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Chat: Jon "Boog" Sciambi

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday June 13, 2008 2:00 PM ET chat session with Jon "Boog" Sciambi.


Boog Sciambi is the Atlanta Braves\' play-by-play man, one of the top broadcasters in the game today. He brings a great voice, a love of the game and an appreciation of performance analysis to the booth. He\'s here today to take questions about the Braves, his job, and how a kid from New York got named after an Orioles star.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi:

Mike (Chicago): 21 straight one run losses on the road? Can you even try and explain that one?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: First, sorry i am late...can't even try. Very unlucky--good note, I believe Braves are 8-1 in 2 run games. That kinda shows how unlucky they've been, it's not some ability or lackthereof.

Josh (Sacramento): Len Kasper said a lot of nice things about you when he was chatting last week. Do you see baseball today as more open to announcers like you and Len who grew up with sabermetrics and have a more analytical approach to the game? Or do you still just have to be related to someone? Are there any other announcers (besides you and Len) who you think represent this new way?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: It's funny because when I read stuff about sabermetrics and broadcasting, there's a perception that the "door" is closed but the reality is that no one cares. no one is being shut out because they like sabermetrics. Keep in mind, Len and I are play-by-play guys, not analysts...when they start to find analysts who are into sabermetrics then we'll be somewhere.

mschroeder14 (WI): What are the Braves going to do with Teixiera?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: I think it's a long shot that they'll resign him. He's a Boras guy and he'll be looking for top dollar and I don't think the Braves are the team that will offer it to him. Also, remember that both New York teams will likely have an opening at 1st base next year.

johnpark99 (Boston): Might as well get it out of the way: so how did a kid from New York get named after an Orioles star?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: When I first started working in Miami at an all sports radio station, one of the hosts was a huge Orioles fan; and since I'm a big red-headed guy, who loves baseball...

Josh (Providence): If you could have one of Smoltz, Maddux, and Glavine in their prime to start game 7 of the World Series, whom would it be and why?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: GREAT question. Smoltz. I still think that ultimately power pitching is what you want. You want a guy that's going to get strikeouts and swings and misses. That's Smoltz.

Jay (Philly): Hey Boog, just wanted to say that as a Phillies fan, I really respect the job you do, even though you're working for the Braves now. Its nice to see someone able to integrate more new school thinking with traditional analysis on the fly and not have it sound forced. Keep up the good work.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Jay, thanks. I grew up a HUGE Phillies fan. I try to integrate some of the "new school" stuff because I think that it informs and helps tell the story better. It also helps having a partner (Joe Simpson) who is willing to listen to another perspective, even though he is old school.

Disgruntled Braves Fan (ATL): As a Braves fan, I'd like to know why the Braves don't realize that Gregor Blanco is a terrible starter.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: I wouldn't say TERRIBLE. With Kotsay out, who would you play? You don't have a lot of options. The problem right now, in my opinion, is that the Braves are starting an outfield that doesn't hit for very much power; but, what are their choices? At least, Blanco brings two above average skill sets to the table--on base % and speed.

Connor (Phoenix, AZ): No question, really. Just wanted to say I miss the show. Take care, brother man.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Thanks, I miss it too. Dude, you were barely around as the show came to a close. Hope all is well.

birkem3 (Dayton, OH): If Mike Hampton is able to return to the majors, what kind of performance do you expect from him?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: That's the question, isn't it? I know it was only spring training but he looked legit. Part of the problem, though, is exactly what you asked. Look at the Marlins, for example, a lot of people talk about them getting Sanchez and Johnson back and how much it'll help; but the assumption is that you'll get each of them back with their usual 3.20 ERA's. It doesn't work that way, in my opinion. When you're hurt and you spend that much time away from the game developing consistency immediately is really hard to do. So I guess my answer is that he'll be up and down.

Bill (New Mexico): Maybe this question is easier for you to answer than for some people, since the Braves have been chronically successful, but: Do you have any trouble remaining "upbeat" during a broadcast if your team is getting whomped? I recently heard announcers (for a team I won't name) commenting on two consecutive bad losses in the midst of a bad season, and it sounded like they were giving play-by-play at a funeral, not a ball game. What do you do to keep your own interest up under those circumstances?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Yeah, that's one of the challenges. There are a lot of options though--If the Braves are getting clobbered, Joe and I can start to talk big picture and about issues in the game. You need to find a balance because when you're a local broadcaster, there's a connection to the team and obviously, it's a lot more fun when the team is winning; but I know what you're talking about because I don't ever want to turn it into a funeral, no matter how bad it is.

