SABR convention's "New Technologies in Baseball" panel is exciting glimpse into future of analysis

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I’ll spare you most of the details of my trip to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention in Atlanta last week, but in terms of the actual baseball-related stuff the highlight for me was the “New Technologies in Baseball” panel.
Physics of baseball expert Alan Nathan was joined by Fan Graphs and Baseball Analysts writer Dave Allen, former The Hardball Times staffer and current Tampa Bay Rays baseball operations analyst Josh Kalk, Trackman business development director Rob Ristagno, and Sportvision video development director Rand Pendleton.
Allen took the stage sporting epic mutton-chops that, as Rob Neyer pointed out, made him look like Hyde from “That 70s Show.” Beyond that Kalk used props, including a baseball attached to a power drill that predictably malfunctioned and almost crippled Nathan. And last but not least, the technology shown, discussed, and hinted at was mind-boggling.
Over the past couple years MLB.com’s Pitch-f/x has changed the way many people analyze the game by providing previously unavailable details about pitching that turn “velocity” and “location” into a science. Field-f/x is now in the works, with the stated goal being to “create a digital record of all events” happening on each major-league field at all times. In other words, track everything. In truth a lot of the details went way over my head, but my mind was sufficiently blown.
Right now for each pitch thrown Pitch-f/x shows speed, location, release point, and movement. Field-f/x would take that and apply it to everything else, from batters and fielders to umpires and runners. What was the speed and trajectory of a fly ball? How was an outfielder’s jump on the fly ball? How precise was his route? How fast did he get there? What type of jump did the runner get? How quick he did move? Was an umpire in proper position to make a tough call?
And that vastly understates the potential impact because I don’t know or understand enough about the technology involved to do it justice and visual aids really made everything come to life, but I really think we’re on the verge of a huge shift in baseball analysis and the discussion panel has me very excited to see what’s next. If you think the depth of data available on sites like MLB.com and Fan Graphs right now are amazing, just wait until next season.
For more on what goes on at a SABR convention, read my recap.

Tampa Bay Rays trade Alex Colome, Denard Span to the Seattle Mariners

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The Tampa Bay Rays were reported this week to be “open for business” as far as trades go. Normally that means nothing happens until late June or something. The Rays are getting right down to it, though, as they’ve just traded closer Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span to the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners, who have played some outstanding ball lately thanks to some outstanding starting pitching, and are looking to bolster other areas as they make a push in the AL West, will likely slot Colome into a setup role in front of closer Edwin Diaz. Span will take over center field, allowing Dee Gordon to, eventually anyway, once he recovers from a fractured toe, cover for the suspended Robinson Cano at second base. If the M’s make the playoffs he’d likely do so in the postseason too, given that Cano will be ineligible for any October play due to his suspension.

Colome has saved 11 games for the Rays, with a 4.15 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 23/8 in 21.2 innings.Span is hitting .238/.364/.385 with four homers and six stolen bases on the season.

Two players are going back to the Rays: righties Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. Moore was the Mariners’ second round pick in 2015 and made his big league debut last season, pitching 59 innings in 2018 but back in the minors so far in 2018. Romero was a 15th rounder for Seattle in 2017 and is currently plying his trade in A-ball.

The Rays, as expected, are using the 2018 season to acquire prospects. The Mariners, who are unexpectedly strong in the early going, are trying to go for it even harder. Quite a big trade for late May.