Here at Adeptia we’re excited about the way innovative technology is changing the way we work and play. In particular, it’s fascinating to see the ways data is becoming more and more available as a result of these technologies.
One such example is the way Statcast is taking the world of professional baseball by storm. It has been called ‘revolutionary’ by Major League Baseball analysts, and it promises to forever change the way baseball is watched and discussed as well as the way teams evaluate performance and strategy.
The technology itself, which is now embedded into all 30 MLB ballparks, uses high-resolution cameras with optical tracking and radar equipment to effectively gather and quantify almost every movement of ball and player on the field. What this has resulted in is an explosion of previously non-accessible data into the world of baseball commentary and analysis. It’s a baseball nerd’s dream come true.
With Statcast, we can now measure the velocity, launch angle, and vector of the ball as it comes off the bat, track the time and distance that the ball travels, and project the landing-point distance on home runs. We can track baserunners in terms of top speeds, acceleration, and first-step times, and we can determine the level of efficiency of the baserunner's route between bases.
From a defensive standpoint, we can now measure the perceived velocity at the exact release point of a pitch and the distance from that release point to the front edge of the pitching rubber. We can also calculate the timing of a pitcher’s initial movement to home-plate delivery and the ultimate spin rate of that pitch. For infielders and outfielders, we can analyze the efficiency of a player’s movements tracking a ball to make a catch as well as the glove-to-throwing hand transfer and the velocity of the ensuing throw.
The fact that these measurements are now available is a literal game-changer for fans, announcers, players, and team owners alike. We can now talk concretely about exactly why a particular catch was better than another, exactly who has the fastest average speeds on the basepaths, and who makes the strongest throws from a given position. Team owners can now dig deeper into these advanced metrics in order to more fully understand each player’s unique value, and this will obviously affect the way that players get drafted, paid, and played.
An example that comes to mind is the way Statcast has risen to the defense of Robinson Cano in the wake of his declining offensive averages. When Cano signed his 240 million dollar contract from the Seattle Mariners in 2013, the assumption was that his stunning 25 home run seasons with the Yankees would carry over. In the two years since he’s been in Seattle, though, his numbers and averages are all way down, and he’s only at 5 home runs well into the current season. Everybody’s scrambling to make sense out of this. Is he over the hill already? Hurt? How could his game go south so quickly?
Enter Statcast. Measuring the ‘exit velocity’ (the speed of the ball off the bat) regardless of outs or line drive percentages, it is quantifiably clear that Cano is still hitting the ball as hard as he did at bat for the Yankees. Other subtleties in his game have stayed constant as well. Based on the Statcast data, it doesn’t seem that Cano is playing any worse than he had with the Yankees. So why the drop in offensive performance? If we can’t chalk it up to poor performance, it might just have to be bad luck.
It’s also possible that Yankee Stadium, with its shorter right field porch, gave Cano a slight advantage whereas Seattle, with its deeper fence and higher humidity, has worked against him as a hitter. Because of Statcast, though, the conversations about Cano’s performance has been refocused, and the conclusion that he is simply over-the-hill has been ruled false.
After years of collecting data of this sort, we’ll have an entirely new platform for thinking about and discussing baseball statistics, and that’s super exciting for those of us who love the game. Even if you don’t love baseball, though, you’ve got to appreciate the way new technologies are so fundamentally changing so many aspects of American life.
It’s these types of innovations that inspire me and make me proud to work in the tech industry. What are some other new technologies that are currently redefining how we work and play? Let me know in the comments below!