Early in yesterday's game, Yankee radio announcer John Sterling took time out to illuminate a fascinating side of sportscasting - venturing into an area of his profession that seldom gets explained. John was telling why he generally refrains from citing batting averages of players in the early games of the season.
Why, you ask? Well, it's simple. Think with us here...
John said that if only two or three games have been played, the batting averages of players can actually be deceiving. For example, a hitter might come up to bat with an average of .500, which - at first glance - would make him one of the greatest hitters of all time. Not even Ty Cobb or Ted Williams came close to hitting .500. A man who hits .500 is destined for the Hall of Fame.
Nevertheless, if you go about saying that the batter is hitting .500, you could be misleading the listeners. The fact is, he might be two for four on the season, which is why his average is .500. It's not that he is the greatest hitter in the history of the game. He might even be a lousy hitter - hence the few at bats - who simply had a good day or two at the plate. It's one of the ways that statistics can be skewed.
As a result, John said in the first games of the season, he prefers to give the actual raw hitting statistics. He'll say that the hitter is two-for-four, and not go about saying that he is hitting .500. That way, listeners at home won't get the wrong idea.
John was using common sense to prosecute those who misuse statistics, when explaining the nuances of the game. At times, more is less, and a sportscaster needs to make things real. That is one of the reasons why on this site refer to him as "The Master."
One of these years, we will have two brand new Yankee radio announcers, driven by Jeep. It's likely that they will spring from the pool of oily haired types who frequent pre- and post-game shows on YES, and they will never stoop to using personalized homer calls or game-ending win-warbles, and they will never take the time to explain such fundamental aspects of sportscasting as the proper times to using batting averages. They will be witty, self-assured, knowledgeable, and they will never call a ball high and outside - and then have to correct themselves and say it was a strike.
When that day comes, trust me: We will find ourselves telling stories about John and Suzyn, laughing with tears in our eyes, and seriously wishing they were still around.