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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Neyer: How does all this new baseball technology affect real-life scouting?

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:

GAME CHANGER

FORGET EVERYTHING

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.

The District Attorney Posted: March 05, 2014 at 08:22 PM | 63 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: defense, rob neyer, sabermetrics

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   1. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: March 05, 2014 at 09:10 PM (#4667005)
Well that's pretty awesome. Anything that can assist in getting fielding stats more reliable is a good thing.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: March 05, 2014 at 09:52 PM (#4667025)
I like that effectively Heyward and the left fielder was about the same distance from the ball, but Heyward makes the great play. Obviously the left fielder was positioning himself as a backup, but still good distance from Heyward.... Love that you get top speed(18.5 mph) and acceleration (15.1 ft second)...would have loved to see this with an in prime Andruw Jones...who I still say was the fastest guy to reach top speed in the game in his prime.
   3. Lassus Posted: March 05, 2014 at 10:17 PM (#4667031)
Jesus Christ it never ends.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: March 05, 2014 at 10:17 PM (#4667032)
WTf/x also works.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: March 05, 2014 at 10:20 PM (#4667034)
The fielder position stuff will be really useful. Like on that play ... I think where the ball was hit is usually an out because the CF will be straight away or shaded towards left most of the time. It only shows Heyward's range because of where he's positioned.

Of course it's only a matter of time before fangraphs tries to give us a player's WAR on balls he hit with a 20.2 degree angle vs. a 20.1 degree angle. :-)
   6. PreservedFish Posted: March 05, 2014 at 10:30 PM (#4667039)
Oooooh, route efficiency. Damn are we going to know a lot about defense pretty soon.
   7. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 05, 2014 at 10:38 PM (#4667041)
lassus

Is this an exclamation of wonder?
   8. Baldrick Posted: March 05, 2014 at 10:58 PM (#4667045)
Of course it's only a matter of time before fangraphs tries to give us a player's WAR on balls he hit with a 20.2 degree angle vs. a 20.1 degree angle. :-)

Fangraphs will definitely be telling us very soon how valuable a fielder is based on how much ground they cover, their acceleration, and their hands making plays - but won't worry about whether they actually REACH the ball since that's just statistical noise - and is a function of external factors they can't control.

And then we'll get to have a whole new set of arguments about whether it's better because it's more predictive even if it corresponds worse to the runs in actual games!

I say this sarcastically, but honestly, it will be awesome to be able to talk about things at that level of detail!
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: March 05, 2014 at 11:16 PM (#4667049)
And then we'll get to have a whole new set of arguments about whether it's better because it's more predictive even if it corresponds worse to the runs in actual games!


I think the arguments will be what percentage do we assign to defense vs pitching. And of course wondering how park effects figure into the ability to judge a ball off the bat. Will some parks routinely have slow reaction times from the fielders? Will we be able to recognize it, if that is a case? Heck just look at route efficiency on that stat. Is that good or bad? I mean if the ball was rotating one direction or another that could have made a difference in feet of how far it flew, and a perfect route efficiency with the ball rotating one way, might be a poor route efficiency if it rotates the other way, so maybe 100% isn't the target goal...

etc. etc. etc.
   10. John Northey Posted: March 05, 2014 at 11:43 PM (#4667056)
Of course, this will also be useful for hitting too. How hard do guys hit the ball, how good are they at 'hitting it where they ain't', and of course trying to figure out how much luck is involved.
   11. Select Storage Device Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:40 AM (#4667062)
Bloody hell have I never heard someone refer to "unvarnished data." What disingenuous cow analyst says they are going to varnish something?

(Besides all your obvious, easy answers to that question.)
   12. ptodd Posted: March 06, 2014 at 02:02 AM (#4667074)
Right now the defensive metrics don't account for positioning. Which means well positioned players get more credit than they deserved and vice versa. That's because positioning and it's effectiveness is heavily influenced by scouts and coaches and ability of pitchers to hit their spots. This system should clear that up so a players fielding skills can be isolated from his positioning.

I do hope that whatever results will lead to stats that can be published as PBP and game logs and manipulated to show H-A splits, etc. The current stats showing only the cumulative season numbers relies on faith.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: March 06, 2014 at 06:10 AM (#4667085)
Right now the defensive metrics don't account for positioning. Which means well positioned players get more credit than they deserved and vice versa. That's because positioning and it's effectiveness is heavily influenced by scouts and coaches and ability of pitchers to hit their spots. This system should clear that up so a players fielding skills can be isolated from his positioning.


