Monday, February 1, 2010

The (Statistical) National Pastime

      If you think baseball is a game of statistics, you haven’t seen anything yet. Sportvision, the folks who brought us the yellow first down line in football, and the pitch locator (the one with the crosshairs) in baseball, are busy in the off season installing their FieldFX camera system in major league ballparks. Up to four cameras will be located on the light standards along the first and third base lines.
      On every play, the cameras will report the position, movement, direction and speed of every player on the field. It will also track the flight of the ball. In fact, not just the flight, but the position, angle, speed and who knows what all at every instant.
      All of these will feed into a computer which will output things like “only 27% of the players in major league baseball could have made that play,” or “Joe seemed a little slow on that play; he was running at 15 miles per hour, but he generally averages 18 to 19 miles per hour on a play like that.”
      Although Golden Gloves will still be issued by a panel of coaches, at least for a few years, the selection will be second-guessed by statistics on the defensive play of every player in the league.
      Baseball statisticians are salivating at the prospects. Those of us who think that baseball commentators already talk too much may want to mute the TV.

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