Baseball Primer Newsblog
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Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Last Saturday in Boston, I was in the crowd for the public unveiling of MLBAM’s latest contribution to Big Data: a camera-and-radar-based system that tracks not only the baseball, but also every player on the field in great detail. I’m sure you’re familiar with PITCHf/x; well, that soon will be gone, replaced by this new system that doesn’t yet have a name (Jay Jaffe suggests OMGf/x, which is probably as good as anything else). Watching MLBAM’s presentation at the MIT-Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, I wrote these words in my notebook in big letters:
NOTHING WILL BE THE SAME
Hyperbolic? I don’t know. Maybe. But watch this demo and you tell me ...
So when are we going to see the new data, and how much of it? Jonah Keri asked MLBAM’s Bob Bowman that exact question...
At the conference, your CTO [Joe Inzerillo] said the system would be available “for baseball operations and some fan use for 2014.” How much access are we talking about? When exactly? And what will we get in 2015?
... we expect to have unvarnished data on March 30 to send to baseball ops folks. For regular fans more like me who just want to see it and start debates with their neighbors, you’ll start to see those in April of this year. It seems odd to have a whole season for a trial, but that’s what we’re doing. The goal is to put the product out this year, then get to all 30 parks, then release the data in unvarnished form in 2015.
So there you go: We can guess that something interesting will be available in 2014, but of course we’ll need a few months’ worth of data for anything to be truly useful. When does the world really begin to change? I’m going to guess in the late summer or winter of 2015. And when that happens, if nothing else, every publicly available and proprietary defensive metric will immediately become obsolete. All your Defensive Runs Saved and your Ultimate Zone Ratings and your Runs Saved Above Average ... they’re not going to matter any more. All those guys should get together and come up with one metric based on the new data – actually, Defensive Runs Saved is a pretty good name, or just Runs Saved – and publish that on all the websites and run that on the TV broadcasts. In the winter of 2015, we won’t have to guess any more. Not about that, anyway.
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