The Start of HIT f/x

Today was a very exciting day for us baseball analysts. Right about the time that we finally got used to what PITCH f/x could tell us about the game, we started jonesing for some form of HIT f/x to give us the other pieces of the puzzle. A full scale system of tracking batted balls off the bat and all the way to the fielder’s gloves will allow us to make massive strides forward in fielding metrics and even assist us in refining our offensive measurements as well.

Alas, the dream seemed far away as the expense required to track batted balls everywhere on the field is immense. Most of us tucked that dream away, waiting for the day but not conceiving that it could be anytime soon. Enter Matt Sisson who, while talking with Cory Schwartz of MLBAM, snagged some juicy scoops on what is to come in the world of f/x technology in 2009. I’ll let Sisson speak for himself:

Cory tells me that these improvements are to include an extensive “real time scouting” area in game day which utilizes Pitch-f/x data. The real time scouting would use the pitch data for the pitcher to show which pitch they are likely to throw depending on the count and situation and what zones are considered the pitchers and batters hot and cold zones. Pitch-f/x will also be expanded to provide more data and graphs for participating RSN’s to use in their broadcast as well as more data and graphs for clubs to use on their in-stadium scoreboards.

Cory also explained that we can expect the roll out of Hit-f/x, a system similar to Pitch-f/x that would use the technology already in place to track the initial batted ball data. Trajectory, angle, velocity, etc. measurements would all be recorded but the technology would be limited to just the initial batted ball data. The Hit-f/x system would not be able to track the entire trajectory of batted balls but from the recorded data, researchers would have the ability to correlate the recorded data with results data (hits, outs, errors, etc) and figure out answers to a range of questions including whether a hitter should try to hit more fly balls or if a hitter is having “bad luck” on their line drive rates. There is no firm time line for the roll out of this system yet but I was told that it is definitely on the radar for the ‘09 season. New software is being built and tested so its only a matter of time before we’re able to dive into another seemingly limitless goldmine of baseball data.

Well now. The improvements to PITCH f/x would be exciting enough, but the first inklings of HIT f/x data? This is fantastic news. We get to take a major step toward eliminating the problem of classifying batted balls based on someone arbitrary decision of ground ball versus line drive and line drive versus fly ball. This only helps augment what has been a rapid improvement in pitcher and hitter evaluation metrics and also gets us started on fielders.

If you want to follow along with the analysts attempts to figure out how to make use of this, I would suggest bookmarking the always informative Book Blog, namely this post in particular.

Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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13 years ago

This is truly exciting. I love the fact that this data will have MLB right in the middle of it (so to speak) so that it will likely force the main stream media to begin to use the derived analysis. I hate the terribly informed announcers and analysts (however poorly titled) and their antiquated evaluations of players. This is looking like a giant step for talent evaluation.

However, it will probably end up as one more way that the knowledge-hungry baseball fans will educate themselves while leaving ESPN and the rest of the media in the dust.