March 01, 2010
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Former Braves broadcaster Jon "Boog" Sciambi received a lot of attention in the blogosphere last week for his great Baseball Prospectus piece that discussed the difficulties of integrating advanced statistics into his call of the game.
It was a great article for many reasons, but the most memorable part came in Sciambi's lead anecdote, which involved a 2009 pregame discussion that he had with Chipper Jones(notes). The talk was based on a statistic that Sciambi found on FanGraphs that suggested it'd be a better play for Jones if he were more selective with the first pitch. Jones argued back and forth with Sciambi about the tactic, but at some point decided in his mind that he'd try it during his first trip to the plate that night.
Well, the result was this all-time classic picture
On Sunday, I thought I'd ask Chipper what he remembered from that night and he broke into a smile and laughed when I told him that Sciambi had entertained the masses with the story. Jones remembered the game so well that he was able to tell me that he saw three first-pitch strikes during his five at-bats that night.
"[Sciambi] said the second-highest percent of first-pitch balls thrown to a hitter was me and that I was right behind Albert Pujols(notes)," Jones said. "And you know I'm a notorious first-pitch fastball hitter and I really couldn't believe that was true. So I took the first pitch I saw that night and it happened to be a fastball down the middle.
"So I looked back up [at Sciambi in the press box] and I just started cussing him so hard. Meanwhile, he's just laughing his tail off."
Not that Jones was entirely unappreciative of Sciambi (right) engaging him in a hitting discussion.
"He was just talking about me being overly aggressive, but yet I still drew 100 walks last year. They get mad at me because I don't take enough pitches. But if I'm drawing 100 walks and hitting .300 ... "
Jones finished the sentence with a shoulder shrug and I asked him to explain why it wasn't possible for him to take the first pitch on a more frequent basis.
His response echoed the same argument he used with Sciambi.
"There are certain pitchers, quite frankly, that you can't get behind," Jones said. "You want to be aggressive and the first hittable fastball that you get is the pitch you want to put in play. Because they'll bury you if they get ahead of you. You can't let them do that.
"There are a handful of really good statistics, but once you start getting into the really detailed ones, you're getting pretty anal. It's interesting stuff, but it has very little to do with the impact or outcome of just one at-bat or game."
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BLS editor Kevin Kaduk is currently on a week-long tour of spring training camps in Florida. To ride shotgun, follow him at @bigleaguestew.