Steve (NJ): As a Mets fan that is annually frustrated with having an aging, expensive roster with little on the horizon to replace what's there, I'm curios as to you thoughts on Teixiera next 5-6 years. I initially thought it was a no-brainer the Mets should go after him but now I'm wondering if he'd just fit the mold I described above that has me so frustrated. Is he headed for a Hafnerian decline phase or can it be more graceful than that?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Let's start with Hafner....isn't that one amazing? You're talking about a guy, who over the course of a 3 year span, was David Ortiz but he does fit the mold that Bill James talked about-players who's value have nothing to do with speed/athleticism and more to do with on-base and slugging usually decline more quickly. As for Tex, I'll sit on the fence there because I'm not sure he'll be good value for 17 million dollars a year. The problem with the Mets right now is that at first glance, you think they have a good line-up and they hit for power but they don't...and they don't. And that needs to be fixed, I just don't know that Tex is the answer by himself.

Matt (WI): A lot of people in fantasy baseball circles had Francoeur pegged as a breakout candidate for this year. He is hitting well as of late, but his power numbers aren't where people thought they would be. Does the organization still see him as a future 30/100 guy? Do you?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Yeah, Joe Sheehan loved him as a breakout candidate and I understand why-his walk rate really went up last year. As far as how the organization sees him, I'm not sure. He's still young and I think the power will continue to develop, so 30 homers is a possibility. On the RBI front he's been really, really, really fortunate because he has always hit with men on base-we did a stat that going into friday night no one in the majors had hit with more men on base than Mark Teixeira and Francoeur was in the top 5. I think his RBI total is more a function of guys always being on base for him and I don't consider it when evaluating his skills.

JoshEngleman (Tamaqua, PA): If you don't see the Braves re-signing Teix, then do you see them trading him at the deadline?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: They gave up A LOT to get him, including Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison, both of whom are considered very good prospects. If I were to give you my best guess, I don't think they'll move him b/c I don't think they'll get a lot. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't feel like you've seen a lot of players dealt at the deadline the last few years who were FAs to be/"rent a player types" who have gotten produced a lot in return. It seems like teams have been more inclined to "ride it out" even if the team isn't playing well b/c they get the compensatory draft pick.

Mark (Regis): As a Regis student, I was wondering what you thought of the school during your time there.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: May ours be the nobel heart! I loved it and I learned a ton. I hope Dr. Tricamo is not spellchecking this or grading on grammar.

Steve (St Louis): You were just in chicago for three games, can you figure out what's going on with the cubs in that ballpark? They seem invincible.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: They have a very good team. I'm not sure who the best team is in the NL but in my opinion it's the Cubs or Phillies with DBACKS in 3rd. I don't make too much of a team's drastic home/road splits b/c I don't think there's a way to explain it, it just is what it is. I think if you go over the history of the game, playoff teams are usually around .500 on the road and the difference is made up with quality home play.

cortes (miami): boog, how's it going buddy? what do you think of what the marlins are doing this year.. can they keep it up with their awful run differential ?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: What's up, Ryan? How long until you'll be taking my job? I think the run differential thing is pretty simple-either their run differential will improve and their record will continue to be what it is or their run differential will stay the same and their record will get worse. Good to hear from you, buddy.

cortes (miami): boog, how's it going buddy? what do you think of what the marlins are doing this year.. can they keep it up with their awful run differential ?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: What's up, Ryan? How long until you'll be taking my job? I think the run differential thing is pretty simple-either their run differential will improve and their record will continue to be what it is or their run differential will stay the same and their record will get worse. Good to hear from you, buddy.

Tom (NYC): How has the Atlanta fanbase reacted to hearing some of this new school analysis over their airwaves. New York supposedly has a very educated fans but I get the feeling if an announcer like yourself worked in this region you would sadly still get a lot of "watch the games not your spreasheet!" type of feedback. Sometimes it just feels hopeless around here.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: I honestly can't tell you how the Braves fan base has reacted to some of my saber stuff but overall I hear ya. A couple of years ago, I was talking to Paul DePodesta and he quoted the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions-the basic point was that even in the face of overwhelming evidence the masses are not inclined to change their opinion. So when Columbus was presenting evidence that the world was actually not flat people still couldn't deal with it. And in the end, the only way that the thinking changes is when that generation of people die off. How's that for drama? But it's real. There's just a segment of the baseball population that doesn't want to hear it and that can be frustrating for me.

metfanaaron2001 (Delmar NY): As a current communications major at my college, I'm wondering how one gets to become a play-by-play announcer? What was your path to that position, and what kinds of skills/positions does someone need to have to qualify for that job?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Be on the air. You want to try and get your foot in the door but be on the air as much as you can. My path to play-by-play was helped by being a sports talk show host and access to a major league pressbox where I did games into a tape recorder and eventually someone gave me a chance. Obviously, get involved with your student station and any stations in your area. Be willing to do anything and anywhere to make it happen...and hopefully you'll have some supportive parents who will help keep you alive with a dollar or two. Good luck to ya!

Steve (North Dakota): Mr. Sciambi, as a play by play guy, how do you decide how to balance calling the game with offering analysis?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Steve, good question. It's interesting because again, I am the play-by-play guy and not an ex big leaguer. But I feel like I have something to add and so if you were to ask me what makes me "different" it's that I analyze more than the average play-by-play guy. But that can only happen if you have a partner that's willing to exhance ideas. My first responsibility is to call the game but if, for example, Jeff Francoeur makes a bunch of outs on the first pitch, I feel compelled to let people know that even though they're frustrated watching that, Jeff's lifetime average on the first pitch is .350 or so. It's not an easy balance, I just pick my openings to analyze but my first responsibility is to call the game.