And the player willing to listen to them.... there are tons of stories throughout the baseball world in which a player refused to listen to the scouting report...to lay all the credit to the scouts is nice and all, but the players on the field ultimately make the decision on where they will be and the ability to listen to the scouting report is a legitimate skill.
   14. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 07:35 AM (#4667088)
Which means well positioned players get more credit than they deserved and vice versa.


Positioning is part of defense. You deserve credit for it. A guy shouldn't get credit for playing shallow and making an easy catch look spectacular.
   15. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 06, 2014 at 09:28 AM (#4667102)
this should be fun. though I am a bit sad alex sanchez is not around. it would have been enjoyable to see the route map for that guy. it would have resembled the 'family circus' kid getting home from school
   16. Flack42 Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:05 AM (#4667110)
Love to see some retro-analysis… Willie Mays's 1954 WS catch, for example. Or that fly ball that hit Jose Canseco on the head, just to stake out two points on the sublime to ridiculous continuum.

Could this also measure the impact of a guy hitting the outfield wall?
   17. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4667112)
A game changer for defensive metrics, but I don't know. What's next, a GPS in every fielder's pocket that shocks them mildly until they get into the correct position for each pitch?
   18. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4667127)
Could this also measure the impact of a guy hitting the outfield wall?


Well they can measure acceleration, they'd just need to toss the carcass on a feedlot scale afterwards.
   19. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:42 AM (#4667132)

A game changer for defensive metrics, but I don't know. What's next, a GPS in every fielder's pocket that shocks them mildly until they get into the correct position for each pitch?


I could definitely see Leyland using a dog shock collar on someone he is grumpy with. That would be awesome.
   20. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4667133)
Love that you get top speed(18.5 mph) and acceleration (15.1 ft second)


I love the first step time and the route efficiency. That is the stuff I would want to see as an evaluator. I can let a guy run a 40 yard dash to see his speed but that reaction to first step and then the route the player takes tells me how well that translates into baseball.
   21. Lassus Posted: March 06, 2014 at 10:47 AM (#4667134)
lassus
Is this an exclamation of wonder?


Nah, I remember watching that game, that's all.
   22. PreservedFish Posted: March 06, 2014 at 11:10 AM (#4667141)
Positioning is part of defense. You deserve credit for it. A guy shouldn't get credit for playing shallow and making an easy catch look spectacular.


Yes and no. If you're looking at a player as a potential acquisition, you don't know how much of that positioning talent is going to stick with him when he changes teams.
   23. Shredder Posted: March 06, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4667142)
Positioning is part of defense. You deserve credit for it. A guy shouldn't get credit for playing shallow and making an easy catch look spectacular.
But positioning is largely based on coaching as well. If a guy is playing shallow because he's been told to play shallow by his coaches, and he makes a great catch, it's not his fault he was playing too far in.

What this could really do on that front is help the coaches document where they want guys positioned. Presumably they already do this through both the naked eye and hit charts, etc., but you could really see teams take advantage of this to position their fielders to cover the most ground.

My only question is with the route efficiency. I suppose this would just come out in the wash, but you would think that players in really windy stadiums would suffer. If the system is based on where the ball is hit and where it comes down, well, that could change direction quite a bit in the air, which would mean running a particularly efficient route would be nearly impossible unless the player had a weathervane built into his brain.
   24. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 11:15 AM (#4667143)
I love the first step time and the route efficiency. That is the stuff I would want to see as an evaluator. I can let a guy run a 40 yard dash to see his speed but that reaction to first step and then the route the player takes tells me how well that translates into baseball.


The same metrics can be applied to baserunning as well. Speed vs fist step for steals, how far towards 2nd is a runner going on flys, optimal routes around 1st for doubles, etc.

Makes me sad Ellsbury is no longer on the Sox, I would love to see his stats. He appears to not have a great first step (as well as poor initial reads in the OF), but his acceleration and top end speed more than make up for it.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: March 06, 2014 at 11:41 AM (#4667153)
My mind is bursting with all the stuff you'll be able to do with this data. How about a hustle score? We'll know exactly what any player's top recorded speed is from home to first - who approaches top speed most often on routine ground outs?
   26. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 11:59 AM (#4667158)
My mind is bursting with all the stuff you'll be able to do with this data. How about a hustle score? We'll know exactly what any player's top recorded speed is from home to first - who approaches top speed most often on routine ground outs?


