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Monday, December 29, 2014

Treating Advanced Stats In Conventional Sportswriting: On Not Explaining Burritos

Craig Calcaterra, who is one of my favorite follows on Twitter, has a great piece up about how to deal with advanced metrics and concepts in conventional baseball writing. Noticing that Anthony French at the Detroit Free Press casually drops a line about José Iglesias benefiting from a higher-than-usual BABIP, Calcaterra observes that, in the 1960's and 70's, Taco Bell needed to explain what a burrito was, and yet:
Maybe there was a need for this in the late 60s and early 70s when burritos were still sort of exotic to a lot American fast food eaters, but they stopped doing that at some point. Why? Because Taco Bell realized that we can handle a burrito. Yes, we ate nothing but cheeseburgers for years and we probably still understand cheeseburgers better, but by some time in the 1970s we were totally are capable of processing what a burrito was as long as it was presented properly (i.e. fast, cheap and available at, like, midnight).
Mainstream baseball writing (i.e. newspaper baseball writing) still hasn’t figured that out for the most part. It probably was necessary in 2002 to explain advanced metrics, such as they were then, in greater detail. Batting average and RBI were our cheeseburgers, and we were being asked to process something new.  But we’ve been eating our SABRburritos for a good while now, so it’s not necessary for them to be over-explained to us. It’s actually sort of distracting and creates unnecessary controversy when they are. WAR debates and “geeks vs. jocks” cultural garbage. I’m rather tired of that. Aren’t you rather tired of that?
 It's a war that's all but won, save for holdouts like Murray Chass. That we're having this discussion is proof.

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