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ESPN’s postseason Statcast broadcast was awesome

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Why MLB only does this once each postseason is beyond me.

Courtesy ESPN

Cubs fans are a bit spoiled in terms of many things: Wrigley Field is a gorgeous gem of a ballpark, the city of Chicago is awesome, and we get to watch Javier Báez perform magic tricks on a nightly basis. Oh, and whether we’re listening to games on the radio or television we have outstanding announcers in the booth.

Truth be told, the national broadcast crews are one of my least favorite things about the postseason. If you were hanging out in yesterday afternoon’s NLDS game thread you heard more than a few of us question if the TBS crew had been transplanted straight from St. Louis. At some point this season we’ll all be subjected to multiple nights of John Smoltz explaining exactly how much he dislikes modern baseball. Don’t even get me started on the Sunday Night Baseball crew.

In fact, there is exactly one national broadcast crew that I look forward to each year and for reasons beyond me they only get one game as a simulcast on ESPN2. That’s right, I’m talking about the Statcast crew and their broadcast of the American League Wild Card game on Wednesday night did not disappoint.

Let’s start with who is in the booth. Jason Benetti, Eduardo Perez and Mike Petriello are great. They would be great if they didn’t love stats and nerding out about defensive shifts, but they also like those things so it’s really just like listening to a super fun conversation about the game between people who actually know what they are talking about.

I want to pause on that for a minute, this booth really just combines two things that should be so simple to replicate, but seem so elusive for some reason:

They love baseball and they understand what they are talking about.

That’s it. That’s the secret sauce.

And here’s the kicker: Fans love it. Since this is a post about a Statcast broadcast, I’m going to get nerdy for a second. Here is a sentiment analysis of tweets about the broadcast:

What’s a sentiment analysis? Think of it like a tally of the words people said about the broadcast broken out by positive or negative reactions. That’s an overwhelmingly positive reaction.

It was also informative. I spend a lot of time playing around on Fangraphs, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball. This chart was one of the greatest things I’d never seen before and I will absolutely be looking out for this as I do some work on umpires and missed calls this offseason:

Umpire called strikes by favorability and batter handedness
MLB ESPN2 Statcast Broadcast

I would welcome more broadcasts that kick off with conversations about how the defensive positioning of Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien served to make both players better and more scroll bars that had harder to find information like pop-time leaders instead of easy to find information like home run tallies. Last year’s Statcast broadcast was the overwhelming favorite booth of viewers according to Awful Announcing. If Twitter analyses and early reactions are any indication they are going to be the overwhelming favorite of viewers again. MLB should heed those reactions and give the Statcast booth more airtime in 2020.