Call it the Cano Rating and I am sold!
   27. McCoy Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:01 PM (#4667159)
Presumably they already do this through both the naked eye and hit charts, etc., but you could really see teams take advantage of this to position their fielders to cover the most ground.

I think this is how it will be most useful. Teams will know how far and how fast their outfielders can roam and they'll be able to position their outfielders to cover the maximum amount of area for each batter and pitching sequence. They'll know that with a line drive hitter up they'll have X amount of seconds to get to the typical batted ball and that their fielders can react and cover Y area in the same amount of time.
   28. dr. scott Posted: March 06, 2014 at 12:58 PM (#4667172)
So is this just going to be more data that in the end suppresses offense? I would assume that hitters will not have the accuracy to aim to fielders weak spot, but managers will have the ability to let hitters know the optimum spot for certain hitters (they are already doing this of course). Or will this level of detail really not help managers anymore than the data they already have with regards to positioning?
   29. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 01:23 PM (#4667187)
unless the player had a weathervane built into his brain.


...the new Lasik?
   30. Blastin Posted: March 06, 2014 at 01:23 PM (#4667188)
Maybe it will suppress it for a second and then we'll get a backlash with people just saying \"#### it," and swinging for the fences even more.
   31. Jeltzandini Posted: March 06, 2014 at 01:28 PM (#4667190)
So is this just going to be more data that in the end suppresses offense?


It would certainly seem that defense will benefit way more. A few things that could potentially compensate:

1. Hitters might concentrate on breaking tendency a little more. They definitely can't aim very well, but could start to slap more at outside pitches if they know that's a hit-em-where-they-aint strategy. (Alternatively, they could decide that BIP's are becoming a bad deal all around and totally TTO it up.)
2. Maybe the data show that a mediocre fielder can be brought up closer to par by positioning. Or effectively hidden by strategically positioning the good fielder next to him. Or doesn't cost as many runs as thought in general. If so, they can play a better hitter.
3. Base coaches and base runners can make better on-the-fly decisions? Like, take a little more of a chance when this RF has to go to his left to field a hit.

No idea how big any of those effects would be. All else equal, this data seems certain to suppress scoring.
   32. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4667207)
I think this is how it will be most useful. Teams will know how far and how fast their outfielders can roam and they'll be able to position their outfielders to cover the maximum amount of area for each batter and pitching sequence. They'll know that with a line drive hitter up they'll have X amount of seconds to get to the typical batted ball and that their fielders can react and cover Y area in the same amount of time.


Do we really think teams, at the field manager/coaching level, will a) have the capability to absorb that much data and b) be willing to put it to use?
   33. PreservedFish Posted: March 06, 2014 at 01:58 PM (#4667209)
I would guess that at some point in the future the managers that do not want to use this type of technology are going to be dinosaurs.
   34. kthejoker Posted: March 06, 2014 at 02:55 PM (#4667241)
#32: Since the action items for a player is small, it really just becomes a cheat sheet kind of analysis: pitcher handedness, base/out state, batter tendencies = this kind of general shift, or maybe cheating your slow left fielder towards the line or what have you.

Really, these stats will be more useful for talent evaluation purposes. Does a guy have a good first step, does he run good routes, does he show situational awareness, etc.

   35. McCoy Posted: March 06, 2014 at 02:57 PM (#4667243)
Do we really think teams, at the field manager/coaching level, will a) have the capability to absorb that much data and b) be willing to put it to use?

Yes.

The coaches and the managers are not going to be the guys collecting and parsing the data. That will be a front office job and it will then be front office's job to relay that information properly to the coaches and manager. If the coaches and managers refuse to use the information or are incapable of using the data then that means somewhere along the line the front office failed. Whether they failed when they hired the coaches or explaining the information will depend on each situation.

