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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Athletic: ‘You can’t own an idea’: Attempt to patent a baseball stat surprises community [$]

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The first claim on the QOP patent is a long one, but you can read the whole thing if you like. You might notice that the claim begins with the mention of a ton of hardware, hardware that would be familiar to anyone who has followed along as Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media (MLBAM) arm has installed PITCHf/x, TrackMan, and then Hawk-Eye systems in order to improve the quality of their data. SportVision’s PITCHf/x is a video-based system, TrackMan is a doppler radar system, and Hawk-Eye is an “imaging system.”

The QOP patent describes a process that goes all the way from hardware to a display system, much like baseball’s statistics on BaseballSavant come all the way from the Hawk-Eye sensors to a “real-time” display system. Does it matter that MLBAM’s partners already have patents on their hardware, and that MLBAM has been able to produce real-time pitch ratings from those sensors for years? In 2010, they made available a statistic called “Nasty Factor” that combines velocity, sequence, location and movement.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 22, 2020 at 09:52 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: patent law, statistics

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   1. Rough Carrigan Posted: September 22, 2020 at 10:46 AM (#5978027)
Does it really certify any such thing?
   2. Rally Posted: September 22, 2020 at 11:17 AM (#5978035)
You can have the 2nd best* quality pitch in existence, and if the batter knows it's coming it's going to be hit 400 feet.

*This does not apply to the #1 quality pitch of all time, Mariano Rivera's cutter.
   3. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 22, 2020 at 11:20 AM (#5978036)
This now certifies QOP as THE metric for calculating pitch quality.

ISTR Bill James advising caution against any metric that proclaims itself to be "THE metric" for anything.

Look for QOP during future MLB broadcasts.

"And be sure to enjoy responsible gaming with your team's Official Gaming Partner offering an innovative, convenient, and fun way to play along at home by wagering on such exciting options as
-- Who will throw the Taco Bell Nastiest Pitch of the Game?
-- What kind of pitch will the Taco Bell Nastiest Pitch of the Game be?
-- What will the batter do with the Taco Bell Nastiest Pitch of the Game?

Remember that true fans responsibly support their team's Official Gaming Partner!"
   4. Hank Gillette Posted: September 22, 2020 at 12:48 PM (#5978041)
-- Who will throw the Taco Bell Nastiest Pitch of the Game?


They could add the Taco Bell Slipperiest Pitch and the Taco Bell Nastiest Gas.
   5. Zach Posted: September 22, 2020 at 01:56 PM (#5978049)
Does anybody have a reference to the published patent?

Edit: it's here.
   6. Itchy Row Posted: September 22, 2020 at 02:38 PM (#5978054)
Does anybody have a reference to the published patent?

Edit: it's here.
Here's the granted patent.
   7. winnipegwhip Posted: September 22, 2020 at 02:46 PM (#5978057)
Remember that true fans responsibly support their team's Official Gaming Partner!"


The same could be said for Taco Bell.
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 22, 2020 at 02:58 PM (#5978060)
I hope it’s pronounced “kwop.”
   9. Itchy Row Posted: September 22, 2020 at 03:02 PM (#5978062)
It's pronounced "WAP."
   10. caspian88 Posted: September 22, 2020 at 03:22 PM (#5978063)
You can have the 2nd best* quality pitch in existence, and if the batter knows it's coming it's going to be hit 400 feet.


I have been under the impression that Walter Johnson, in his prime, essentially only threw a fastball (and sometimes a curve a bit later in his prime). I don't know if his delivery had a huge impact on his success, or whether his speed and control were simply so good that opposing hitters couldn't handle him even though they knew what was coming. Perhaps Johnson is like Rivera - a freak who threw one pitch so much better than his contemporaries that he could dominate without anything else?
   11. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 22, 2020 at 04:16 PM (#5978077)
I have been under the impression that Walter Johnson, in his prime, essentially only threw a fastball (and sometimes a curve a bit later in his prime). I don't know if his delivery had a huge impact on his success, or whether his speed and control were simply so good that opposing hitters couldn't handle him even though they knew what was coming.

I believe his contemporaries who all said no one threw harder in his day than Johnson but, being a sidearmer, he did have some fairly large platoon splits that are common for sidearmers still today. I'm working a lot with 1918 Retrosheet data at the moment and I estimate him as being .170/.197/.199 vs RHB but .259/.331/.336 vs LHB that season. As a point of reference, the 1918 AL batted .254/.323/.322. I've run the numbers for L/R splits for the rest of his career and they're not typically that extreme, but they are wider than for typical pitchers.
   12. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: September 22, 2020 at 04:16 PM (#5978078)
How much did Greg Maddux mix his pitches? It seemed to me that when I saw him pitch it was just fastballs with video game levels of movement and precision. I don't remember hitters looking silly against him too often, they'd just go 0 for 4 and get ready for the next day.
   13. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 22, 2020 at 04:37 PM (#5978083)
Maddux didn't throw a lot of breaking pitches but he did mix speeds a fair bit. Glavine was similar.

