Brian Kenny is a man on a mission. Since joining MLB Network in 2011, that mission has been to introduce advanced baseball statistics to a mainstream audience.
Through his two shows, “Clubhouse Confidential” and “MLB Now,” Kenny has given a much larger voice to the advanced stats community. Now, he wants to take things a step further.
Kenny will host a roundtable discussion that focuses on advanced stats during Wednesday’s Giants/Astros game. The telecast will take place on MLB Network at 3:30 p.m. ET. Former major-leaguer Kevin Millar, former general manager Jim Duquette and FoxSports.com senior baseball editor Rob Neyer will join Kenny for the event.
While the broadcast is being billed as a showcase for advanced metrics, Kenny told The Stew that the panel is going to let the game unfold organically.
“I don’t look at this as a sabermetric cast, maybe I would have four years ago,” Kenny said. “It will be through my prism and Rob Neyer’s prism, so we will always be looking at it and speaking our language, but we’re really just talking baseball.”
The broadcast should be similar to MLB Tonight’s live look-ins, where the hosts will frequently jump in between games as the action unfolds. Sometimes, they’ll go directly to the local feed or the game, but other times the analysts may talk while the action is still going on.
Kenny said that the latter approach can often lead to some interesting discussions, and that’s what the panel is hoping to capture here. Having four different opinions from four men who have viewed the game through different lenses should help immensely.
“I think with the four of us, it’s just going to be a little more analyst-heavy, but I think it’s the right group. And I think there’s a possibly that this will be something that’s evolutionary in sports broadcasting.
“In today’s day and age, you want a little more instant analysis and commentary, and we do that all the time on MLB Tonight. I think this is a good way of incorporating it within MLB Now, where we have more in-depth analysts.”
The game, however, will still be a main focus. “I don’t like to let two pitches go by without saying what the count is, or who’s up, or what the options are, or who’s on deck,” Kenny explained. “I think a fan still likes the play-by-play. You still need to have things underlined.”
At the same time, things have changed. While no one is arguing to get rid of traditional broadcasts, the advanced stat revolution has made it so that Kenny and his crew can perform this experiment.
There will still be some who are opposed to advanced metrics, but it’s nearly impossible to ignore how much they are being embraced within the game right now.
“This has been a revolutionary year in baseball,” Kenny said. “The tide has turned. Things that I thought wouldn’t be possible a few years ago are now happening. Troy Tulowitzki is leading off and no one is saying a thing about it. Most every team has an excellent hitter in the two-spot. That wasn’t happening years ago.
“Managers got smart overnight. And it’s now become a lot more accepted, and hip even, to be able to utilize this information. Jeff Banister and Kevin Cash and A.J. Hinch speak about it all the time openly with pride.
“That was not the case with managers a few years ago. It was the case in the front offices a few years ago, but now it’s all throughout organizations all the way down to the dugout. I see this as just a natural extension.”
Whether or not that extension leads to new ways to broadcast a game remains to be seen. As of right now, MLB Network does not have any plans to do something like this beyond Wednesday’s event. That could change, of course, but Kenny said he’s taking it one game at a time at the moment.
“There’s opportunity here. We do baseball 24/7. There are ballgames in the afternoon all the time,” he explained. “I think doing this for the first time is a major step.”
Kenny seems pretty excited about the whole thing. He has successfully introduced advanced metrics to a mainstream audience, and now, he’s seeking to transfer that to a non-traditional baseball broadcast.
There may be growing pains, but if the broadcast ultimately proves to be interesting, you can bet Kenny will be given another crack at perfecting the formula.
No matter what happens Wednesday, you get the sense that Kenny has already won.
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