At this point, I'll choose not to speak for you about how you feel Robert Ford has done in his job as the Astros play-by-play radio voice. Personally, I feel he's done a fine job, though he's had trouble finding a place in the collective consciousness after the indelibe Milo Hamilton ruled the airwaves.
Still, Ford is very good at his job and is a great follow on Twitter. He's responsive there, talks with fans and brings a behind-the-scenes element to the job that I used to love from Alyson Footer's work with the team. So, it was with great interest that I watched my Twitter feed when this dumb article in the San Francisco Chronicle dropped.
The baseball season is upon us, and as we turn our gaze to the east, we find the Houston Astros taking a most peculiar stance. They not only like the idea of their broadcasters going deep into modern-day statistics, they consider it a prerequisite for the job.
In other words, tuning into a typical Astros game: "Well, here's big Hank against a real tough lefty. You wouldn't believe how this guy's WAR stacks up against that guy's WHIP." At which point a torrent of statistical information unfolds, all about Wins Above Replacement - an effort to summarize a player's total contribution to a team in one statistic - and Walks Plus Hits Per Inning Pitched.
Why did Bruce Jenkins feel he needed to pick on the Astros? Does he assume that the team run by eggheads also makes their radio guys nerds? That all their fans are also nerds and demand nerd talk all the time? That's why we have Nerdist podcasts, right?
Well, Ford did a much better, more even-handed job of refuting all of Jenkins points, while still recognizing the value in the quotes Jenkins got from current broadcasters.
Here's a collection of his comments. What do you think about this? How do you think the Astros radio broadcasts handle advanced statistics? Have you noticed a push to have more of them on?
I'm a fan of timely stats that can be explained &/or understood relatively quickly. Bogging a broadcast down in stats is recipe for disaster— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
When Matt Dominguez bats with bases loaded, I'll mention he was 6 for 11 with 2 GS in those situations last year. That's what resonates.— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
@raford3 So you don't ask what his ERA against lefties is?— Kevin Goldstein (@Kevin_Goldstein) March 31, 2014
Couldn't be farther from the truth. But, there's a time & a place. RT @PatStrathman Not a fan of analytics then?— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
Over the years, many listeners have told me they remember an anecdote I mentioned about a specific player or team. Few remember stats.— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
I don't think we're there yet. MT @keefersunited you think some advanced metrics become so common knowledge you can use without explaining?— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
Not really. Who says what's "right"? MT @jayhawkjac Guarantee you mention stats a ton on your broadcast. Do you mention the right ones?— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
Yup. MT @tedwalker00 Fans who want stats can find them online. What you have is access...to players, coaches, constant focus on team, etc.— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
As someone in the game, I'd be foolish not to at least pay attention to many of the advanced stats. Important to stay current.— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
Important to have understanding of as many as possible. MT @LarBear54 What advanced stats do you consider important to look at?— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
I also will get anecdotes & research further. Scout tells me pitcher throws lots of sliders. Well, how often? & how does % compare?— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
I do have my biases. I feel there's value in mentioning average & OBP together, because I think many understand variance between the two.— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
Also, I think people lump all advanced stats together. To me, big difference between WAR & WHIP as opposed to slider % or swing & miss %— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014
That's how I feel about all stats. MT @wenbickert I'm a fan of adv stats, but not usu. on radio, unless directly applicable— Robert Ford (@raford3) March 31, 2014