Field Of Seems

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Baseball is a game of tradition. So, a few years ago, when people tried to change the game using statistics, a culture war was ignited. On one side, there were the traditionalists — the people who played the game by feel. It was the whimsical way of doing things; traditional baseball beliefs reigned supreme, mostly based on some romantic notion of the game. But on the other side, there were sabermetricians. That was the name for baseball people who insisted on bringing numbers into the game.

But, at the heart of it all, there was the game — the simple, beautiful game of baseball.

So the best way to merge the two sides was to illustrate the whimsy — the tradition — using numbers.

WHIMSY + NUMBERS

For me, one of the most beautiful parts of the game is pitching. I used to be a pitcher before I hurt my arm, and it was always amazing to watch how pitchers were able to make the ball curve and break as they pleased. It’s so counterintuitive that, at times, it looks like magic. That’s the whimsy.

The numbers come from a database called Pitch f/x, provided by Major League Baseball. At every baseball park, there are dozens of cameras that measure several attributes of every pitch, including speed, movement and break. So using these numbers, I was able to illustrate roughly how each pitch was breaking.

That said, I came up with “Field Of Seems.”

Of course, you can’t see any seems right now. But, if the red dot were a real baseball, it’d be full of seems. So bear with me.

HOW TO USE THIS

First, you click on a player. (Right now, I’ve uploaded seven local player files.) Then you click “Next Pitch” twice. From there, you’ll start to see pitches fly your way. When the ball turns red, it indicates that it has crossed the plane which starts at the front of home plate.

Because the pitches come in so quickly, you can click the “Ball Tracker” at the bottom of the page. That tracks each frame of the pitch.

THE TECHNICAL STUFF

First, I parsed all the XML data. Then with dozens of numbers, I used the OpenGL 3D library to create the forward-moving ball. Making this work properly took an incredibly amount of time. And, even now, it’s not a smooth pitch — or even an accurate one. However, it does illustrate what that pitch would look like from the catcher’s point of view.

GOING FORWARD

I hope to flesh out the algorithms so they will create a smooth and accurate pitch arc. That may take some time, and some math lessons.

I also hope to be able to link this to the Pitch f/x database so that, after each game, users can log onto this tool and see each pitch from the catcher’s point of view.

One response to “Field Of Seems”

  1. Nootropics

    I enjoyed your useful words. brilliant contribution. I hope you produce others. I will continue subscribing

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