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One of the last barriers that fans face when watching the game is being able to tell what every player on the field is doing during a given play. Even from the last row of the upper deck, there’s just too much going on, especially if there are baserunners. Well, enter Sportsvision’s FIELDINGf/x.
For the past few seasons, Sportsvision has provided PITCHf/x for MLB and AAA games. The system uses multiple cameras to read the ball from a pitcher’s hand to the catcher’s glove. It can read the speed of the ball and the spin of the ball. It’s how MLB.com’s gameday is able to show those nifty pitch paths. Then this year, Sportsvision added HITf/x, which has the cameras track the ball from bat to landing point. All of this data is actually available for free in XML files on MLB’s website.
Sportsvision is proposing the ability to use multiple cameras to be able to track everything on the field, from the positioning of players to where the ball travels to baserunners and the paths they take around the bases and at what speeds. Everything going on in a play will be track-able.
Now, we can really know who the best baserunners are and who took a play off. We can tell if a fielder got to a ball because of positioning or great range. We can tell if a player was put in position to succeed from his manager’s positioning. What the system can provide in data is amazingly endless. Fielding can truly be measured now. Managers can be critiqued for positioning and we can figure out which teams use what sort of advanced scouting data.
Furthermore, this opens up an interesting avenue for MLB.com. Gameday currently provides information about plays and details of pitches. For extra money, you can get information about hot/cold zones and information about a pitcher’s pitches. Imagine if for somewhere between free and the cost of MLB.TV you could pay to see computer models play out the plays from the game? (And it wouldn’t have local blackout restrictions).
The data from FIELDINGf/x, PITCHf/x and HITf/x could provide a computer with enough information for a recreation of the play. Yes, even PITCHf/x is not 100% accurate, as any computer-based system is. But, instead of streaming a video, having a flash simulation of the game might be easier on one’s PC, certainly on their bandwidth. Then, video games could also use this data to allow you to possibly try and recreate a play.
It is exciting to be alive during the changes that are occurring behind the scenes of the game because of items like this. Finally, baseball is going to have stats that are more descriptive of a player’s ability. MLB will be ahead of what other sports provide to the public, even if they charge for access to this data.