You might not have heard of Statcast, but you’ve seen the technology that analyzes movements of baseball players and delivers the stats to fans. Major League Baseball uses the tool, posting radar at all 30 of their parks. The statistics are displayed on MLB’s website, cataloging distance, launch speed, launch angle and height, as well as the name of the pitcher and pitch speed.
Many fans have been introduced to the technology while watching live games on MLB Network Showcase. Information on speed and distance enhance the game, especially for viewers who are interested in breakdowns of how various athletes perform. But the technology behind Statcast could be put to use in other areas as well.
In addition to radar equipment, Statcast use multiple high-resolution optical cameras to capture player movements. MLB’s president of business and media Bob Bowman believes the technology is the biggest advancement in instant replay in 50 years. Statcast measures pitchers, hitters and runners, giving experts the ability to examine exactly why a player was successful at catching a pitch or getting to a particular base in a small amount of time.
The technology is the perfect fit for baseball, a sport that highly values stats, especially those pertaining to speed and distance. Having exact data on which player pitches the fastest or has the best angle could solve many debates between fans. It also helps coaches and trainers analyze the game in detail, determining which plays and players are best under certain circumstances
The data Statcast generates is changing the way players are traded, as well. Once players make into the big leagues, they are tracked every game, and managers can use this information in making trades. Since the information is broadcast with each game through the MLB network, a player’s talent can be easily qualified.
Teams are already benefiting from technology in a variety of ways. The Economist reports how the Houston Astros used Statcast’s radar technology to recruit an unknown pitcher named Collin McHugh. McHugh was known for his fast-spinning curveball and through further analysis, the team’s leaders were able to direct him to throw that pitch more often, leading him to become a star player.
The Human Touch
As valuable a tool as Statcast can be, however, experts believe the data will still need context. When used as part of live MLB games, for instance, commentators add other elements to the data being collected, such as how one player’s swing compares to another. In many cases, the commentator can explain why information on a player’s stats is relevant to the current game.
Commenters are also necessary to help keep the game interesting. As informative as Statcast’s leaderboard can be, fans want to enjoy the sport, not be treated to a seemingly endless parade of numbers. Commentators can analyze the data, put it in context and relay the information in a way that will be interesting to the viewers watching the game with them.
Statcast is an exciting new tool that’s already changing the game. While fans can use the tool to learn more about their favorite players, coaches and team managers may benefit more from the data. They can use it to analyze athletes’ performance and make suggestions that will help their teams win.