New MLB Player Tracking System Will Help Create Reliable Defensive Metrics
MLBAM this weekend at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference unveiled a new player tracking system that holds the potential to open a broad new realm of measurement in the game. Developed with the aid of Sweden-based Hego Group and Denmark-based TrackMan A/S, the system combines optical tracking and radar technologies to measure the speed and path of every player on the field as well as the ball. Reliable defensive metrics, for years a thorny issue for MLB clubs, particularly will improve as a complete understanding of batting, pitching, fielding and baserunning is now possible. Among the key new measures is “route efficiency,” which tracks how direct the path is a fielder takes to the ball. “We think it’s going to change the way we argue about the game,” said MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman. The system will be implemented this year at Citi Field, Target Field and Miller Park, with a full leaguewide rollout planned for ’15. MLBAM is working with the league’s baseball operations department to ensure fair access for each club to the player data that will be created. Clubs will likely each receive a daily update with data created from the prior night’s games. Fan-facing applications for the data are also planned, both digitally and through TV production, but MLBAM execs were not yet certain on the specific timing or executions. “The goal over time, and hopefully by this season, is to make these plays available in real time,” Bowman said. “But we have to make sure baseball operations sees it and agrees that these are accurate renderings. But this year, fans will be able to see this data and these videos.” MLBAM for several years has been working with Sportvision on its Pitch f/x and Field f/x products, similar but less advanced tracking products. Pitch f/x will still be used this year, particularly in the MLB.com GameDay game tracking product. Plans for that after the ’14 season are not certain (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
A POTENTIAL GAME CHANGER: MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal said the new system is a "game changer and it’s a fascinating development." Rosenthal: “They are going to be able to measure every movement and every play on the field. And they are going to be able to connect those movements. ... So you’ll see the exact impact on each aspect of the game.” He added, “To be able to measure all these things, to see all these things, we will know a lot more about the way the game is played." The move is a "really exciting development for people ... in the sabermetrics community." Rosenthal: "They’ve all been weeping with joy. Their eyes are red up in Cambridge.” MLB Network’s John Hart said, “It’s going to give you the routes that were taken. It’s going to give you the acceleration. It gives you a lot of things that I think are going to help the eye test. It’s going to verify some things. It’s a very interesting concept” (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 3/1).