Annals of Sports Journalism
The following is the transcript of an aborted experiment in which Fox Sports attempted to expand its ratings in the Moneyball demographic. We’ll never know whether or not it would have worked, or indeed whether or not there is a Moneyball demographic. Too bad. In any case, for one untelevised game, Fox paired Joe Simpson with Magnus Saberhead, at least for a while.
Simpson: Hello Braves fans, and welcome to another edition of Braves baseball. Chip is off today, and I’ve been joined by Magnus Saberhead. Magnus — are you related to Bret Saberhagen? You know I played with him in Kansas City.
Saberhead: Ummm… No, I’m not, and no, you didn’t. Your last year was 1983 and Saberhagen arrived in KC as a brilliant 20 year old in 1984.
Simpson: No. I meant I played with him in Kansas City. After I retired I hung around the locker room and played poker with the guys. Took that rookie Saberhagen for about $35. Anyway… We’ve got the Braves taking on the Cardinals today. And Evan Gattis is hotter than a dancing bobcat. Let’s see if he hits a homer today.
Saberhead: If we watch the game, and he hits one, I assume we’ll see it. What are you driving at?
Simpson: Right now? A Ford-F150. So I hear you have some awesome skills at prognostication. How do you see the Braves chances?
Saberhead: Speaking in Pythagorean terms, I’d say about 58-42. Depends on whether or not you want to adjust for barometric pressure. Could be a hair higher.
Simpson: I don’t know anything Pythagorean, but I know that it will probably come down to fundamentals – giving yourself up, going the other way, and generally playing like you’re scared of the other guys. That’s how you play baseball.
Saberhead: Ummm.. well, that is how you played baseball, Mr. 67 career OPS+.
Simpson: Yep. Always liked the sound of that “plus.” But I was always a warrior out there.
Saberhead: -1.9 Warrior, actually, so that you actually contributed less to your teams’ success than Chip Caray, and that’s saying something. But my friend JC Bradbury tells me that WAR is unhealthy for baseball players and analyzing things, so let’s just drop the subject.
Simpson: Fine. So here’s our first batter, BJ Upton.
Simpson (muttering a bit): BJ Upton, the Braves leadoff man. You studied this stuff, right?
Saberhead: Oh! You mean OPS .509! Yeah, I forgot to mention. I’m giving up name references from now on. OPS references are much more informative.
Simpson: You may think I just fell off the turnip truck, but I know about your newfangled things like OPS. Don’t trust ‘em of course, since they require a knowledge of long division, and they fail to adjust for character, but, umm.. won’t it be confusing to the viewers if a player’s name changes every time he comes up to bat?
Saberhead: Well, if you’re that hung up on names and faces, I suppose it would be. But we know fans aren’t that hung up on names. They called Juan Carlos Oviedo by the name Leo Nunez for years. Names are just as confusing. When Javy Lopez comes into a game, which one of them is it? The pitcher or the catcher? And faces… don’t get me started on faces. Nobody can tell the difference between Fredi Gonzalez and Gerald Laird: not even their wives . What people want to know is how good a player is when he comes up to bat. OPS isn’t perfect of course, but it’s miles better than something as casually constructed as a name. Although I have to admit the name Bob Walk was pretty accurate.
Simpson: And BJ strikes out. You know, if he’d choked up on the bat a foot and tried to go to right field there, he might not have struck out.
Saberhead: Well, OPS .507 (and I do admit it’s a little confusing dynamically, but what the hell) had absolutely no chance of a double or homer if he’d followed that advice. That’s an ex ante losing move in terms of WPA.
Simpson: It was hard to get Saberhagen to ante too. (pause) And there’s a single from Simmons.
Simpson: Didn’t The Sopranos go off the air years ago? (pause) Justin Upton’s been in a bit of a slump lately. Might be a good idea to slap one weakly to the right side to advance him to second. Ordinarily, I’d recommend a bunt, but I’ve been told you think that’s a bad idea even with a slumping hitter.
Simpson: Look. He’s never coming out of his slump until he hits a bunch of weak grounders to the right side. So we might as well try and get something positive out of it. Ordinarily, I’d suggest a warning track fly to right field, but that’s not sound fundamentals with a runner on first.
Simpson: And a line drive single from Upton, despite a badly timed swing that put the ball in left field!
Saberhead: DIP failure!
Simpson: No, you seem to be doing fine. First and third, McCann at the plate. Let’s see what he can do.
Saberhead: If I’ve got this right, there are nine things OPS .973 can do. Would you like to know the probability of each? Walk, 14.9%. Single, also 14.9%. Strike out, 12.8%. Home run….
Simpson: I hate to break in here, Magnus, but can’t we just wait and find out?
Simpson: The one thing we know is that whatever happens will be the result of character, not probability.
At this point, the experiment continued for another inning, but they never got anything out of Saberhead but “Seriously?” and the experiment came to an end.
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