If you're into the analytical side of the game, then consider what follows to be excellent news: MLB Advanced Media's "player tracking" technology is now up an running. MLB.com's Mark Newman sums up what the new innovation is all about:
The goal is to revolutionize the way people evaluate baseball, by presenting for the first time the tools that connect all actions that happen on a field to determine how they work together. This new datastream will enable the industry to understand the whole play on the field -- batting, pitching, fielding and baserunning -- and enable new metrics for evaluation by clubs, scouts, players and fans.
For instance, on a brilliant, game-saving diving catch by an outfielder, this new system will let us understand what created that outcome. Was it the quickness of his first step, his acceleration? Was it his initial positioning? What if the pitcher had thrown a different pitch? Everything will be connected for the first time, providing a tool for answers to questions like this and more.
Please and thank you!
Needless to say, the implications of what you see above are fairly profound. Specifically, this could change the way we think about and measure defensive ability. The eye test has its inherent weaknesses, as do even the most advanced defensive metrics currently available. However, using video and algorithms tailored to that video, we'll be able to put an accurate measure on things that have heretofore been largely immeasurable -- e.g., range, first-step efficiency, jump, etc. The upshot is that a lot of subjectivity is about to be drained out of the way we evaluate defense. Of course, it's about more than "just" fielding, so give Newman's piece linked above a full reading.
As Newman writes, the system will be in place in time for the 2014 season in Citi Field, Miller Park and Target Field and all 30 parks by 2015. It's not yet certain how much of the data will be made available to the public, but MLBAM CEO Bob Bowman says the outputs will be available for "some fan use for 2014."
The larger point is that human existence just got cooler.