Arthur: Baseball’s tracking data is about to get wonky

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on May 17, 2019:

Earlier this week, Eno Sarris broke the news that MLB will be moving from Statcast’s radar technology to a new, optical tracking system built by HawkEye. The switchover is unlikely to unleash the floodgates of new data that the advent of Statcast did, but it will nevertheless have seismic effects on how we consume and analyze baseball statistics.

We have to go back more than a decade to find some precedents for the switchover. Despite the hype around the invention of Statcast, the notion of tracking the position of the baseball and/or the players is nothing new. The original system to do so, PITCHf/x, was installed in late 2006 and 2007, and used cameras to track the motion of the ball as it was pitched.

PITCHf/x opened the floodgates of a data revolution: for the first time, analysts could quantify the speed and spin of every pitcher’s offerings. The advances in our understanding of baseball that followed were profound: from understanding what makes pitchers excel to a detailed map of the strike zone to the discovery of pitcher framing, PITCHf/x fueled dozens of interesting findings.

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Originally published: May 17, 2019. Last Updated: May 17, 2019.