At the 2020 SABR Analytics Conference on Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona, a panel discussion was held on emerging technologies in baseball.
Panelists included T.J. Barra, Senior Baseball Data Quality Analyst at Major League Baseball; Scott Coleman, a Biomechanist at KinaTrax; Seth Daniels, Director of Sales and Marketing for Rapsodo; and moderator Rob Neyer.
- Audio: Listen to the Technology Panel from the 2020 SABR Analytics Conference (MP3; 44:07)
- Video: Click here to watch the online livestream from the Technology Panel (YouTube)
Here are some highlights:
ON THE AMOUNT OF DATA NOW AVAILABLE
- Barra: “I think on the team side you don’t realize how much — how many people and how many hours are put into putting forth the product that MLB puts out. From infrastructure to data quality to all the engineers put in place that allow to make the end product to happen.”
- Coleman: “We’ve learned we have to keep improving. Innovation [and] camera technology gets better and better by the week, even our algorithms to keep improving. We also have to diversify. One thing we are actively pursuing is offering a software suite of tools. We produce the biomechanical data. We have to help the end user interpret that and that means something different for different people. Augmented reality, virtual reality, different web applications to process that data; that is key. I can give out too much data right now. To process that and to teach people how to use that data is the challenge now.”
- Daniels: “We’re constantly learning. One of the things we’re continuing to push for is the rapid pace of technology. Knowing it’s going to be expected and that today is going to be a little bit different than tomorrow. It’s up to us from a development standpoint to stay ahead of the curve.”
ON LEARNING MORE ABOUT BASEBALL THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
- Barra: “The cool thing that tracking data has allowed you to do is figure out what can we tweak about a player that’s going to allow him to exceed those expectations that everyone else has. I think the teams that have been able to take advantage of that have seen a huge advantage. You see guys on the Dodgers like Max Muncy, who was a minor-league free agent, take off once they knew that they could get him into their system.”
- Daniels: “Something we have seen looking back on the data is as simple as pitch types. What one person may call their specific pitch might not be what you would expect it to be. More specifically, breaking pitches that don’t move in the way that you would expect them to. One guy is calling it a slider when it is really a slurve or a curve. You kind of expect that for the younger ages, but you can go across any team right now and you can see that there are variations of each pitch type that are getting called. As we look at auto pitch tagging and other things like that we have coming out, it is always an interesting thing to see what a pitch actually is versus what the other person thinks it is.”
ON THE PUSH TO LIMIT TECHNOLOGY DURING GAMES
- Coleman: “We utilize machine learning now, that’s the basis of our motion-capture system. We focus on pitching and hitting. In five years, I would envision the entire field [doing that.] Also the trickle down, I would expect one team in every division to have this data and these systems so that the predictive analytics would be a lot more powerful. Like TJ was talking about with the draft, we’ll have that data to utilize it more effectively.”
For more coverage of the 2020 SABR Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.
Originally published: March 23, 2020. Last Updated: July 27, 2020.