Saturday, July 11, 2009

What a Week of Baseball...

Wow. I'm spent, and I have a ballgame left tomorrow night. I was planning on getting up to The Phone Booth tonight for the Giants-Padres game, but chose to pass in an attempt to get caught up on some work, having already seen two Rockies-Nationals games this week at Coors. After Monday night's game, where we saw history made, who'd've thunk that Jonathan Sanchez would go out and throw a no-hitter tonight? Of course, had I been there, I'm sure I would've jinxed it, so I'm glad I stayed home to catch Kruk and Kuip's call. I'm psyched to have seen the end of the 258th no-hitter in major league history, and even more psyched to have seen something Monday night which is nearly 37 times as rare.

As part of the research I did on Tuesday to determine the rarity of half-innings which consisted of three 3-1 putouts, I ended up running across an interview with Milt Pappas and Bruce Froemming. All I've ever heard from my dad, his friends, and pretty much all of the Chicago media is that Froemming robbed Pappas of his perfect game in '72, by calling a full-count fastball on Larry Stahl ball four. Thinking about how a borderline pitch that goes the wrong way can ruin a perfect game (and maybe a W, if it's a close ballgame), I was getting edgy tonight as Sanchez led off the top of the 8th with three four-seamers to Adrian Gonzalez, all off the plate inside, before coming back to get him on a 3-1 flyout to CF. And, I was thankful that Major League Baseball Advanced Media and Sportvision have installed PITCHf/x in every major league stadium, to provide an impartial (and non-human) arbiter which wasn't available at Wrigley on that fateful second day of September in 1972. As you can see in the attached screen shot, PITCHf/x confirmed Brian Runge's called third strike on Everth Cabrera--no doubt about it.

I'm psyched that Sportvision's technology is not only installed in every major league stadium, but that they're expanding their analytical capabilities to include hitting, fielding, baserunning, and much more. I grew up listening to coaches talk about "The Book", which was comparatively simple when I was a kid--lefty reliever against righty pinch-hitter (and vice versa), when to issue an intentional pass, when to drop down a sac bunt, etc. Today, with the overwhelming volume of statistical data available, and sufficient computing horsepower in packages accessible to even the casual observer, sports analytics can be performed in real-time by Joe Fan--which is pretty freakin' cool.

Now, further advances by MLBAM and Sportvision have led to dramatic new capabilities, many of which are being revealed tomorrow at the 2nd Annual PITCHf/x Summit. I'm humbled to be part of what the New York Times has described as follows...

"Teams have begun scrambling to develop uses for the new data, which will be unveiled Saturday to a group of baseball executives, statisticians and academics, knowing it will probably become the largest single advance in baseball science since the development of the box score."

I'm not sure I can be easily dropped into one of those three categories (I'm closest to a statistician, knowing how much Strat-O-Matic I played as a kid, and the years of toil I spent as a Rotisserie Baseball player before the advent of the Internet), but I'm certain that I'll find the summit as valuable as the other esteemed members of the audience. More to follow over the weekend...and hopefully, maybe another historical event...

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