Temple: From PITCHf/x to now: The changing world of sports tracking

From SABR member David G. Temple at TechGraphs on September 4, 2014:

The way things change and progress these days, seven years can seem like a lifetime. When viewed through certain filters, 2007 looks like ancient history. Our laptops were huge, our smartphones were pretty dumb, the Bears were good at football. A lot has changed. Our interaction with sports — the ways we observed and learned about our games — have also taken enormous leaps. The level of analysis available to us is at an all-time high. And as recent news suggests, it’s only going to get better. What we take for granted now may have seemed like a pipe dream seven years ago, but it was a technology that came about in 2007 that let us peek into the future.

Baseball has always had statistics. From Henry Chadwick’s box scores to the early Bill James annuals, baseball latched onto numbers more than any other sport. But with those numbers came a thirst for more — more ways to dissect and prod and massage statistics to help learn more. Though the work of so-called sabermatricians were helping push our understanding of the numbers we had, there was still room for more. And in 2007, we got it.

MLB, in partnership with Sportvision, began installing special cameras in ballparks to track pitches. Dubbed Pitchf/x, these two-camera systems began collecting data on things like trajectory, release point, and speed of pitches. Based on certain criteria, pitch types could be extrapolated from that data. It was tested during the 2006 playoffs, and turned on league wide in 2007. It was, in part, to help their Gameday feeds — allowing the data to be shown on screen to fans following a game online. In either a stroke of genius or a happy accident, MLB published this data in a publicly-available XML feed. It didn’t take long for people to figure out a way to collect, collate, and relay the data to any fan who had interest. Sabermetrics was about to get a huge shot in the arm.

Smash-cut to present day, and pitch data can be found on a myriad of baseball sites.

Read the full article here: http://www.techgraphs.com/from-pitchfx-to-now-the-changing-world-of-sports-tracking-2/

Originally published: September 4, 2014. Last Updated: September 4, 2014.