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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Newsweek: Can Baseball Get More Interesting to Watch With Big Data?

I love stats. I think the broadcasting of baseball games could be much better and more interesting than it currently is. This nonetheless doesn’t describe anything I have the slightest desire to see. But, you tell me.

h/t Sean Lahman, known to data some data in his day

The top task for Major League Baseball’s incoming commissioner, Rob Manfred, is to try to make a lullaby-paced sport that takes three hours per game relevant to the Snapchat generation. This season the league began installing a phalanx of gadgets and systems that will collect and analyze data about every sliver of action in every game, clearly betting that data will add a Twilight Zone-like dimension to baseball that no one can yet see. Claudio Silva, the scientist MLB hired to help make sense of the data, is authoring an academic paper titled “Baseball 4D.” Claudio Silva, the scientist MLB hired to help make sense of the data, is authoring an academic paper titled “Baseball 4D.”...

The goal, Silva says, is to have so much information, a game could be re-created completely by using data.

Baseball would come to exist in an entirely digital form, which could be manipulated by fans to perhaps create new games. You might be able to tap into a previously played baseball game and create a new game by taking charge of calling the pitches: curve, strike, changeup. Then watch as a real-time, realistic version of the game unfolds as you play. Or maybe you could do that through Google Glass while at a live game: Call a different pitch and see what might have happened in the live at-bat you just witnessed…

This could be baseball’s comeback… Or perhaps data will uplift a new sport, the way TV ushered in the NFL… Expect intense data to create a new kind of sports excitement—less visceral, more analytical—that translates a non-TV event into a perfect smartphone event. This could turn the Tour de France into a global obsession, and make bike racing as addictive as Candy Crush.

All this is still a great unknown. What is clear is that we’ve reached a new dividing line in sports. Newspapers, radio, TV, data. We are now in a new era that is waiting for some sport to claim it. MLB is stepping up to the plate. Let’s see whether it whiffs or hits one out of the park.

The District Attorney Posted: September 02, 2014 at 01:54 PM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: media, sabermetrics, television

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: September 02, 2014 at 02:37 PM (#4783843)
Depends - will Big Data bring nachos if I watch the game with him?
   2. BDC Posted: September 02, 2014 at 02:49 PM (#4783858)
Exactly. It may get more fun to analyze years later, but lots more data adds zero to the fun of watching a game.

Even from the perspective of player value, and on the most basic level: let's say you're watching a close game and some guy is batting .300 and another is batting .225. We always knew the .300 hitter was better (all else equal). But still, these are major-league hitters, with a difference of a slight percentage of ability. .225 hitters get key hits sometimes. .300 hitters strike out. Always more fun just to watch and hope for the best.
   3. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4783863)
No.
   4. Bitter Mouse Posted: September 02, 2014 at 02:54 PM (#4783865)
I hate the term "Big Data". Terrible term, stupid, uninformative, and buzzword enabled. Yuck.

And the answer is sure. Having more choices - so long as they can be safely ignored - is almost always better. Then anyone who wants to avail themselves of it can and the rest of us can watch the darn game.
   5. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 02, 2014 at 03:51 PM (#4783945)
I think the way the game could be enhanced for broadcast is letting the viewer select the camera angle.
Sure, the OF camera is the standard during an at-bat, but some times I'd like to watch from the upper-behind-home-plate angle to see the base runners and the fielders in motion.
Or a 3B-side camera angle to let me see the pitching motion from a different angle.
Or the FOX-cam(tm) to get the ultra-close-up view of players, managers, and fans instead of the game itself.
   6. Hank G. Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4784027)
I think the way the game could be enhanced for broadcast is letting the viewer select the camera angle.


I’d like it if they had a second audio channel without the announcers. I grind my teeth every time I hear F. P. Santangelo say “There goes the no-hitter.” As least the other moronic things he says are somewhat random.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: September 02, 2014 at 07:04 PM (#4784142)
I think the way the game could be enhanced for broadcast is letting the viewer select the camera angle.


Agreed, it could also be helped if the zoom button was broken off of every freaking camera.

I’d like it if they had a second audio channel without the announcers.

When I was reading post 5, I was thinking this exact same thing, although I probably wouldn't use it, as I enjoy complaining about the announcers.


