Carleton: The baseball questions we’re about to be asking

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on March 10, 2014:

At the recent Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Santa Claus (dressed cleverly as Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media) delivered a new toy for us all to share—or at least the promise of a new toy, in 2015 or so. Santa Bowman announced that MLBAM has begun a project to put revolutionary—dare I say Orwellian?—tracking technology in every major league ballpark. For now, I’ll name it the HINZO System (High Information Nerdy Zootropic Online System) after former Indians second baseman Tommy Hinzo. It needs a name, and I grew up in Cleveland in the 1980s. Take that, Bill Pecota!

HINZO is already active in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Queens and capable of tracking the movements of all the players on the field, including all nine fielders (and potentially all four baserunners) plus the ball. It will also provide information on swings, hangtime for balls, and all sorts of other fun numbers. No word yet on whether we’ll also get HOTDOGVENDORf/x out of this, but I’ll send them an e-mail and let you know.

In his speech revealing HINZO to the world, Bowman stated that while of course the system will provide evidence to answer questions that were unanswerable before, he hoped that the new data stream would start more debates than it ended. Already, there’s plenty of buzz about how this new data set will revolutionize fielding metrics, and it probably will. We will soon be talking more intelligently about positioning, reaction time, acceleration, sustained running speed, and everyone’s new favorite term, “route efficiency,” rather than just crude measures of “range.” For all we know, we’ve been doing it wrong all these years. Maybe it’s not a good idea to focus on finding the guy with sprinter speed to play center field when there are a bunch of other candidates who would do just as well with slightly slower wheels.

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Originally published: March 10, 2014. Last Updated: March 10, 2014.