Last night, the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Washington Nationals by the score of 2-1 after a walkoff home run by Yunel Escobar in the bottom of the 10th inning. Of note, Carlos Villanueva was pitching for the first since April 12th and served up a 90 MPH pitch fastball over the heart of the plate. Our full game recap can be found here. While a loss was not the result we were looking for, MLB Advanced Media's introduction of Statcast on the MLB Network broadcast almost made up for it. For more information on Statcast, I recommend checking out MLB.com's primer.
Love it or hate it, baseball is a game of data analytics. While there is already an ample amount of data on pitching via PITCHf/x (introduced in 2006), other areas of the game, particularly defense and baserunning, were lagging behind. Now, Statcast is not brand new technology as MLB front offices have already had access to it, but MLBAM has been fine-tuning over the last year or so in hopes of making it more readily available for TV broadcasts across the nation. In fact, all 30 MLB stadiums have the necessary equipment in place to allow for the inclusion of Statcast data.
Through the first few innings, I was generally underwhelmed by the ever-hyped Statcast because other than a "Shift Trax" bug at the top of the screen, I think one Statcast feature was included live on the broadcast—breaking down a Gio Gonzalez breaking ball to Mark Reynolds by actual velocity (78.7 MPH), perceived velocity (76.8 MPH), and extension (5.8 feet). To be fair to MLBAM, the system is limited by the happenings of the game at hand, and there really was not much excitement in the early going. This changed drastically when the Nationals started hitting balls out to Jon Jay in center.
Statcast Video: 3rd inning flyout by Ryan Zimmerman
Statcast Video: 5th inning popup by Denard Span
Statcast video: 9th inning line drive by Jayson Werth
Statcast video: 4th inning double by Yadier Molina
Statcast video: 1st inning strikeout of Bryce Harper by Lance Lynn
Statcast video: 2nd inning strikeout of Wilson Ramos by Lynn
Overall, I was generally pleased with the incorporation of Statcast, even if I had to use an online workaround to get access to it live (thank you, zoomzoom). As I stated earlier, it is limited by what actually happens in the game, and last night's game wasn't all that exciting. For those worried about it being distracting, it wasn't because while Statcast data is available in real time, it still takes time to put together a highlight. Thus, think of a Statcast highlight as any other "normal" highlight, only with valuable information included at the bottom of the screen. Of course, as Grantland's Ben Lindbergh pointed out prior to the broadcast, before Statcast becomes truly useful, "we all have to start by understanding what average is" first. I look forward to this process.
For more Statcast videos, here is a link to the game highlights. Look for any video that includes Statcast in its description.
What were your thoughts on the first Statcast broadcast?