The bottomline though is that coaches and managers already do positioning work so this information isn't some radical new idea. It simply gives them more and probably more accurate information.
   36. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 06, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4667250)
Is it really going to be measured in mph, feet, and feet-per-second?
Why use two different measurements (miles and hour vs feet and second)?
Why not just pick one and stick to it?
Or, even better, join the rest of the scientific world and use the metric system (metres per second for everything).
   37. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 03:32 PM (#4667262)
#35 et al -

Yes, but we've already seen what the reaction has been to stat-types trying to give them more and more accurate information to help them with the work they already do. The sheer volume of data and, therefore, "computeriness," might well lead to even stronger resistance, no? This strikes me as Moneyball on steroids, pardon the expression. Yes, eventually rationality will probably win out, but we've seen how long it's taken for even the most basic, low-hanging fruit.
   38. Brian Posted: March 06, 2014 at 04:41 PM (#4667346)
He appears to not have a great first step (as well as poor initial reads in the OF), but his acceleration and top end speed more than make up for it.


Maybe. Now we can actually find out.
   39. cardsfanboy Posted: March 06, 2014 at 05:04 PM (#4667362)
Yes, but we've already seen what the reaction has been to stat-types trying to give them more and more accurate information to help them with the work they already do. The sheer volume of data and, therefore, "computeriness," might well lead to even stronger resistance, no? This strikes me as Moneyball on steroids, pardon the expression. Yes, eventually rationality will probably win out, but we've seen how long it's taken for even the most basic, low-hanging fruit.


I think this is different though. This is computerized scouting reports more than it's about understanding that rbi isn't indicative of character.
   40. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4667366)
This is computerized scouting reports


Exactly - how does that not play right into the "Computers can't scout players! I know what my experienced eyes see!" narrative?

Imagine this setup:

Manager/coach: My centerfielder is a great defensive player, I tells ya.
Front-office analyst: Well, actually, his route efficiency is 30% below league average, and his first step is .2 seconds too slow.

Which response do you think is more likely?

M/C: What, did you have a computer watching him? I see my CF make diving plays all the time. He hustles, and my scouts say he's got a great glove. He's won 3 Gold Gloves, fer Chrissakes. So you can tell your computer scout to shove it.

OR...

M/C: Ah, I stand corrected.
   41. Mike Fast Posted: March 06, 2014 at 05:28 PM (#4667379)
Manager/coach: My centerfielder is a great defensive player, I tells ya.
Front-office analyst: Well, actually, his route efficiency is 30% below league average, and his first step is .2 seconds too slow.


For starters, maybe the front-office analyst should take a different approach in that conversation. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't expect a coach to know what route efficiency numbers are unless we had discussed them extensively before and I knew what he thought about them, and while he surely knows what first step means, telling him a measurement without context isn't going to help.

Which response do you think is more likely?

M/C: What, did you have a computer watching him? I see my CF make diving plays all the time. He hustles, and my scouts say he's got a great glove. He's won 3 Gold Gloves, fer Chrissakes. So you can tell your computer scout to shove it.

OR...

M/C: Ah, I stand corrected.


But having said that, what kind of response you get depends a lot on the coach and how he processes information. (Which, going back to my first point, the front-office analyst should know.)
   42. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 05:28 PM (#4667380)

Imagine this setup:

Manager/coach: My centerfielder is a great defensive player, I tells ya.
Front-office analyst: Well, actually, his route efficiency is 30% below league average, and his first step is .2 seconds too slow.

Which response do you think is more likely?

M/C: What, did you have a computer watching him? I see my CF make diving plays all the time. He hustles, and my scouts say he's got a great glove. He's won 3 Gold Gloves, fer Chrissakes. So you can tell your computer scout to shove it.

OR...

M/C: Ah, I stand corrected.


Strawman vs Strawman - The Battle Continues!
   43. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 05:51 PM (#4667402)
Strawman vs Strawman - The Battle Continues!


The example wasn't designed to get into the nuances of the debate. I realize it's overgeneralized shorthand. I think my basic point is valid, though.
   44. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 06, 2014 at 06:14 PM (#4667412)
The example wasn't designed to get into the nuances of the debate. I realize it's overgeneralized shorthand. I think my basic point is valid, though.