EDIT: I do remember Maddux's sinker being quite good. I guess that's a type of fastball, so it fits under your "fastballs with video game levels of movement and precision" description. But worth mentioning.
   14. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: September 22, 2020 at 04:48 PM (#5978086)
EDIT: I do remember Maddux's sinker being quite good. I guess that's a type of fastball, so it fits under your "fastballs with video game levels of movement and precision" description. But worth mentioning.


Yeah, his two-seamer against lefties was ridiculous. He would aim it at their right hip and it would run back over the inside corner. I also remember him throwing his changeup quite a bit, and that had even more tailing action.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: September 22, 2020 at 05:40 PM (#5978096)
Yep Maddux was pretty much all fastballs and changes (circle changes if memoary serves but could be wrong about that). If somebody still has a copy of that Neyar (and somebody ... was it actually Bill James) pitcher book on their shelf, it's probably in there. Granted the difference between a fastball with good movement that is 5 miles slower than the regular fastball and a "change-up" with good movement that is 10 miles slower than the regular fastball may be more semantics than anything else.

Clemens was mostly fastballs and splitters. Lee Smith was nothing but a fastball and generally ineffective slider (that he probably threw too hard anyway).

I seem to recall in a very early version of MLBxxxx video game (maybe 2K?) somebody threw a 90-MPH knuckler. That was kinda hard to hit.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: September 22, 2020 at 05:43 PM (#5978097)
Where are our lawyers? I'm pretty sure that it's been at least a couple of decades since it was decided that indeed you could patent "an idea." People have patented "business models." Pretty sure this applied, at least for a while, to the "idea" of online auctions.
   17. Zach Posted: September 22, 2020 at 06:09 PM (#5978102)
If you look at the patent, it's describing a multi camera setup to track the motion of the ball and compare it to a pure ballistic trajectory.

The big claim is:

A system for determining a pitch rating for a pitch in baseball, the pitch rating indicative of a quality of the pitch, the system comprising: a detection system configured to detect a ball in flight and to determine a position and a speed of the ball; and a pitch quantification system comprising: one or more hardware processors; a flight path module configured to receive from the detection system the position of the ball and to deter mine information representative of a flight path of the ball; a pitch parameter module configured to receive the information representative of the flightpath of the ball from the flight path module and to generate pitch parameters corresponding to properties of the path of the ball the generated pitch parameters including a rise component, a breakpoint component, a vertical break component, a horizontal break component, and a final location component; and a pitch rating module configured to: determine a trajectory metric as a linear combination of the generated pitch parameters; determine a speed adjustment parameter by taking a difference between the speed of the ball and a speed threshold; calculate the pitch rating indicative of the quality of the pitch, the pitch rating equal to a mathematical combination of the trajectory metric and the speed adjustment parameter.


So they're not patenting the idea, they're patenting a fairly specific setup which they have apparently implemented, since it's going to be used on future broadcasts.

The game is to write the claims as broadly as possible, so they also claim a million variations of this basic idea, but I don't think this covers the entire space of pitch rating. You could rate pitches based on pitcher handsomeness or how long the pitcher's motion conceals the ball, or you could take the output of someone else's trajectory and calculate your own nastiness factor. Or you could film the pitcher and rate the wasted motion in the delivery, injury proneness of the arm trajectory, or the repeatability of delivery.

(I am not a lawyer, but I have written a patent).
   18. Ron J Posted: September 22, 2020 at 06:23 PM (#5978108)
#10 As Bill James pointed out, by 1919 discussion about what a pitcher threw had practically died out because of course everybody threw a spitter. Including Johnson.

He had the option to at will and without warning break out the best fastball in the game but didn't throw a lot of them.
   19. Zach Posted: September 22, 2020 at 06:49 PM (#5978110)
The only conceivable infringer here would be someone who wanted to set up multiple cameras to track pitch trajectories and calculate their own version of a Nasty Factor. You would need the blessing of MLB to do that, and the only market would be the television broadcasters. So the company wants to make sure that nobody can come in and copy their product, which is a pretty standard reason for a patent.

I don't think this patent would have much value to a patent troll. There are only so many companies that are going to be in a business like that, and most of the value of those companies is going to be in the business relationships with MLB (who lets them do it) and the networks (who buy the results).

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