A little PSA about exciting developments in MLB’s data tracking technologies

- Howard Simmons/New York Daily News
Howard Simmons/New York Daily News

This brief post intends to serve two purposes: 1.) to begin testing the iPad as a blogging tool and 2.) to call your attention to a really exciting development in the collection of advanced data in Major League Baseball. Yahoo Sports’s Jeff Passan outlines the exciting possibilities of this new system in great detail, so I will refer you to his piece if you are curious about the specifics.

Jeff Passan: “Here’s another dose of new technology breaking down Yasiel Puig’s amazing catch and what it means for baseball”

For those who don’t want to read Passan’s excellent article, here is something of a reader’s digest version:

MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) is the group that has brought us the indispensable PITCHf/x system that has allowed us to quantify and qualify pitch types, velocities, horizontal and vertical movements, and release points. Many sites make use of this freely available data:

1.) MLB.com implements PITCHf/x into its popular game-situation tracker “MLB Gameday.” Gameday converts the data collected by PITCHf/x, a visual tracking system situated behind homeplate at every MLB ballpark, into an easily-digestible graphical form as it visually represents each pitch (if you pay attention, you will also see the numerical data represented in a side window of Gameday).

2.) Statistical porn sites treasure troves such as Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball track and collate data collected by PITCHf/x in an effort to assign meaningful statistical value to performance (i.e. the relative productivity of batters vs each pitch of a pitcher’s arsenal). People can then look at said data and draw conclusions such as “so-and-so’s 4-seam fastball averages 96.1 MPH, but it is straight-as-a-string and is less effective than his 2-seam fastball averaging 92.5 MPH with vicious arm-side run.”

Many more sites make use of PITCHf/x, but this should at least highlight some of its common daily applications. MLB organizations, of course, have access to the same data. It can be useful from anything from organizational decisions (roster moves, contract negotiations, etc.) to scouting opponents. MLB clubs also have access to data that MLBAM compiles on hitting and fielding, but those data systems are nowhere near as prevalent in the public eye (though I do believe ESPN’s Home Run Tracker uses HITf/x as it tracks home run distances, launch trajectory, and launch speed data).

The new data system appears to be all encompassing – it can simultaneously track pitch data (in far greater detail than can PITCHf/x), batter reaction, swing, and launch data, and intricate fielding measurements. As you can glean from the videos below, the data it will collect will be both vast and intricate. All of the existing PITCHf/x and HITf/x data will presumably continue to be tracked (and undoubtedly much more), and a vast amount of measurables will be tracked for fielders as well, including (but certainly not limited to) reaction times, route efficiency, and average foot speed. The average game will pile up a staggering 7 TB of numerical data!!!! Just think of how many baseball games are played every day… and how many days baseball is played per year… and how baseball is not going away any time soon. SO MUCH DATA. OM NOM NOM!!! Best of all, it sounds as though this data is going to be free for public consumption – that is absolutely freaking incredible.


How about a little taste before you go.

Here are two videos detailing the new MLBAM tracking systems at work. First, Yasiel Puig’s “Catch of the Year” candidate against the New York Mets (thus the title of Passan’s article):


Second, Andrew McCutchen’s sensational catch against the… well… against the New York Mets:


OH MY GOD SO COOL!!! Needless to say I’m completely nerdgasming. Moar data… MOARRRRR!!!!



How do feel about the looming advances in MLB data? Are you excited? Turned off? Is Matty Patty basically an overgrown nerdchild? Let us know in the comments section below.


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One thought on “A little PSA about exciting developments in MLB’s data tracking technologies”

  1. Wow. That’s a stunning statistical analysis. No wonder you’re not sleeping. Did you get any response to this post?

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