   8. AndrewJ Posted: September 02, 2014 at 07:24 PM (#4784159)
I think the way the game could be enhanced for broadcast is letting the viewer select the camera angle.
Sure, the OF camera is the standard during an at-bat, but some times I'd like to watch from the upper-behind-home-plate angle to see the base runners and the fielders in motion.
Or a 3B-side camera angle to let me see the pitching motion from a different angle.
Or the FOX-cam(tm) to get the ultra-close-up view of players, managers, and fans instead of the game itself.


This.

I’d like it if they had a second audio channel without the announcers.

This to the infinite power.

   9. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 02, 2014 at 08:48 PM (#4784191)
I’d like it if they had a second audio channel without the announcers.


I turned on a Blue Jays game one day, and there were no announcers at all for the first inning. It was fantastic.
It wasn't until I noticed that there were no voice overs for the commercials that I realized that my center speaker for my surround sound system had become disconnected.
When I plugged the speaker wire back in, the announcers were back.

If I could figure out a one-button method to disable the center channel, I would do that much more often during sporting events.
   10. Greg K Posted: September 02, 2014 at 09:07 PM (#4784197)
If I could figure out a one-button method to disable the center channel, I would do that much more often during sporting events.

My brother does that on his TV. His receiver can switch the central speaker on and off. It is a bit distracting in that the volume of the ambient noise goes down a bit when Tabler or Buck speaks. So with them gone, it's just crowd noise getting quieter at random intervals.
   11. AndrewJ Posted: September 02, 2014 at 09:13 PM (#4784200)
As you may or may not know, in 1980 NBC tried an announcerless NFL game, the Jets at Miami. I watched it avidly as a 12-year-old and wish the networks or ESPN would try it again.
   12. AndrewJ Posted: September 02, 2014 at 09:17 PM (#4784205)
I'd also like to see a sportscast with a live Twitter feed of viewer reactions scrolling at the bottom -- obviously you'd need an editor to prevent profanity or links to X-rated sites/J-Law hacked nudes, etc. but it could draw an audience.
   13. theboyqueen Posted: September 02, 2014 at 09:39 PM (#4784216)
I'd also like to see a sportscast with a live Twitter feed of viewer reactions scrolling at the bottom -- obviously you'd need an editor to prevent profanity or links to X-rated sites/J-Law hacked nudes, etc. but it could draw an audience.


Whatever the exact opposite of this is, is what I would want.
   14. BDC Posted: September 02, 2014 at 09:43 PM (#4784219)
I'm sure people would pay to see Omnichatter.
   15. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: September 03, 2014 at 01:37 AM (#4784331)
Whatever the exact opposite of this is, is what I would want.


I laughed, and laughed and laughed. And I agree.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: September 03, 2014 at 03:18 AM (#4784348)
I'd also like to see a sportscast with a live Twitter feed of viewer reactions scrolling at the bottom


Why do you hate us?
   17. Jeltzandini Posted: September 03, 2014 at 08:13 AM (#4784360)
I'd also like to see a sportscast with a live Twitter feed of viewer reactions scrolling at the bottom


If the tweets were drawn representatively, 95% would be a variant of "LOL your team sux." The rest would rise to the level of "Need a hit here."

   18. villageidiom Posted: September 03, 2014 at 08:24 AM (#4784366)
I’d like it if they had a second audio channel without the announcers.
MLB.tv gives you the TV audio feed (for both teams), the radio feed (for both teams), and what they call the "park" feed, which is basically the ambient noise of the ballpark with no announcers (other than the faint sounds of the park's PA system).

Of course, they don't yet give you your local team's games, live. But they're working on that for next year.
   19. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 03, 2014 at 08:34 AM (#4784371)
I'd also like to see a sportscast with a live Twitter feed of viewer reactions scrolling at the bottom


Whenever sports stations started doing the scroll at the bottom with that day's final scores, my grandfather (passed on a few years ago) hated it so much for ruining the highlights/results he was waiting to watch (plus because of the general distraction), he duct-taped two pieces of velcro on either side of the TV at the bottom, and then ran a black piece of fabric between them. This blocked out the scroll entirely. If he was watching a movie, he'd simply remove the cloth. If he was watching any sports highlight show, he put it back on.
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 03, 2014 at 09:31 AM (#4784414)
No.

That Wiki link to "Betteridge's law of headlines" is worth quoting and bookmarking.

