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Play Ball!

I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I do know that it’s the most data-intensive sport, and has been recording just about everything that can be recorded for an awful long time.  And now Major League Baseball is going even further with the statistics it’s gathering by introducing a system called Statcast.

“Statcast can, pretty much, follow and record everything that happens in a baseball game… It calculates the speed and curvature of a pitch, how rapidly the ball spins and around what axis, and how much faster or slower than reality that pitch appears to be to the hitter, based on the length of the pitcher’s stride. When the ball is hit, the system measures how quickly it leaves the bat and how its path is affected by atmospheric conditions. It then tracks how long fielders take to react before moving, and the efficiency of their routes to the ball’s eventual landing spot. And it takes just 15 seconds to crunch these numbers and integrate them with video recordings.” (Source: The Economist)

While I’m not that interested in baseball, I am interested in the technology underlying Statcast, which uses two different pieces of equipment, one that keeps its eye on the players, while the other keeps its eye on the ball.

ChyronHego’s TRACAB System is what’s following the players. TRACAB’s image-processing technology is used:

“…to identify the position and speed of all moving objects within arena-based sports, and does this uniquely in true real-time. The resultant live data of highly accurate X, Y and Z coordinates is supplied 25 times every second for each and every viewable object, whether they are players, referees or even the ball.” (Source: ChyronHego)

Because white balls are difficult to track against a white background (i.e., fans in the stands wearing white shirts), they need different technology there. Enter TrackMan, which “tracks 27 different data points per play,” including pitch metrics like velocity and spin, and hit metrics like exit speed from the bat and hang time. (Source: TrackMan Baseball)

Because baseball it televised, Statcast also deploys an additional camera that looks at :

 “…the field as a whole, providing co-ordinates that map the radar and optical data onto broadcasters’ video feeds. And the result does indeed make for compelling TV. It permits commentators to illustrate replays with dazzling visual displays.” (We’re back to The Economist here.)

You can see what that looks like here.

Anyway, with the baseball season in full swing, I thought people might be interested in reading a bit about Statcast. Just wish there was more drill down info on the technology. That’s the kind of data I’m really interested in.