Baseball is getting an eye in the sky

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Big Brother will soon be watching you, major leaguers, and it’s a really, really good thing:

As baseball’s statistical revolution marches on, the last refuge for
the baseball aesthete has been the sport’s less quantifiable skills:
outfielders’ arm strength, base-running efficiency and other
you-won’t-find-that-in-the-box-score esoterica. But debates over the
quickest center fielder or the rangiest shortstop are about to graduate
from argument to algorithm.

A new camera and software system in its final testing phases will
record the exact speed and location of the ball and every player on the
field, allowing the most digitized of sports to be overrun anew by
hundreds of innovative statistics that will rate players more
accurately, almost certainly affect their compensation and perhaps
alter how the game itself is played.

This is going to be a huge in that it will (a) take most of the
guesswork out of player analysis by allowing us to quantify defense and
base running and things like that; and (b) it will radically alter the
scouting landscape, likely replacing the subjective analysis of a
traveling baseball man with the objective analysis of guys in cubes
back at the home office. Make as many derisive spreadsheet-and-laptop
jokes about that as you’d like, but it will make teams smarter and
better.

One potential application not mentioned in the article: enhancing
broadcasts of games. If you capture everything, would it not be
possible one day to allow viewers at home to watch the game from any
number of angles rather than rely on the centerfield shot and whatever
else a director in a truck wants us to see? If that happens, one of the
best things about seeing a game in person — being able to watch what,
say, the third baseman does as the pitcher goes into the windup or what
the base runner on third is doing to distract him — can be enjoyed
from the comforts of home.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.