September 3, 2018

Looking For (And Finding) More NESN Nonsense

As Mookie Betts stepped into the batter's box at the beginning of Monday's game in Atlanta, NESN's Steve Lyons remarked that Atlanta starter Touki Toussaint usually "pitches in the 93 mph range". A "range" is usually more than one speed. Less than five minutes later, Dave O'Brien informed us that J.D. Martinez had hit five home runs in his last four games against Atlanta. That means he's going deep for sure today, right? ... I expected that it would be a great day for NESN Nonsense™.

I was not disappointed. ... Well, I was disheartened to know that O'Brien and Lyons were being forced on Red Sox fans who deserve far better, but I heard more idiocy than I expected. (And as you probably can guess, I expected a lot.) In roughly chronological order:

B2: Ozzie Albies hits a low line drive to Mitch Moreland at first. O'Brien: "That will be ... scooped up there at first base - or did he catch it cleanly? I think he caught it clean. Eventually, the first base umpire [Jansen] Visconti ruled on it. And so Albies is out."

O'Brien says "eventually" in a lame attempt to cover his own mistake. The umpire had started making the 'out' sign before O'Brien said anything about the play. When O'Brien paused after "That will be ...", Visconti's fist had been in the air for at least two seconds. And if OB thought Moreland "caught it clean", why did he initially say Moreland "scooped up" the ball?

B3: Ronald Acuna leads off. O'Brien: "Acuna Jr., struck out to begin the ball game." ... It looks like I missed the announcement that baseball games now begin in the bottom of the first inning.

B4: Brandon Workman walks Dansby Swanson, loading the bases with one out. O'Brien: "And many in the crowd doing the Tomahawk Chop again. It goes back to the 1991 season here, when the Braves really started to turn things around. They went from worst to first, went to the World Series, almost won it. Seven games against Minnesota, that was a great World Series. John Smoltz against Jack Morris in Game 7."

With all of the controversy in recent years surrounding Chief Wahoo and the announcement that Cleveland will eliminate the offensive logo from their uniforms after this season, I was surprised that O'Brien would call attention to the Chop without also saying many people believe it is racist. (Because it is.) Note: O'Brien was the play-by-play man for Atlanta's games in 1990 and 1991.

T7: Lyons: "The Red Sox are falling into a pattern where they do most of their damage all in one inning. Today, they scored their three runs in the fifth. We noted that in Chicago, they had a couple big seventh innings. Alex Cora would just as soon have them score a lot more in other innings as well."
0824 - 2 in 3rd, 1 in 5th
0825 - 1 in 2nd
0826 - 1 in 6th
0828 - 1 in 2nd, 2 in 3rd, 1 in 6th, 3 in 8th, 1 in 9th
0829 - 1 in 2nd, 1 in 3rd, 1 in 6th, 11 in 7th
0830 - 4 in 7th, 5 in 9th
0831 - 1 in 8th
0901 - 2 in 5th, 3 in 7th, 1 in 8th
0902 - 0
0903 - 3 in 5th, 2 in 8th, 3 in 9th
Of those 10 games, the Red Sox scored "most" (or a majority) of their runs in only three of them. I will admit that scoring one run means "all" of your runs came in that inning, but I don't think even Lyons would describe one run over nine innings as "damage". He mentions the seventh inning, but in one of those two games, the Red Sox actually scored more runs in the ninth.

T7: O'Brien: "Mookie has played 26 interleague games. His last 26, he's hit nine home runs." ... Actually Betts has played 79 interleague games (75 starts), but O'Brien did quickly correct himself. But this bit of information is utterly meaningless. A pace of nine homers in 26 games would be 56 for a 162-game season, but there is nothing specific about NL teams that makes it easier for Betts to go deep.

And if he did well against an NL West team, what relevancy does that have to what he might do against an NL East team like Atlanta? His nine home runs were hit against the Brewers (2), Phillies (2), Marlins (2), Cardinals (1), Nationals (1), and Atlanta (1). The Atlanta dong came against Matt Wisler, who now plays for the Reds.

