Rian Watt has published a post titled How fielding analytics are making a great generation of shortstops even better.
In it, he discusses Gary Jones’ work as a third base and infield coach (with thirty-six years of experience in baseball). Gary’s coaching of fielding is based on footwork, mechanics and angles. Rian quotes Gary:
It all starts with the routine play … I know over the last 6-8 years, analytics have become a big part of the game, and positioning even more so. But I still believe that because these guys are still basically working the middle of the field, one way or another, they’re still in a position where they mostly have to use their fundamentals and athleticism.
Rian points out that players coming into baseball today perform in an information rich environment that includes Statcast.One example of the interplay between coaching, data and tactical behaviours can be seen in the use of defensive shifts.
This is a video about Statscast’s services to major League Baseball.
All of which took me back to Hugh Fullerton’s 1910 discussions about the Inside Game.
In his discussion, Hugh considers the mathematics and geometry of baseball. He used twentieth-of-a-second watches to calculate the time it takes for ground balls to travel 100 feet (1.6 seconds). He observes:
Given the speed and direction of the fielder … it is possible to figure to a millionth of a watt where his hands will meet the ball.
Whilst Gary uses footwork, mechanics and angles in his coaching, Hugh looked at five infield grooves and four outfield grooves.
I found it fascinating to discover the connections between 1910 and 2017. I am thinking that I might add the discussion of baseball fielding as a resource for the Sport Informatics and Analytics open course that would resonate with other performance monitoring and pattern recognition activities from other cultural contexts.