Welcome to the future. At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston today, MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman unveiled a new analytics system that will change the way we look at baseball and player evaluation. While PITCHf/x has provided a treasure trove of information in recent years, this new system aims to track every play on the field and accurately measure things like defense, the path of the ball, and baserunning.
“This is going to be pretty exciting,” Bowman said. “We think it’s going to change the way we argue about the game, but we don’t think it’s going to settle any debates. We hope it starts more.”
For a look at the new system, check out this game-ending catch from Braves outfielder Jason Heyward last year:
Get used to hearing the phrase “route efficiency” a lot.
Miller Park in Milwaukee, Target Field in Minnesota and Citi Field in New York will use the tracking system in 2014 and the hope is that it will be ready to roll out in all 30 ballparks by next year. Bowman said that the technology will be available “for baseball operations and some fan use for 2014,” which is pretty darn exciting.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?