Ranking Baseball’s Center-Field Camera Shots

With the increasing popularity of MLB.TV, MLB Extra Innings, and Stealing Games Off the Internet, it’s the case now that something close to a critical mass of baseballing fans have access, on any given night, to the full slate of games being played in the majors. This sort of access allows the enthusiast not only to follow specific teams or players in a way that was previously impossible, but also to participate in out-of-market broadcasts unlike before.

Accordingly, it’s become possible to see the different broadcasting choices that networks and clubs make. One of the more conspicuous of these choices is the placement of the center-field camera. While basically all 30 center-field cameras in use today allow viewers to follow the basic narrative of the game (i.e. the identity of the pitcher/batter, the umpire’s call, etc.), it’s also the case that some center-field cameras provide the viewer with a more intimate experience than others.

If we allow that the goal of the center-field camera shot is to capture the batter-pitcher encounter — and, in particular, to document as accurately as possible what a pitcher’s throwing and to where — then it follows that we might adjudge the league’s 30 center-field cameras using that as our criteria.

In what follows, I’ve endeavored to do just that. Below, you’ll find images for all 30 of the league’s center-field cameras, broken down into three categories: Bottom Five, Top Ten, and The Rest.

The reader will note that, with the exception of Minnesota’s contribution, straight-on shots constitute the most highly ranked of the center-field cameras. This makes sense, of course: straight-on shots portray lefties and righties in the same way and document pitch movement in a way that off-set cameras can’t.

The reader should also note that, of all the rankings I’ve given here, the most difficult was Minnesota’s. It has the advantage of being straight-on from center, but is also bizarrely high, making it difficult to gauge the depth of pitches.

Finally, if you believe I’ve erred in any of the screen captures here, don’t hesitate to make note of same in the comment section.

Bottom Five
30. Pittsburgh Pirates

29. Colorado Rockies

28. Oakland A’s

27. Cincinnati Reds

26. Milwaukee Brewers

*****

Top Ten
10. Minnesota Twins

9. Washington Nationals

8. Los Angeles Dodgers

7. San Francisco Giants

6. Chicago White Sox

5. Tampa Bay Rays

4. St. Louis Cardinals

3. Boston Red Sox

2. Baltimore Orioles

1. Atlanta Braves

*****

The Rest (Click to Embiggen)
Arizona Diamondbacks

Chicago Cubs

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Florida Marlins

Houston Astros

Kansas City Royals

Los Angeles Angels

New York Mets

New York Yankees

Philadelphia Phillies

San Diego Padres

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

Toronto Blue Jays




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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

35 Responses to “Ranking Baseball’s Center-Field Camera Shots”

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  1. Bobby Joe says:

    This is a really dumb post. I’m upset I clicked on your Twitter link to read this.

    -152 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Daniel says:

    There isn’t a whole lot of it picking you can do once you get past the White Sox into the top five. All very pleasingly central. The Pirates one, on the other hand, is possibly as close to an abomination as you’re likely to see from a tv camera angle.

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  3. Daniel says:

    *That would be nit picking. I seem to having some problems with my ‘n’ key.

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  4. Zach Sanders says:

    Re: Royals

    Were did you get that camera angle? Is that MLB Network/Extra Innings? Because when I watched the Mariners play the Royals on local TV, the camera was practically on the LF foul pole.

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  5. Wow. It’s amazing how much better the straight-away cameras look once you compare them head-to-head to the other views. I knew they were better, but that really makes it clear.

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  6. Krog says:

    I prefer a low angle, slightly askew view of homeplate rather than the over-the-top behind the mound angle. I think you can more accurately judge the top and bottom of the strike zone. Of the top ten I think Washington’s is my favorite. The Braves centerfield camera is pretty spiffy too though.

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    • jere says:

      Good to see someone out there shares my opinion–the “straight-on” view seems better on paper, but I’d rather be lower and zoomed in more, slightly askew. To be straight on you have to be high enough where the pitcher doesn’t block the plate–but they do it anyway, leaving you zoomed out, with the plate blocked, and still too high. Especially now in a widescreen world, it makes sense to use more of the screen left-right, and be up close and personal.

      Also, please note that NESN uses the cam pictured above for Red Sox games (it’s a robotic cam mounted on a wall), but the visitors’ networks still use the “classic” shot from the old camera well, using a human camera operator. So if you’re watching a game at Fenway from the visitor’s network or nationally, you’ll get the slightly askew shot. You might want to put that angle up for comparison as there’s a huge difference. (I don’t know how the other parks’ home/road angles differ but I imagine they’re right next to each other for not much of a difference.)

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  7. Dayn Perry says:

    The Braves angle is a thing of beauty. Much like Carson himself.

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  8. glassSheets says:

    When I read the title, I thought I was going to get a ranking of the back drops. This was probably a better analysis than simply going off of back drops (is that one word or two?). However, if I were given the opportunity to watch PNC camera angle and backdrop or Al Davis Stadium angle and backrop, I would take PNC without thinking even though it is the inferior angle. I’m not sure why I think stone/brick is beter than foam, but I do.

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  9. Bryz says:

    The Twins used to have an off-center camera angle as well until the final year of the Metrodome. Apparently it had already been decided that Target Field would have a centered camera angle, so they chose to help the viewers adjust by doing the same for part of the final Dome year.

    I do agree that it’s awkwardly high, but if you went to Target Field, you’d see that it’s actually the lowest the camera could be without mounting it on the ledge behind the center field fence.

    On the plus side, at least these are all better than spring training/college/high school camera shots.

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  10. hunter says:

    I hate the Twins camera the most because it’s so absurdly high. For reasons I do not know, it also makes me vaguely motion sick (I think because I’m fruitlessly attempting to tell the top and bottom of the strike zone.)

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      White Sox seem to have the opposite problem. It is very low and zoomed-in. The pitcher blocks the left-handed batters box.

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      • Mike says:

        This is actually sort of an unusual shot. The White Sox’s camera angle more closely resembles the Nationals one in this article most of the time.

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  11. Chris says:

    I am surprised the Cardinals are not number one. The pitching rubber and home plate is a straight line, which makes it the best in my opinion.

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  12. reillocity says:

    The white sign behind homeplate in the Florida stadium screen capture is a real pet peeve of mine. Who exactly had the bright idea of putting a sign behind the catcher that is almost entirely the same color as the baseball? Same criticism goes for BIG WHITE LETTERS.

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  13. Greg W says:

    Is the view at the Trop different this year? I seem to remember it used to be offset.

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  14. Sean Fakete says:

    When I saw this link the first thing i thought about was the Phillies game I watched against Atlanta yesterday. Usually I dont even think about the camera angle, but I noticed that when a lefty was on the mound you couldnt even see the pitches when they crossed the plate because the pitchers follow through led him right into the camera angle and infront of the plate. It was really annoying to not be able to see the pitches crossing the plate and the batters swings. I thought for sure when i saw this article, Atlanta’s camera would have to be the WORST. But of course, not to fail, you have Atlanta ranked as #1 and the best… ummmmm

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  15. Criminal Type says:

    I understand the reasoning behind a straight-on view and why many of you all like it, but I just can get into it.

    Hardball on the Commodore 64 was the closest we came to MLB Extra Innings during the 1980s. That’s how baseball is supposed to look!

    http://www.mywolfbait.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/hardball.gif

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  16. Carli says:

    I much prefer informative articles like this to that high brow ltierartue.

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  17. Mike says:

    So every time Jon Rauch pitches in Tampa Bay, we can’t see the strike zone?

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  18. Mike says:

    Wow, I just now realized how old this article is. Go me.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. e-like.ro says:

    Tremendous things here. I am very glad to peer your post. Thank you so much and I am taking a look ahead to touch you. Will you please drop me a mail?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Derek R-C says:

    I like the article. I have thought about it a bunch over the past couple of years ever since the Red Sox got the robotic camera. The difference was amazing.

    My only problem with your ranking is the top ten should be broken down in to two groups. The top 5 are clearly head on and superior to the bottom 5.

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  21. henry says:

    i hate the twins one, you can barely even tell if the ball moves down. Horizontal is easier than most, but vertical movement is impossible to judge on that camera.

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  22. Janos says:

    Two words:
    DIRECTOR’S PREFERENCE. When Director “A” has the cameras set up, he/she may prefer a more “dead-on” shot” than Director “B”.

    Also to note, the “AWAY” crew often is relegated to the RIGHT of the “HOME” camera… now, let’s get into what happens with the “TIGHT CENTER” camera (usually Camera #7). Its shot will be APPEAR inherently closer to center due to parallax. (look it up.)

    Now things get interesting when ESPN and/or FOX share the broadcast with both the “HOME” and”AWAY” shows… so you will notice a difference from game to game, market to market, at times.

    Some stadia actually FORBID having or have NO camera platforms built in “THE BATTERS’ EYE” section of center field. Some years ago, ESPN experimented with having a “DEAD_ON” shot by using a camera crane usually used for golf coverage… this was abandoned after less than a season of Sunday Night Baseball..

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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