" 'It’ll be neat to find out what the numbers are,' said Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells, who is known for smoothly tracking down deep fly balls. 'It can be another tool to help you improve in areas of the game. People will learn about playing defense, which has gone by the wayside as people have cared so much about offense and hitting the ball out of the ballpark.'Be that as it may, what The Times is describing as "probably become the largest single advance in baseball science since the development of the box score" (emphasis mine) sounds like Seamhead brain candy.
"Not that all players welcome the new numbers. A few lockers down, Wells' teammate Scott Rolen — whose excellent defense and base running would presumably be evidenced by the tracking system — said: 'I don’t believe that baseball is a game that can be encapsulated that way. That’s the beauty of the whole game.' "
"... a good deal of time-honored guesswork will give way to more definite measurements — continuing the trend of baseball front offices trading some traditional game-watching scouts for video and statistical analysts.In other words, broadcasters might have to bone up on more than who won a Gold Glove several seasons ago when they talk about fielding. The comments from Wells and Rolen, with a combined 10 Gold Gloves between them, do shed some light on the ballplayers' attitudes.
"Teams have begun scrambling to develop uses for the new data, which will be unveiled Saturday to a group of baseball executives, statisticians and academics, knowing it will probably become the largest single advance in baseball science since the development of the box score. Several major league executives would not publicly acknowledge their enthusiasm for the new system, to better protect their plans for leveraging it.
" 'It can be a big deal,' the Cleveland Indians' general manager, Mark Shapiro, said. 'We’ve gotten so much data for offense, but defensive objective analysis has been the most challenging area to get any meaningful handle on. This is information that’s not available anywhere. When you create that much data you almost have to change the structure of the front office to make sense of it.'
"... Bob Bowman, the subsidiary's chief executive ... said he preferred the data be more open so that statistically minded fans and academics could brainstorm ways to wring useful information from what would become petabytes of raw data.
" ... 'It will give fans other things to argue about and discuss, and highlight details of the sport that you hear about a lot but don’t know too much about,' Bowman said. 'It has broadcasting applications for graphics, things like that, and also has real-world applications to teams who have to evaluate players.' "
It is refreshing to see Wells espouse a belief that such information can be helpful. Maybe some ballplayers who are raised in the information age would better accept the hard data if it was placed in front of them, showing what aspects of fielding and throwing they're deficient in. For instance, it might help a right fielder work on throws from certain angles, like after he's cut off a ball in the gap as opposed to charging in on a ground ball single.
It's sort of pertinent to Wells. He won three Gold Gloves in a row, but this season, his Ultimate Zone Rating is dead last among everyday outfielders.
Rolen, who is still an above-average third baseman, also expresses something about the game. Some people believe much of baseball is best left to the imagination. That's fine and dandy like sour candy. However, no one should be begrudged the desire to take things on more than faith.
Digital Eyes Will Chart Baseball’s Unseen Skills (Alan Schwarz, The New York Times)