Are you the type of fan who really does want to know how your sausage is made, to go into the bowels of the factory and then head for the park to enjoy a hot dog or two or three? If so, then MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) is for you. With MLBAM no longer does “a bloop single look the same as a line drive in the boxscore.” Every fraction of the “game of inches” is measured and ripped asunder. The interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball explodes all the hoary cliches and lays bare the action on the field for all to see.
Statcast is baseball’s groundbreaking technology that records the speed of infielder throws to first base, times the speed of runners on the basepaths, calculates the angle of the bat at impact and more. So much more. Statcast debuted in 2014 in a limited number of ballparks before a major rollout in the post-season. Statcast received its biggest exposure in the final inning of the 2014 World Series when the Royals were down one run against Series MVP Madison Bumgarner and breathing their last. With two outs and no one on base Alex Gordon sent a two-out hit into short left center field that squirted through the Giants outer defenses and rolled all the way to the wall. Gordon reached third standing up and stopped. Baumgarner then recorded the final out to wrap up the World Championship.
Statcast video showed Gordon’s less-than aggressive path to third base, measuring his speed along the way. He was running at less than optimum speed out of the box and also between second and third where he took a misstep and looked back over his shoulder rather than concentrating on the instructions of his third base coach. A play that had seemed in real-time to the millions of World Series viewers to be a routine single and two-base error was revealed by Statcast to have been a real opportunity for a game-tying score.
For 2015, new commissioner Rob Manfred is all in with the MLBAM technology, installing Statcast in all 30 ballparks. Key plays are dissected on the MLB website and the AtBat mobile site. Statcast revelations are being integrated into Major League broadcasts as well. Manfred promises that the video technology will be available in real time for replays between pitches. What do fans get with Statcast?
On outstanding defensive plays, for instance, Statcast tells viewers how fast the first step was on the ball and on great catches in the outfield fans know how far the fielder had to run to reach the ball. No longer can the announcing team fall back on the old crutches of “he got a great jump on that ball” or “he went a long way to track that one down.” With Statcast fans know exactly whether that great play was a compensation for a poor jump or whether it truly was a sparkling defensive play.
And how many times have you heard announcers marvel at a quick release by a catcher on a steal attempt? Now that broadcaster will have to really recognize what a quick release looks like because Statcast will measure it down to two decimal places. And provide the speed of the throw to second base. The main bits of high-tech measurement fans have enjoyed in the past have been pitcher velocity and home run distance. Both were readily integrated into announcer calls and stadium scoreboards. Fans would generally agree each has brought an improvement to the baseball viewing experience.
Now with Statcast fans can know exactly how hard that “hard hit ball” was in miles per hour. And how fast that player with “good speed” really is. Will this level of data also be a boon to the baseball fan? We are about to find out.