Announcement of neat fielding data comes out of the Sloan Conference


Before the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference transitioned into a long afternoon of listening to Malcolm Gladwell talk, MLB Advanced Media offered an intriguing preview of fielding and ball-tracking data that may be available in some form soon, possibly to the public, perhaps in some digestible form. Or maybe they were just teasing everyone before pitching all the equipment into the sea.

This is the teaser video:

Here’s another screenshot of a pitcher/batter overlay they have in mind.

I don’t see any reason to say this isn’t a positive development. To parrot Bill James‘ recent comment on why he didn’t want to “kill the win” stat, it’s always good to have more data, however flawed. The concerns about seeing a singular “route efficiency” reading without seeing the nuts and bolts are well-founded, but it doesn’t completely kill my interest in seeing what the formula has to say and how much it aligns with my observations.

If only Kosuke Fukudome was still playing and turning singles into triples that we could ogle at with enhanced scrutiny.

Perhaps most exciting to me is the data shown here that will be impervious to packaging for easy public consumption. Regular speed readings of fielders and extension of the level of pitchers–something that’s been hinted at previously–would serve as the type of raw, elemental data to inform observations that a full-service route efficiency stat sort of whitewashes.

All of this is rather premature, because this is not a full rollout, but a convention panel-style teaser meant to titillate and excite rather than actually provide information. Only three parks (Miller Park, Target Field and Citi Field) will actually have the full tracking system in 2014, so any kind of complete, full-season data is out of the question until at least 2015 when the trackers are spread league-wide.

For now, there’s a potential for some fun, and actually insightful data injected into a few broadcasts, and some especially embarrassing on-screen graphics about Dayan Viciedo at Target Field, and some occasional ESPN Sports Science moments (WOW THAT’S A REALLY COOL NUMBER THAT IS OUT OF CONTEXT AND STRIPPED OF MEANING) during the playoffs. Except probably not, because the Mets, Twins and Brewers will all be bad.

More data, however. That is good.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan