Tomorrow night, Fox Sports 1 is going full nerd. While their mothership is showing the traditional broadcast of the game, FS1 is going to have a simulcast of the game action, but instead of the traditional play-by-play and color commentary audio, the crew from Just A Bit Outside — C.J. Nitkowski, Gabe Kapler, and Rob Neyer — will be offering their insights while the game occurs. They’ve also wrangled Bud Black into joining them, and the whole thing will be hosted by Kevin Burkhardt. You can read more about what they have planned here, or watch this video preview, or you can read below, where I talk to Rob about what it is they’re going to do tomorrow night.
Also, while those guys getting ogled on your TV screen, we’ll be making sure JABO.com is still loaded with content. Jeff Sullivan, Drew Fairservice, August Fagerstrom, and myself will be representing the FG crew, providing quick-hit analysis and commentary on the site, and expect a few other notable voices to chime in as well. If you want to be fully ensconced in analysis while you watch the game, tomorrow is the night for you.
Dave: So, what exactly is this thing you guys are doing on Saturday night, and how can people watch it and the game at the same time?
Rob: That’s exactly what they can do! At every moment, anyone watching FS1 will see the same game they would see on Fox. Often it’ll be a split-screen, with the game in one screen and our panel in the other. At key moments, we’ll switch the game action to full-screen and you’ll hear us doing our thing. And occasionally during a break in the action, you might see just us.
Dave: This is like color commentary on steroids, then? Wait, maybe that isn’t the best metaphor. But I gather this broadcast will focus more on the commentary side of things and less on the play by play of a traditional broadcast booth?
Rob: Very little play-by-play, unless we’re in the middle of a discussion, or there’s a lull, and Kevin Burkhardt pulls us back into the game for a little context.
Dave: What are some fun things that you expect to be able to do on Saturday night that fans aren’t used to getting in a traditional broadcast? Are you going to actually going to say the words “linear weights” on television?
Rob: I’ll be shocked if linear weights doesn’t come up at some point, at least in passing. Essentially, we’ll be talking about all the things that we — and by we, I mean you and I — talk about when we get together: defense and the vagaries of measuring it, pitch-framing, game theory, wOBA … You know, all the good stuff. But it won’t be just the sabermetrics. We’ve got a big studio, a bunch of cameras, and two tremendously smart and experienced ex-players in Gabe Kapler and C.J. Nitkowski, who can walk away from the desk anytime they like and give us all lessons in how the game’s really played. Oh, and we’ve also got Bud Black! You wanna know what it’s like to manage against Bruce Bochy? I’ll bet Bud Black will tell us.
Dave: How much is the balance going to lean towards appealing to people who read FanGraphs versus retaining mainstream appeal for casual fans who might just be flipping through the channels? If my wife watched the broadcast with me, would she enjoy the simulcast, or is this something we should watch alone in our mother’s basements?
Rob: Honestly, I think any baseball fan who’s not utterly hostile toward sabermetrics will enjoy this broadcast. We’ll be explaining everything we talk about, but I think briefly enough that neither you nor Amy will be bored. Also, there’s this: Gabe and C.J. are both wildly engaging. Just great people to be around, and I think if you’re watching you’ll feel like you’re just in the middle of a great conversation about baseball, not to mention the occasional moments when those guys step away from our desk and demonstrate pitch-framing or reading a left-handed pitcher or whatever. We’ve done a few hours of rehearsals, and my only regret is that I can’t just hang out at home and watch these guys do their thing. Because they’re really, really good at it. Plus Kevin Burkhardt is one of the best studio hosts I’ve ever seen.
Dave: If we overnight you a FanGraphs t-shirt, will you wear it on the air? What if we special order a FanGraphs button-down, or better yet, a FanGraphs flannel? You’d wear that on TV, right?
Rob: Can you overnight me a FanGraphs tie? They’re making me wear a tie. And fancy pants, too. It better be worth it.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.