Will we ever see a true sabermetrician in the play-by-play booth?

I know this particular bit of news is a few days old, but since I hadn’t gotten a chance to comment on it and it’s an otherwise slow Friday baseball morning in January, I wanted to add my voice to the chorus of those who will miss David Cone at the YES Network.

When Coney first showed up in the booth during the 2008 season I thought he was terrible. His voice sounded out of place (although I think this tends to happen anytime an unfamiliar voice turns up during Yankee broadcasts. When you watch a team 162 times a year, you tend to get used to the Michael Kays of the world, for better or for worse), and he seemed ill-prepared and out of sync.

Of course, I also felt the way about John Flaherty when he first started, and while Flaherty wouldn’t be my first choice were I to assemble a dream Yankee booth team, I’ve begun to appreciate what he brings to the table.

Like Flaherty, Coney really grew into his role as an analyst, and as several have noted, his predilection for statistical analysis (apparently he frequently mentioned FanGraphs on the air during telecasts; sadly I somehow missed this) certainly endeared him to the sabermetrically inclined members of the Yankees’ fanbase.

Cone’s departure leaves a bit of a hole in the booth. O’Neill’s OK, but most of the time he looks and sounds like he’d rather be doing anything but commentating on the Yankees. I love Leiter, but he’s on the schedule for maybe 30 games a year, if that. And then of course there’s Michael Kay, who probably gets more crap (at least non-John Sterling division) than anyone associated with the Yankees.

I’m no Kay fan myself, and find myself screaming at and/or correcting Kay probably a dozen times throughout every broadcast, although I do have to say that there’s something mildly comforting about having Kay in the booth from time to time. Before you jump all over me, I want to make it clear that I would be among the first to help him pack his bags should he ever part ways with YES — I think I mostly like the fact that Kay is periodically not afraid to challenge a move and/or talk smack about a player who’s not getting the job done, as well as the fact that he’s been around for a while and probably knows the team better than any of the other on-air personalities. Also, there’s something to be said for a guy like Kay who grew up a Yankee fan, became a sportswriter, got to cover the team for the local newspaper and now has his and every fan’s dream job: Being paid to cover and watch New York Yankee games.

But enough about Michael Kay. For me, the true star of Yankee broadcasts is Kenny “Look Out” Singleton. I could listen to the dulcet tones of Singy’s melodious voice anytime, anywhere. If Singleton ever left YES I’d finally be forced to watch all Yankee games on mute.

While my dream Yankee booth team would be Singleton and Jim Kaat, given Kitty’s exile from YES I’d be more than happy with a regular Singleton/Leiter tandem. Of everyone who works on YES’s Yankee broadcasts they know the most about baseball by far, and it’s also fun sticking an ex-hitter and ex-pitcher in the booth together and seeing their biases on display throughout the game.

Given the continued proliferation of stats in baseball circles both sabermetric and non, I wonder if we’ll ever see the day where a television network hires an analyst with no playing exerience but an encyclopedic knowledge of advanced statistical metrics? I sure hope so; if I ever hear wOBA, WAR, FIP or UZR/150 mentioned on-air during a Yankee game I think I’d pass out in delight.

7 thoughts on “Will we ever see a true sabermetrician in the play-by-play booth?

  1. This doesn't really merit a post of its own, but last night I was watching YES Hot Stove and Tweeted that I was disappointed that Bob Lorenz stated that he would take Wang over Ben Sheets. This morning — unrelated to this post — I saw that Lorenz himself responded to me.

    Not that this really has much to do with anything, but I thought it was pretty cool.

  2. Hit Man 23

    For once, Lar, I agree with every word.

  3. Twasp

    Larry – can you ask your new buddy Lorenz what happened with Cone? why isn't YES renewing his contract. I read there was a heated argument over something???

    I'm going to miss David's perspective. Badly! He was the most updated on statistical/analytical tools. He had played with many of the current players and could tell us inside stuff about them. He talked about his playing days. And most of all he had a good sense of humor and was very entertaining.

  4. Twasp

    Someone please tell me what's wrong with Michael Kay? I like that he challenges strategy or perceptions that he thinks are wrong. He'll even criticize a Yankee , which noone else in the booth ever dares.

  5. Hey Twasp,

    This link should answer your question.

  6. Twasp

    Thanks Larry Sad news!

  7. Anonymous

    I want Moose in the booth because he might murder Michael Kay and that would be amazingly entertaining. And I dunno if he's into sabermetrics, but the guy's insanely smart.

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