Fair enough. Easily seen video evidence I do think will go a long way though. No more 'get your head out of a spreadsheet' lines. Batters do watch video of previous at bats, why is it such a jump to watch video of previous defensive plays?
   45. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 06:28 PM (#4667418)
I guess it depends on the granularity people think is going to end up infiltrating game strategy. When people start speculating that front offices will use this data to instruct their field staff that the optimal positioning for the left fielder is three steps toward center against lefthanded batters with a particular starter on the mound, etc. etc., my reaction is, have you seen the people who would be implementing this? Not all, but most of them will probably throw up their hands and say, "That's too damn much computer crap to remember. Besides, I know where my guys should play."
   46. cardsfanboy Posted: March 06, 2014 at 06:30 PM (#4667420)
I think some of you are being overly negative about what old timers will think of this data. This isn't something (from their perspective) silly like dips that says something contradictory to their eyes and logic. This is just measuring players performance in tangible events. Same thing human scouts did with stop watches, just a more accurate methodology, and effectively multiple eyes out there.
   47. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 06:33 PM (#4667421)
This is just measuring players performance in tangible events. Same thing human scouts did with stop watches, just a more accurate methodology, and effectively multiple eyes out there.


And what happens when these measurements say something contradictory to their eyes?
   48. cardsfanboy Posted: March 06, 2014 at 06:44 PM (#4667427)
And what happens when these measurements say something contradictory to their eyes?


Like what? I'm serious like what. It's not saying whether someone is good or bad. It says how fast a guy accelerates, top speed in 4 seconds, how far he traveled on a particular play. This is not dips, this is not a guy walking instead of expanding his strike zone, this is none of the bs that the old guard protect against. It's literally just computer scouting with higher degree of accuracy.

Edit: heck most teams have had no problems integrating Pitch FX into their old guard. I don't see any issue with this.
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4667441)
Like what? I'm serious like what. It's not saying whether someone is good or bad.


Well, to a certain extent it is - route efficiency, for example. And that could contradict the visuals, as in my example above where X is perceived to be a good fielder because he makes diving catches but in actuality he takes inefficient routes, has poor acceleration or is lacking in any number of these new variables. You seem to think that the old guard will take the data at face value as simple facts; I think they'll more likely than not want to toss out the data if it doesn't fit their confirmation bias.
   50. cardsfanboy Posted: March 06, 2014 at 07:12 PM (#4667448)
I think that is overly negative. They use spray charts which are generated by computers. They use batter tendencies which is a combination of computers and scouting etc.

Route efficiency could be argued against. As I mentioned up thread. 100% route efficiency is probably not what you want out of your fielder, as you have to deal with rotation of the ball, wind conditions etc.

I just don't see them being resistant to something that is literally just a scouting report.

And historically a ton of fielders have been criticized for diving. Jack Wilson was constantly harped on for his dives from managers, coaches, fans and other players. I think people are underestimating the "true seeing" ability of a coach or manager.
   51. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 06, 2014 at 07:14 PM (#4667452)
Fair enough. It will be very interesting to see what happens. I hope my skepticism proves to be wrong.
   52. PreservedFish Posted: March 07, 2014 at 01:21 AM (#4667592)
I just don't see them being resistant to something that is literally just a scouting report.


Depends how people use it. I would not consider "route efficiency" to be just a scouting report - they're scoring Heyward according to criteria that we aren't even aware of.

But ultimately I don't see what the argument is about. Sure, some baseball men will object to these tools. And if the tools prove useful, eventually those guys will dwindle down to a minority of chest-thumping veterans, and meanwhile everyone else in baseball is going to be in love with all of the data.

And, it's already a dicey thing for a manager to declare "I'm old school!" in an interview - managers are being pressed more and more to cooperate with the brainy baseball ops people - the sabermetric revolution will have made it easy for these tools to sweep into clubhouses.
   53. Knock on any Iorg Posted: March 07, 2014 at 03:45 AM (#4667605)
I suspect the "old school" types will cotton to this more readily because it comes from within MLB rather than from a bunch of nerds hiding out from the real world in mommy's basement.
   54. Shredder Posted: March 07, 2014 at 10:06 AM (#4667646)
The "what the data says vs. what my eyes say" argument makes me think that this will end up being really useful for teams is in evaluating their scouts. It's not like this is going to be in place at every minor league, college, and high school stadium. It's great for evaluating and targeting current major leaguers, but for now, no one will have this information on a player until he plays in a major league stadium. Teams will be able to tell now whether a scout has been consistently overrating or underrating a players defensive capability, and if you can weed out the guys who are consistently bad at this, you can really strengthen your scouting pool, which would be a HUGE advantage for a ML club. At the very least, if a team keeps reports on its own scouts, it can better "normalize" its reports to take into account their biases.
   55. zonk Posted: March 07, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4667666)
I wholly agree -- gamechanger...