T8: J.D. Martinez singles with one out. O'Brien: "Xander Bogaerts now, 0-for-3. Last 20 games, Xander batting .321. And the Red Sox trying to go back-to-back in the hit column here. Not many in the game, the Sox have seven, Atlanta seven."

Is going back-to-back in hits a thing? Whatever. Is 14 hits in seven innings "not many"? On Monday, a majority of the other games - 9 out of 14 - had 14 or fewer hits in nine innings.

T8: Kinsler drives in two runs with a single to right. Lyons: "This inning should have been over a while ago, but then the Red Sox will rub your noses in it if you don't put them away. ... And they are a great two-out opportunity team, because they are not an all-or-nothing team. They're not a let's-go-for-launch-angle-hit-the-ball-out-of-the-ball-park. They'll take their singles, they'll take their walks, they'll get on on an error, just like they did."

This is astounding. J.D. Martinez is one of the game's biggest and most outspoken proponents of optimizing his launch angle. And with good reason, since it saved his career and turned him into the productive hitter he has become. There were numerous stories about him in the spring. It was common knowledge that JDM was preaching to both Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. And what has happened? JDM and Mookie are both serious MVP candidates and Bogaerts is having the best season of his career.

How is it possible Lyons is unaware of this? Or does he disapprove of this new information and so refuses to acknowledge the Red Sox's devotion to it? Imagine a Red Sox announcer, in 2003-2004, when Boston and Yankees took tons of pitches and wore down opposing pitchers, coming along and praising those teams for their first-pitch hacking approach. You would wonder if that person had ever watched a game. I don't know if Lyons is willfully ignorant of everything that is directly in front of him, but he sure acts like it.

T8, final batter: Lyons: "I'm not even sure that -- Swanson had to jump so high to get to the ball, Moreland might have been safe anyway."
B8, first batter: Lyons: "I think maybe if Swanson caught that ball, he would have come down on the bag for the out." O'Brien: "I think a good throw clearly gets him." Lyons: "Oh, no question!"
No question, Steve? You expressed the direct opposite opinion not three minutes ago.

B8: Lyons says Acuna homered in five consecutive games earlier this year. O'Brien: "Yeah, leadoff home runs!" ... In those five games, Acuna hit six home runs and all of them were hit in Atlanta, so Acuna actually "led off" no games with a home run. In fact, in the first game of the streak, Atlanta trailed 1-0 when he came to bat. And his home run in his second game came with two outs in the bottom of the second inning.

T9: Mookie lines out to Nick Markakis in right. (O'Brien at first thought the ball fell in safely, but even on the live feed, you could tell it was caught cleanly.) "Markakis has always been a very good defensive outfielder. Good arm. Not necessarily a hose out there, but very accurate." ... Have you ever heard of an outfielder's arm described as a "hose"?

Finally, take a look at these:

B2: Toussaint bats with an 0-2 count. O'Brien: "Eovaldi looking for that third strikeout today."

B4: Albies bats with an 1-2 count. O'Brien: "Eovaldi looking for that K again." (One pitch later, Lyons: "Looking for a punchout".)

B4: Swanson bats with a 1-2 count. O'Brien: "And the 1-2, as he looks for the K."

B6: Swanson bats with a 1-2 count. O'Brien: "And Kelly looking for the K."

B8: Swanson bats with an 0-2 count. O'Brien: "He's 0-2 here, on Swanson, trying to put him away. Two pitches later, NESN graphic: "In his last 4 outings, Barnes has thrown 37 fastballs and gotten 1 swing-and-miss." O'Brien: "Like a swing and a miss right here, 1-2."

B8: Acuna bats with a 2-2 count. O'Brien: "Looking for the whiff."

B9: Camargo bats with a 2-2 count. O'Brien: "Kimbrel looking for the punchout of Camargo."

I'll bet if you asked the Red Sox pitchers, they would prefer any kind of an out on the next pitch rather than however many it might take for a strikeout. O'Brien often says, when the Red Sox are at Fenway Park, that the fans are cheering for a strikeout. I doubt it. More than likely, they are cheering for an out.

