Analytics Take Front a Front Seat at the MLB All-Star Game

ESPN debuted new spray chart analytics and 4-dimensional instant replays at last night’s All-Star Home Run Derby: LINK from SportsTechie.

Shoutout to you Fortnite fans out there because the engine that runs this technology, Unreal Engine, was created by Epic Games (Sportstechie).

These data visualizations (#dataviz) have long been used to enhance the strategic performance in the game. Spray charts are used to create defensive shifts or to strategically position players for a specific play sequence: bunt, double-play, no doubles, etc. 4-D video has been used to break down skills like pitching and hitting.

Picture courtesy of MLB Statcast (2018)

We are now starting to see these analytics and data visualizations used to enhance the fan or viewer experience. Telecasts have become slow, stagnant, and I’ll try not to say boring. These visuals give analysts something to break down on the air to provide further commentary and analysis. It seems to be working.

Viewers dig numbers like they dig the long ball. When you merge the two? You get this:

Picture courtesy of MLB Statcast (2017): https://www.mlb.com/news/statcast-takeaways-from-home-run-derby/c-241637902

Last year’s Statcast data from the Home Run Derby can be viewed here.

The infusion of data and analytics within the telecast seems to be well received. In my opinion, one hidden benefit to this movement is the talking of numbers within context, which could educate the viewer. This new movement has also created new career paths within the sport. Sports performance specialists work with metrics like exit velocity and launch angle in enhancing the performance of their players. Data scientists can run the numbers and predict future performance.

Most recently, physicists and other sports scientists have been tasked with researching the baseball itself:

Full Report of Committee Studying Home Run Rates in MLB

The sports science field is starting to take off and it seems new uses are being discovered with it daily. You can study baseball concepts like spin rate and exit velocity along with the technology used to create spray charts and other analytics at Lewis University.

Here is a video from our Physics Department and Dr. Ryan Hooper.

On the analytics front, you can read about a simulation software program our sports and exercise science students use in our Data and Analytics in Sports course:

Zach Binkley Readies a New Generation For Jobs in Baseball With Data and Analytics in Sport Class

About Dr. Zachary Binkley

Zachary W. Binkley, PhD is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Exercise and Movement Science Program. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Special Interest Group on Basketball.

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