Kagan: The physics of fielding

From David Kagan at The Hardball Times on February 18, 2015, with mention of SABR member Alan Nathan:

Just as a boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money, a ballplayer is a bucket in the field into which you hope baseballs will land.  I guess you throw a sizable chunk of money into the bucket as well.

Anyway, the funny thing about this bucket is its size varies. The size depends upon the speed and quickness of the fielder as well as his decision making in terms of taking the shortest path to the ball. Some of these issues can be examined through the lens of physics.

First things first. During the 2014 season, MLB began installing a player tracking system it has dubbed StatCast. StatCast uses a combination of video technology and radar to track the motion of the ball as well as every player on the field. Some limited information on the system can be found at MLBAM, Beyond The Box Score, FanGraphs, and here at THT.

By the start of the 2015 season, StatCast should be running in every ballpark. Here is a collection of highlights showing StatCast data overlaid on game video. For our purposes we will use data from one of the many terrific catches turned in by Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain during the 2014 playoffs.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/the-physics-of-fielding/

Originally published: February 18, 2015. Last Updated: February 18, 2015.