The Start of HIT f/x

Today was a very exciting day for us baseball analysts. Right about the time that we finally got used to what PITCH f/x could tell us about the game, we started jonesing for some form of HIT f/x to give us the other pieces of the puzzle. A full scale system of tracking batted balls off the bat and all the way to the fielder’s gloves will allow us to make massive strides forward in fielding metrics and even assist us in refining our offensive measurements as well.

Alas, the dream seemed far away as the expense required to track batted balls everywhere on the field is immense. Most of us tucked that dream away, waiting for the day but not conceiving that it could be anytime soon. Enter Matt Sisson who, while talking with Cory Schwartz of MLBAM, snagged some juicy scoops on what is to come in the world of f/x technology in 2009. I’ll let Sisson speak for himself:

Cory tells me that these improvements are to include an extensive “real time scouting” area in game day which utilizes Pitch-f/x data. The real time scouting would use the pitch data for the pitcher to show which pitch they are likely to throw depending on the count and situation and what zones are considered the pitchers and batters hot and cold zones. Pitch-f/x will also be expanded to provide more data and graphs for participating RSN’s to use in their broadcast as well as more data and graphs for clubs to use on their in-stadium scoreboards.

Cory also explained that we can expect the roll out of Hit-f/x, a system similar to Pitch-f/x that would use the technology already in place to track the initial batted ball data. Trajectory, angle, velocity, etc. measurements would all be recorded but the technology would be limited to just the initial batted ball data. The Hit-f/x system would not be able to track the entire trajectory of batted balls but from the recorded data, researchers would have the ability to correlate the recorded data with results data (hits, outs, errors, etc) and figure out answers to a range of questions including whether a hitter should try to hit more fly balls or if a hitter is having “bad luck” on their line drive rates. There is no firm time line for the roll out of this system yet but I was told that it is definitely on the radar for the ‘09 season. New software is being built and tested so its only a matter of time before we’re able to dive into another seemingly limitless goldmine of baseball data.

Well now. The improvements to PITCH f/x would be exciting enough, but the first inklings of HIT f/x data? This is fantastic news. We get to take a major step toward eliminating the problem of classifying batted balls based on someone arbitrary decision of ground ball versus line drive and line drive versus fly ball. This only helps augment what has been a rapid improvement in pitcher and hitter evaluation metrics and also gets us started on fielders.

If you want to follow along with the analysts attempts to figure out how to make use of this, I would suggest bookmarking the always informative Book Blog, namely this post in particular.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


10 Responses to “The Start of HIT f/x”

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  1. Matt says:

    This is truly exciting. I love the fact that this data will have MLB right in the middle of it (so to speak) so that it will likely force the main stream media to begin to use the derived analysis. I hate the terribly informed announcers and analysts (however poorly titled) and their antiquated evaluations of players. This is looking like a giant step for talent evaluation.

    However, it will probably end up as one more way that the knowledge-hungry baseball fans will educate themselves while leaving ESPN and the rest of the media in the dust.

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  2. Alskor says:

    Hitfx scares me the way OPS scares Murray Chass. Im frightened at how much we could learn from this…

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  3. Steve says:

    Alskor, good one. OPS probably gives Buzz nightmares.

    I would seem to think that the initial contact information, in addition to wind velocity, humidty, temperature, and altitude and you should be able to calculate where the ball will land fairly accurately. The one thing I think it may be missing would be rotation of the ball. If that is included as well I’m pretty sure we can figure out where the ball will land within a foot or so.

    This should also put an end to the foolish home run charts that are used to calculate distance.

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  4. Andrew says:

    Any word about the possibility that MLB is going to begin charging for access to this data? Is hit/pitch F/X data likely to become a premium service in the near future?

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  5. joser says:

    Andrew — don’t give them any ideas. (Or rather, because I’m sure they’ve thought about it, don’t encourage them). None of us would pay for that data. Do you hear me MLB? None of us!

    I wonder how much of the initial flight they’re going to be able to track. The spin of the ball can introduce a lot deflection from the spot you’d get simply by calculating a parabola based on gravity and the initial vector. But if they get a fair bit of data as far out as the pitcher’s mound, it might be enough to pick up that effect and mostly correct for it. Of course you still have the wind profile varying by altitude and time. So yeah, we need the full thing. But this sounds like a great start.

    Of course, we also need “fielder f/x” so we know their initial locations, whether they take a first step in the right direction, and then how fast they accelerate to intercept the ball (or not)….

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    • Benne says:

      “I wonder how much of the initial flight they’re going to be able to track. The spin of the ball can introduce a lot deflection from the spot you’d get simply by calculating a parabola based on gravity and the initial vector. But if they get a fair bit of data as far out as the pitcher’s mound, it might be enough to pick up that effect and mostly correct for it. Of course you still have the wind profile varying by altitude and time. So yeah, we need the full thing. But this sounds like a great start.”

      Apparently the HITf/x won’t be able to track ball spin yet, which is obviously a hugely important step, for all the reasons you mentioned. But it seems like they’re working on it, from reading the comments on the book blog.

      But other than that, the fact we’re actually getting HITf/x is yet another tremendous step forward in the evolution of baseball analysis.

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  6. Peter Jensen says:

    Benne – Sportvision are not going to be attempting to estimate a landing location of a hit ball with Hit f/x. That information will comesome time in the future when additional cameras are added that cover the whole field. The initial parameters of speed off the bat, horizontal and vertical angle off the bat can be calculated from the images off the existing Pitch f/x cameras and that is all that we will get for now. Not enough frames are captured to give an accurate calculation of the spin so there is not enough information to estimate the balls landing location even if the wind conditions were known.

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  7. Access to the Hit f/x data will be free and in the same format at the Pitch f/x data that is currently available on the MLB website. It will be available for anyone who wants to use it as long as it’s not used for commercial use. As for an exact timeline as to when we’re likely to see Hit f/x, Cory had this to say: “We expect to get it going at some point in ’09 but it’s evolving organically, as opposed to on a firm timeline, since most resources are focused on the Pfx system.”

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  9. Tobias F. says:

    I don’t know if there’s already a place to find data like this but is there a way to see how far each player’s flyballs traveled? Basically the reason I’d like to know that is I’d just like to know how many HRs a player would’ve hit if he played in a particular ballpark.

    Like take Granderson for example, you see he is a flyball hitter and he is leaving a big ball park for a flyball friendly one(particularly for lefties). I’d like to see how many of his flyballs he hit at Comerica Park last year would’ve been out at Yankee Stadium. Were alot of them short flyballs which would have little impact or did he hit alot of warning track ones at Comerica that would be long gone at Yankee stadium?

    I’d like to see something like this for pitchers as well, you often hear about a pitcher benefiting from playing in a big park but unless we know how far each of his flyballs went we really don’t know exactly how much. So by showing how far each of his flyballs went you could get a good idea just how much he did.

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