs. Joba Chamberlain, Chamberlain’s fastball percentage in 2009 vs. 2008, etc. And today, Cone essentially came out of the advanced metrics closet when he quoted Fangraphs directly in making a point.
Whether or not Cone discovered Fangraphs – which is a wonderful, invaluable, and best of all, free website which provides a wealth of unique statistics – on his own, or is simply being fed these numbers by an enterprising intern, is of no consequence. The fact that Cone realizes there are numbers that help us understand what we’re watching and put a player’s value in context beyond the obvious is refreshing.
Cone’s analysis of Joba Chamberlain’s struggles was far more insightful than anything we’ve heard from the mainstream media. By informing that Joba’s high pitch counts are a result of opponents swinging 10% less in 2009 than 2008, he helped to illustrate that there are adjustments Joba must make in his approach beyond simply regaining lost velocity, the one factor that the laziest of sportswriters continue to hammer on. Now if we could only get Paul O’Neill to discuss something other than the post game spread.