Some great, but barely-related, music:


Bartman said...

Could these two guys be volunteers at NESN who have day jobs that take up a lot of their time?

Jim said...

I've been waiting for your critique of the Lyon "experience" and you didn't disappoint. O'Brien's parting gift at the end of last Wed. home game was announcing that Lyon's would be joining him on the road trip. My brain reflexively went "Jesus, 7 games with my thumb hovering over the mute button". And they did not disappoint. It is one thing when the broadcast team adds absolutely nothing to the "NESN Experience", but these 2 bring a wrecking ball. And O'Brien addresses him as "Psycho", like he's one of the "beloved".
Really, it's Captain Obvious joins Major Pain, and I don't understand why NESN cannot find better.

calmNcents said...

Thank goodness for the MLB package on Directv—amazing how many good to great announcing teams work for other clubs. Listen to the Padres for example.

D.Ing said...

While I enjoy your regular critiques of O'B's stream-of-consciousness narrative style, I think you have to give your fussiness about "leadoff" home runs a rest. Face it. "Leadoff" is a more generic term than you would like. A batter can lead off for his team or lead off an inning, but it's still leading off. And everyone knows what O'Brien means when he is talking about leadoff home runs by the home team's first hitter. Are you going to tell O'Brien that he can't say the pitcher walked the hitter if the hitter doesn't actually take a swing? Or at least "hit" a foul ball? This is a situation where, as professional linguists would tell you, usage determines correctness.

allan said...

Thanks for this comment. I know you are not defending OB, but it's still good to hear some negative feedback about those posts. (Will anyone defend OB?)

Is it "fussiness" to complain about the term "runners in scoring position"? That's supposed to mean a base runner who can score on any kind of hit, even a single. But in just about every single game, we see instances of runners not scoring from second on singles. We have seen runners not score from third on singles or not score from second on doubles! But we have seen runners score from first on doubles. It is a fact that every base runner is in scoring position. The batter himself is in scoring position, since it's possible for him to score on his own hit.

Are you going to tell O'Brien that he can't say the pitcher walked the hitter if the hitter doesn't actually take a swing?

That probably would not be the first thing I would say to him! ... This example does not make sense because a batter can walk on any number of pitches, from 4 to infinity, as long as there are four balls called.

I posted earlier this year (I think (perhaps it was in a gamethread or I was grumbling at my TV)) that I did not like a called strikeout being described as the pitcher "whiffing" or "fanning" someone, since those words refer to the supposed sound of the bat being swung and not connecting with the pitch for strike three.

I still think there is something different about the first batter of the game and the first batter in any of the other half-innings. The bottom of the first leadoff homers seem like the old Game Winning RBI stat of the 1980s (which NESN has apparently revived). Calling a home run that comes in the first or third or fifth inning a "game-winning home run" is wrong to my ears. A "game-winning" hit should be a hit that - right then and there - wins the game. When the home run is hit in the second inning, we don't know if it is a game-winner or not until the game is over! That is bizarre! ... Actually, that is the same situation as the pitcher "win". We do not decide who gets the win until the game is over.

Using "leadoff" the way it is used means that there can be two "leadoff" home runs in a game.

Face it. "Leadoff" is a more generic term than you would like.

Yes. It shouldn't be, but it is.

D.Ing said...

"Yes. It shouldn't be, but it is."

Kind of a mantra for baseball bloggers always, everywhere. We agree far more often on the "shouldn't be's."

That's why I keep reading.

laura k said...

amazing how many good to great announcing teams work for other clubs. Listen to the Padres for example.

We've watched the Sox exclusively on MLBTV, or the "Extra Innings" package that preceded it, for decades, as we don't live in New England. And I would have to say that very few teams have good announcers. Often the other teams' announcers are all right -- until their team scores or takes the lead, then they become insufferable. The great majority of announcers merely repeat cliches, misinformation, and gossip. I find that in general the profession has incredibly low standards.