Betteridge's law of headlines is an adage that states: "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

Betteridge explained the concept in a February 2009 article, regarding a TechCrunch article with the headline "Did Last.fm Just Hand Over User Listening Data To the RIAA?":

This story is a great demonstration of my maxim that any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word "no". The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.[8]

Five years before Betteridge's article, a similar observation was made by UK journalist Andrew Marr in his 2004 book My Trade. It was among Marr's suggestions for how a reader should approach a newspaper if they really wish to know what is going on:

If the headline asks a question, try answering 'no'. Is This the True Face of Britain's Young? (Sensible reader: No.) Have We Found the Cure for AIDS? (No; or you wouldn't have put the question mark in.) Does This Map Provide the Key for Peace? (Probably not.) A headline with a question mark at the end means, in the vast majority of cases, that the story is tendentious or over-sold. It is often a scare story, or an attempt to elevate some run-of-the-mill piece of reporting into a national controversy and, preferably, a national panic. To a busy journalist hunting for real information a question mark means 'don't bother reading this bit'.[9]
   21. Jesse Barfield's Right Arm Posted: September 03, 2014 at 11:04 AM (#4784482)
A baseball game would be overwhelming with so much going on. I mean the whole point of watching a game on TV is that, except for a few moments, you can get stuff done around the house. And when you're at the game, you just talk to the person next to you, ideally about other baseball games and life.
   22. Ziggy Posted: September 03, 2014 at 11:28 AM (#4784496)
Who likes announcers? Seriously, they must have done some focus group study, but who in there liked the announcers? Maybe keeping the play-by-play guy I can see (if you're new to the game it might help knowing that a particular play is going to be scored an error), but all color guys do is making the game worse.
   23. JJ1986 Posted: September 03, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4784509)
Who likes announcers? Seriously, they must have done some focus group study, but who in there liked the announcers? Maybe keeping the play-by-play guy I can see (if you're new to the game it might help knowing that a particular play is going to be scored an error), but all color guys do is making the game worse.


I like local announcers, even the really terrible ones like Hawk Harrleson and the Marlins team. It's national announcers who are both horribly obnoxious and add nothing to the broadcast.
   24. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 03, 2014 at 11:47 AM (#4784522)
Who likes announcers? Seriously, they must have done some focus group study, but who in there liked the announcers? Maybe keeping the play-by-play guy I can see (if you're new to the game it might help knowing that a particular play is going to be scored an error), but all color guys do is making the game worse.

That's definitely not true in the case of Jim Palmer and the Orioles. If you can't gather any insight from listening to his running commentary on the action, you've either got a colossal overestimation of your own knowledge or you're a former Major League player yourself.
   25. villageidiom Posted: September 03, 2014 at 12:32 PM (#4784564)
Who likes announcers?
No.
   26. ReggieThomasLives Posted: September 03, 2014 at 01:22 PM (#4784612)
I think the way the game could be enhanced for broadcast is letting the viewer select the camera angle.


I would like to be able to scan the stands for hot chicks.

Who likes announcers?


I would also like a Scully-Bot, an audio channel for any game with a perfect synthetic emulation of Vin Scully announcing the game, complete with interesting stories.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: September 04, 2014 at 07:25 PM (#4785725)
Of course, they don't yet give you your local team's games, live. But they're working on that for next year.


Provided you are registered as a subscriber to a provider that provides that feed. If you don't have cable/satellite, you will not be able to get the broadcast.
   28. TerpNats Posted: September 04, 2014 at 09:18 PM (#4785774)
I would also like a Scully-Bot, an audio channel for any game with a perfect synthetic emulation of Vin Scully announcing the game, complete with interesting stories.
Add alternate channels for a Harwell-Bot (complete with towns near each park from where local fans caught foul balls) and a Kalas-Bot (though it would need an Ashburn-Bot for prime effectiveness).
   29. spike Posted: September 04, 2014 at 09:35 PM (#4785786)
I hate the term "Big Data". Terrible term, stupid, uninformative, and buzzword enabled. Yuck.

Good lord, so much this. I even work in software and hear senior folks that constantly misuse the term or have no real idea what it means.
   30. AROM Posted: September 04, 2014 at 10:10 PM (#4785809)
I'll take a Carey-bot. It might be..it could be...IT IS!
   31. TerpNats Posted: September 04, 2014 at 11:19 PM (#4785844)
A Caray-Bot is most comfortable with a Piersall-Bot, preferably in the bleachers on the South Side of Chicago.
   32. odds are meatwad is drunk Posted: September 04, 2014 at 11:29 PM (#4785848)
The Caray bot would run on booze of course.

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