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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How Tracking Technology Helped Baseball’s Best Fielding Outfielder - WSJ

Byron Buxton, the human vacuum cleaner who patrols center field for the Minnesota Twins, reached a frightening conclusion last winter: Even with his sprinter’s speed, superhuman instincts and unparalleled fearlessness around the wall, his defense could still be better.

He arrived at that belief thanks in part to Statcast, Major League Baseball’s sophisticated player-tracking technology that counts Buxton as perhaps its prototype player. With data provided by Statcast and the Twins’ coaching staff, Buxton learned that his first step—how quickly he reacts after the ball connects with the bat—wasn’t as quick as he would have liked.

So over the offseason, he spent a couple weeks at his old high school in Baxley, Ga., focusing intensely on trying to improve an area that not long ago couldn’t have been quantified.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 20, 2017 at 03:21 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: byron buxton, statcast

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   1. TDF, FCL Posted: September 20, 2017 at 05:55 PM (#5535385)
It's funny. We've been talking about defensive metrics for years, and how iffy they are in describing the action. The tools we have to measure defense do a really...I don't want to say poor job; maybe incomplete is a better term.

But with the advent of Statcast, I bet in 5 years or less we'll have so much good defensive info that we'll be as confident in defensive metrics as we are today in offensive metrics.
   2. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: September 20, 2017 at 06:34 PM (#5535399)
Not sure I am willing to give him the title belt for best OFer just yet. But the jump in his defensive numbers is certainly eye popping. Going from +3 in 773 innings, to +26 in 1069... Whatever he did, it seems to have worked, at least according to the advanced fielding metrics we have.

Would be interesting to see, how exactly he improved his first step. And what other work he put in. Alas, the full article requires signing up, so I guess we will never know.
   3. Sunday silence Posted: September 20, 2017 at 07:24 PM (#5535419)
The tools we have to measure defense do a really...I don't want to say poor job; maybe incomplete is a better term.


The two leading metrics by BIS and totalzone or whatever, are quite often miles apart in their evaluations, so I dont know if its incomplete or just ambiguous.

I bet in 5 years or less we'll have so much good defensive info that we'll be as confident in defensive metrics as we are today in offensive metrics.


its also possible with more data the results will simply become more ambiguous. For example I can see a future where fielders are rated for: Quickness, Range, consistency etc.

Fielder A (who scores well on the first two) might be the only one with a chance to get a long fly ball up against the wall, whereas fielder B might be a better choice for a routine fly ball.

I never fail to be impressed by how certain we are about offensive metrics. No one ever questions whether slugger A got more hanging curve balls served up to him when leading the league in HRs, ba etc. Because: "IT ALL EVENS OUT MORE OR LESS...

BUt mention fielding range and immediately you get shouts of "ground ball pitchers" "park effects" etc.

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