The difficulty we're going to have is that unlike other numbers, our 'critical mass' of data will basically be starting 'now'... It's going make comparisons to past players difficult - and we all know everyone loves to do that. It's going to take time to even compare current players and develop really good and reliable defensive metrics to use for everything from trades to contracts. There's 'drift' in our offensive numbers, too, but an HR is an HR and so long as we knew league norms and park norms - we could always and fairly easily determine the power hitters from the bandbox or era or era+bandbox pikers.

I predict we're also going to see a whole raft of new defensive statistics -- once you can start integrating actual video and machine learning, you can start to boil things that were previously left to "I know it when I see it" into numbers... and those numbers are going to seem strange and foreign... and some of them will be flat-out bad. Separating the wheat from the chaff is always the most difficult part of implementing new technologies.

   56. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 07, 2014 at 11:31 AM (#4667721)
Good point, Shredder.
   57. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 07, 2014 at 12:01 PM (#4667748)
When people start speculating that front offices will use this data to instruct their field staff that the optimal positioning for the left fielder is three steps toward center against lefthanded batters with a particular starter on the mound, etc. etc., my reaction is, have you seen the people who would be implementing this? Not all, but most of them will probably throw up their hands and say, "That's too damn much computer crap to remember.


Embed a grid of LEDs in the turf, have a computer fielding coach that will crunch the numbers and illuminate the LED where each fielder ought to stand against a given pitcher/hitter combination.
   58. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 07, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4667764)

Embed a grid of LEDs in the turf, have a computer fielding coach that will crunch the numbers and illuminate the LED where each fielder ought to stand against a given pitcher/hitter combination.


Awesome. It'll start malfunctioning during the first rain shower and have the outfielders playing Twister or doing the electric slide or something.
   59. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: March 07, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4667851)
The difficulty we're going to have is that unlike other numbers, our 'critical mass' of data will basically be starting 'now'... It's going make comparisons to past players difficult - and we all know everyone loves to do that.

If we can quickly get a consensus on how to use this data, we can compare post-2014 data using WTF/x to the other defensive metrics. Basically, grade them. That would be the first step. Then see where the other defensive metrics have flaws. Then we could potentially correctly analyze past seasons.
   60. spycake Posted: March 07, 2014 at 02:11 PM (#4667881)
The "what the data says vs. what my eyes say" argument makes me think that this will end up being really useful for teams is in evaluating their scouts. It's not like this is going to be in place at every minor league, college, and high school stadium. It's great for evaluating and targeting current major leaguers, but for now, no one will have this information on a player until he plays in a major league stadium.


Wonder if we'll see more workouts at a team's home stadium? Maybe a "draft combine" somewhere like the NFL? Or scouting services like Perfect Game USA could incorporate this into their fields?
   61. Don Malcolm Posted: March 07, 2014 at 03:42 PM (#4667929)
If this is not implementable at every minor league, college and high school stadium within 5 years, I will be extremely surprised. But it has nothing to do with projecting the parts of the game that it can't address--hitting and pitching skills that are far more "infinitesimal" than the glorified "track meet" measurements on display here. It's good stuff, but this is more like discovering the fact that an atom is composed of protons, neutrons and electrons than it is getting down to the truly sub-atomic forces at work.

Over time, what this is likely to do, ironically, is force folks to do a good bit of back-tracking from the level of importance they've been trying to ascribe to defense for the past decade.
   62. AROM Posted: March 07, 2014 at 04:30 PM (#4667977)
If this is not implementable at every minor league, college and high school stadium within 5 years, I will be extremely surprised.


Minor league? Probably doable in 5 years. College or especially high school? No way. There are just too many fields. At some point in the future the technology and storage costs might allow this, but I can't see it in 5 years except for a small percentage of them.
   63. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 07, 2014 at 04:36 PM (#4667982)
If this is not implementable at every minor league, college and high school stadium within 5 years, I will be extremely surprised.


I will be amazed if this at more than a handful of college let alone high school stadiums in 10 years. The infrastructure and cameras needed for these systems is way too costly.

EDIT:
And a frosty caffeinated beverage to you, good sir.

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