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Baseball is getting an eye in the sky

Jul 10, 2009, 10:04 AM EDT

Big Brother will soon be watching you, major leaguers, and it’s a really, really good thing:

As baseball’s statistical revolution marches on, the last refuge for
the baseball aesthete has been the sport’s less quantifiable skills:
outfielders’ arm strength, base-running efficiency and other
you-won’t-find-that-in-the-box-score esoterica. But debates over the
quickest center fielder or the rangiest shortstop are about to graduate
from argument to algorithm.

A new camera and software system in its final testing phases will
record the exact speed and location of the ball and every player on the
field, allowing the most digitized of sports to be overrun anew by
hundreds of innovative statistics that will rate players more
accurately, almost certainly affect their compensation and perhaps
alter how the game itself is played.

This is going to be a huge in that it will (a) take most of the
guesswork out of player analysis by allowing us to quantify defense and
base running and things like that; and (b) it will radically alter the
scouting landscape, likely replacing the subjective analysis of a
traveling baseball man with the objective analysis of guys in cubes
back at the home office. Make as many derisive spreadsheet-and-laptop
jokes about that as you’d like, but it will make teams smarter and
better.

One potential application not mentioned in the article: enhancing
broadcasts of games. If you capture everything, would it not be
possible one day to allow viewers at home to watch the game from any
number of angles rather than rely on the centerfield shot and whatever
else a director in a truck wants us to see? If that happens, one of the
best things about seeing a game in person — being able to watch what,
say, the third baseman does as the pitcher goes into the windup or what
the base runner on third is doing to distract him — can be enjoyed
from the comforts of home.

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