Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Ellen Adair's Rules for Cheering Part III: How to Cheer Like a Stat Geek

Ellen wearing proper laundry
by Ellen Adair

Stats, be they traditional or advanced, are extremely central to baseball, so it’s high time fans made them central to their cheering. “Let’s go [Home Team] clap, clap, clap-clap-clap” wouldn’t do for the back of a baseball card, much less an analytics department, so we need to give stats their due respect in the stands.   

I believe that both traditional stats and sabermetrics have a place here. Granted, the more all-encompassing the stat, like wins above replacement or skill-interactive ERA, the harder it is to make it specific to the situation. But, although I’ve mentioned before in part one and part two of this series that specificity is an excellent first step, I like to think that citing an advanced stat gives a cheer specificity regards the stat, rather than the situation, even if it can ultimately be applied to many situations. Did you need another reason to love WAR?   

You don’t need to know anything about a player to cheer them on using the traditional stats readily supplied to you by the jumbotron. Use that jumbotron, my friends. Use whatever information it gives you. For example:

-  Come on! Your season-long batting average deserves better!
-  Let’s work on that RBI total! I know you’re going to get number thirty-six tonight!
-  Don’t just get an extra-base hit for me! Get it for your OPS!
-  All right, let’s improve your batting average with runners in scoring position!   

Note: in the above video, I am countering the demands of the crowd, who were chanting for a taco in what I recall as a “Get an RBI, Get a Taco” half-inning promotion at Double-A Reading. Also, I don't normally pronounce "taco" that way; I have no idea what happened. There can be no excuse.   

If you want to do some research on your phone—it’s all right there if you have the At Bat app--you can encourage batters based upon their actual histories against certain pitchers, or within a particular time frame. I understand that small sample sizes are not predictive, but the goal here is to give an emotional boost:   

-  You have a lifetime .429 batting average against this guy! You’ve got it!
-  You’re batting .317 in your last 46 games, you can do it!   

Or if you know he’s got a really good track record against someone in particular, apply it. For example, I like to shout to Noah Syndergaard when he’s batting against anyone, “Just pretend he’s Kenta Maeda,” because Syndergaard hit two home runs against Maeda in one game in 2016.   

For more advanced stats, you may not know what the actual number or ratio is, but you can just assume that it could always use improvement:
-  Let’s work on that homerun to fly-ball ratio!
-  I want you to elevate your hard hit rate!
-  Let’s get that WRC+ closer to 150! (You can substitute 200 if he’s a hero or you’re feeling optimistic, or you can substitute “Let’s get that WRC+ a little closer to 100, shall we?” in sadder cases.)
-  Don’t be a hero! Just do anything that will positively affect your weighted on base average! (This is one of my all-time favorites, and it often elicits a response from neighbors, as you can hear it does in this video.)   

And there are a few ways that you can even apply advanced stats to particular situations, such as:
-  When your player is racing towards first base: Leg it out! Let’s elevate that BABIP!
-  When your player has walked: Yeah, way to improve your walk to strikeout ratio! (You can also say “BB to K ratio,” which I find equally funny. Dealer’s choice.)
-  If you really, really want a home run but want to eschew the obviousness of asking for one: I believe you can increase your barreled ball percentage!   

Of course, if you know that a player is on an advanced-stat leaderboard, you can use that. Aaron Nola led the league in WAR according to Baseball Reference for some time last year (I understand their formula gave him, falsely, a lot of credit for the Phillies’ very, very sad defense, the latter being a source of much keening and rending of garments and gnashing of teeth in my household), and so whenever he would do something spectacular I would shout out, “That’s my WAR leader right there!”   

Here are a few more examples for my boyfriends the pitchers, both general and situation-specific:   

-  Let’s go, let’s go! Let’s get that K-per-nine up! (In the video below, I say “to a respectable place,” but that may not always apply.)
-  I’m rooting for an increase in your swinging strike rate!
-  You can do it! You can elevate your left on base percentage!
-  What a great inning! Show that to your skill-interactive ERA!   

Or, in a return to scouring the jumbotron, you can use the opponents’ stats against them:   

-  He has a .209 batting average, you can get him!

Perhaps my favorite thing is smartly-executed defensive plays (see: rending of garments, above), so let’s give a couple of options for those heroes:
-  What a catch! Add THAT to your three years of UZR data!
-  Nice! I love a catcher who can save defensive runs!   

Speaking of “perhaps my favorite thing,” my next installment will address that and other elements of the game that I particularly value, and also introduce you to special interest cheering. But in the meantime, if you’d like, feel free to shoot me any other ideas for stat-based cheering at @ellen_adair. I’ve never been able to come up with a good FIP-related cheer, despite my great affection for it as a statistic, but maybe you can!

Ellen Adair is probably best known as Janet Bayne in “Homeland,” Bess McTeer in “The Sinner,” and Bridget Saltire in “The Slap,” although she has also had recurring roles on “Billions,” “Veep,” “The Family,” and “As the World Turns.” Additional TV credits include “Chicago Fire,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Brotherhood,” “The Blacklist,” “Shades of Blue,” “God in America,” the pilots “Compliance” and “Codes of Conduct,” and numerous PBS films. She is the author of Curtain Speech, from Pen & Anvil Press, and is working on bringing to life a TV series about baseball writers. Visit her website at, or connect with her on Twitter at @ellen_adair or Instagram at @ellenadairg.