Mike (Chicago): Given the Milton Bradley incident, have you ever had a player confront you, in anger, after hearing some of your comments?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: It's funny b/c the one thing that is frustrating is that every once in a while a player will get upset with something I said but they didn't actually hear it. It's always the wives, friends or parents that hear it and they don't always remember it correctly. Now obviously, that wasn't the case with Milton. There's nothing that will annoy me more than when a player says "I heard what you guys said last night" and my response always is "No, you need to let me know who said what and then we can have the discussion". For example, last year I came in to the visiting clubhouse and was told Russ Springer wanted to talk to me and so we talked. He was upset about a comment made on our broadcast but the problem was that I didn't make the comment, my partner made the comment and I think that if players want the right to complain about certain comments, then it's their responsibility to find out who said what and not just randomly get pissed off at "the broadcasters".

dokomoy (Los Angeles): Is Vin Scully the best broadcaster ever or just the best baseball broadcaster?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Oooooooh, I'm inclined to say he is the best sports broadcaster ever and right there as one of the best broadcasters ever. It's funny people always ask me, "what is your style?" I think we all start doing baseball play-by-play wanting Scully's thesaurus-like vocabulary but then we find out it's not so easy. Go back and read a transcript of Scully's call (it is avail on line) of the final out of Koufax's perfect game-it reads perfectly. The sentences, grammar and all in one take, it reads like a script and it's pretty humbling.

Eddie (Roming The Midwest): Honestly, I hadn't heard your grilling of Bissinger until after he and Bob Costas tag-teamed Will Lietch. Well done.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Buzz's rant on Costas' show has been well covered-if you want some thoughtful insight on the topic read Dan LeBatard's guest post on The Big Lead-but in terms of my interaction with him, he just didn't want to hear it. He wanted to be able to say "Tony LaRussa says this is so, so it has to be true." The ironic thing (from his perspective) is that the people that ended up doing the work to prove his theory wrong...were the bloggers.

Dr. Pedant (Virginia): Columbus did not prove the world was round rather than flat. Everyone already knew that. Columbus was arguing that the round world was smaller than everyone thought and that Asia could easily be reached by going west rather than east. He was wrong -- the world actually was about as big as other people thought. He just got lucky because he found another continent (though he went to his grave thinking he had found islands off the coast of Asia).

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: OK, my bad, because I am quoting someone on a book that I didn't read. However, I think the general point still stands...Let me give you an example--while hosting a talk show I'd get questions/comments like this all the time: " Boog, it's great that the Yanks got Damon becausenow Jeter can hit 2nd and he's a lot better there." And I'd say, "well, actually, his average is the same hitting leadoff and both his OBP and SLG are better in the LO spot, so he's really not better hitting #2." and the guys would say, "we'll just agree to disagree." Trust me, there's a lot of that in baseball.

Josh (Providence): In your opinion, what should the Braves do with their outfield the rest of the way? I'd really like to see Brandon Jones get a shot, but he's not doing himself any favors right now.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Just feel like they need more power out there and I don't know that can supply above average power. Bob Cox team has never been out homered since '91 and this team is built more for Weaver ball than small ball and they don't get the 3 run homer enough.

JoshEngleman (Tamaqua, PA): If you really believe the Phillies are the second best team in the NL, is that a testament to the Phillies talents or the NL's lack thereof? Their starting pitching is below average in the NL. Are they supposed to beat teams in the playoffs trotting out Jaime Moyer for game 2? Or is that reserved for Brett Myers and his gigantic home run rate? Hamels can't throw every day. This isn't softball.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Yes, I do think it speaks to the fact that the NL isn't great. As for the Phils pitching, if they can get "pre-'07 starter Myers," they should be ok. Look at the lot the Rox went to the WS with....

Tim (DC): Hey Jon, looks like MLB wants replay implemented by August, likely to provide some "debugging time" before the playoffs. Comments?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: It makes sense, it really does. Here's where I struggle: I did Pads/Rox WC playoffs for ESPN radio and we know how that ended. So we can use replay to do fair/foul, homer/not but the Pads season ended with Tim McClelland missing a call that was blatant and there's no replay for that?

RahulN (GA): Do you think Chipper can hit .400?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Obviously unlikely but...here are some rough #s---Chipper has basically hit .380 for over a calender year(about 675 PAs) and to hit .400, he'll need to hit about .390 the rest of the way. Put in that simplistic perspective, it doesn't seem so crazy.

Rob (NJ): "Bob Cox team has never been out homered since '91" Huh?

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: yeah, believe '88 was last time they were outhomered...I think it's in Bill james goldmine.

Jon "Boog" Sciambi: Thanks so much everyone! I am a horrendous typist and I appreciate you putting up with me. Hope to do it again soon.

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