Defense: the final frontier. For the past five or so years, baseball statisticians have been seeking a way to rate defenders. They already have measures for offensive value, with stats which reflect a player’s ability to get base hits, get on base, and hit for power. With pitching there are a rash of stats to not only measure how a pitcher did, but also to examine his independent numbers (strikeouts, walks, home runs) to help strip out how the defense helps him. Yet there is so much more that goes into defense that it’s tough to get with batted ball data. Alan Schwarz of the Times notes a new system currently being tested in San Francisco. It uses various cameras, kind of like pitch f/x, to measure the distance, trajectory, and speed of batted balls. It could be the defensive revelation we’ve been seeking.
Bob Bowman, CEO of MLBAM, said that he hopes to be measuring in San Fran by the end of this year, with the goal to get it in all 30 parks by next year. The stats, in some capacity, would be available to the public for a subscription fee — which you can be sure RAB would pony up for. As Schwarz says, “The new camera-tracking system will assess it all to the inch.” I’m pretty stoked to see this in action.