Baseball is Budding with Technological Innovation
Baseball is generally regarded as an older man’s game, as its fan base consists mostly of earlier generations.
The slow pace of play deters many younger sports fans from following the MLB, as many are choosing to devote their time to the quicker and flashier NBA and NFL. In fact, the average age of a MLB TV viewer was 57 in 2016, compared to 50 for the NFL and 42 for the NBA.
Despite an older fan base and slower game play, baseball is still a sport budding with technological innovation that is drastically reshaping the way the game is currently played and changing the decision making process not only for baseball executives, but also for coaches and umpires.
Advanced statistical analytics have long been a part of baseball, and technology is crucial in informing these mathematical calculations.
For instance, radar technology is used to track the exit velocity of a ball off a hitter’s bat. The average exit velocity statistic is then used by team scouts to track how hard a player hits a baseball on average and his potential to be a power hitter.
Radar technology is also used to track pitching velocity and the spin rate of a pitch. This allows scouts not only to identify hard-throwing pitchers, but also those who generate a lot of movement on their balls.
In addition to the front offices, coaches employ the latest technology to benefit their team and improve player performance.
Slow-motion videos of pitchers and hitters can be used to analyze mistakes in the players’ forms.
In the 2018 American League Championship Series (ALCS), video replay helped Boston Red Sox pitcher Craig Kimbrel notice that he was tipping his pitches such that batters were able to deduce what pitch he would throw before he threw it. Video replay helped Kimbrel fix this tip and become a more successful pitcher for the rest of the playoffs.
Technology has also allowed coaches to measure launch angles, or the angle at which the ball leaves a player’s bat. Many batters use this statistic to increase their launch angles, garnering more home runs and higher extra-base hit rates.
While baseball teams implement technology in a variety of ways, baseball leagues have also utilized camera technology to revolutionize umpiring.
In an attempt to fix umpiring errors, the MLB recently implemented a video replay room, allowing managers to challenge umpire calls and bring them to video review.
Additionally, the MLB partnered with an independent league, the Atlantic League, to experiment with robot umpires. These robots are used to sense the location of a pitch and then determine whether it is a ball or strike. These technologies have helped alleviate the human error in umpiring and avoid the controversies caused by human umpires that have tainted many past games.
Although technology is being used to improve the game of baseball, it comes at a price.
In 2017, the Houston Astros utilized cameras to steal opposing pitching signs en route to their World Series win.
More recently, the Red Sox and the New York Yankees were accused of trying to illegally access the replay room to steal signs.
Though technology is helping to improve front offices, coaching decisions, and umpiring, it is also enabling teams to cheat. With technology set to play a prominent role in baseball’s future, we must be wary of its potential to damage the sport as much as its benefits.
Written by Benjamin Stick
Edited by Ethan Samuels & Alexander Fleiss