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  • Writer's pictureMike Hanna

How Software and Technology Have Changed Baseball



Baseball season is here again. America’s Favorite Pastime was invented in 1839, although earlier versions existed. Professional leagues were developed in the late 19th century, and right away, managers, coaches, and players were quick to adopt the analysis of big data. Batting averages, strikeouts, and runs-batted-in became just a few of the stats used to make decisions.


Fast forward to today, and every MLB team is using hardware and software to collect detailed statistics. These stats can be used for executive decision-making (swing, bunt, take a likely ball) as well as correcting and fine-tuning player mechanics. Let’s take a look at some of the exciting advances in software and tech that have changed baseball.


Virtual reality is taking fans inside the game.


In the 1990s there was a trend to replace the large, multipurpose colosseum with smaller baseball stadiums, reminiscent of the old yards like Fenway and Wrigley Field. Baseball fans were closer to the field. But now VR technology can take that to a whole new level. The San Francisco Giants were the first team to experiment with giving some fans VR to get in the dugout—virtually. VR technology has not really taken off in the spectator space, but it has taken off for training and gaming purposes. For example, MLB has partnered with PlayStation, Quest, and Steam to bring Home Run Derby VR to gamers.


Sensors help batters perfect their swing.


At least 21 teams are using K-Vests, which place sensors around a batter’s body to capture 200 data points per second, per sensor. These data points can then be turned into a 3D rendering of the swing, so its mechanics can be fine-tuned. Then there is the SwingTracker, a sensor that can be placed on the bat itself. The SwingTracker can analyze angles, planes, and velocity, while estimating a ball’s flight path and distance if hit. Some MLB teams like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Boston Red Sox are using a Kinatrax system, which uses up to 16 cameras along the baselines to turn footage of batters and pitchers into data.


High-speed video is helping pitchers throw more strikes.


Edgetronic cameras can capture up to 22,000 frames per second, allowing teams to leverage slow-motion visuals of a ball’s release toward home plate. This information can be used to study nuances like grip and finger position. Then there are the Rapsodo units, which sit between the mound and home plate. Radar and camera technology combine to study the ball in motion, so that speed, velocity, and spin can be studied. Every MLB team is using Edgetronics and Rapsodos to fine-tune their pitching. Simicanogies can facilitate instant replay—which is often used in other sports to challenge calls. But in baseball, it has met with more resistance and is only used in certain circumstances, such as seeing if a ball is fair or foul.


Tablets and big data are changing strategies.


Baseball started using technology to mine data in the 1980s. Since then, individual software products like Qaulysis have emerged, along with proprietary systems used by individual teams. Some of these software solutions are also fan-facing, such as Daktronics and StatVision. These software solutions can take in all the numbers and/or analysis of mechanics from the hardware (like aforementioned cameras and sensors) to inform decision-making. And ever since Apple scored a deal with MLB, managers, coaches, and even players have been using tablets in-game to examine stats.


Apps have changed how fans take in a game.


Smartphone applications can now facilitate betting and fantasy play. There are independent companies like DraftKings, as well as proprietary software owned and managed by casinos. These applications are putting the excitement of betting on baseball (and other sports) right in the hands of sports fans. Software created by Yahoo (as one example) has also facilitated the side-sport of fantasy baseball, where participants can assemble a mix-and-match roster of their favorite players from different teams, and compete against other fantasy baseball teams.


Contactless Payments help avoid missing great plays.


One of the staple rituals at the baseball game is getting something to eat. The Giants have their garlic fries, the Red Sox have their Fenway Franks, and the Blue Jays have their poutine (it’s a Canadian thing). The downside to getting something fun to eat (or drink) is that you might miss a great play, which is why fans often try to score some grub between innings. But payment processing companies are making it possible for fans to get back to their seats, faster. Mobile wallets and even chip-embedded bracelets are facilitating rapid contactless payments so you can grab your food and get back to watching the game.


Are you a free agent?


Baseball players come and go with a lot more frequency than they used to. And so do people in the workforce. Even software sales professionals are occasionally looking for a new team. If you’re one of these free agents, or a manager looking to build an all-star roster, I can help you out. With almost four decades of experience in software sales recruiting, I have an extensive network of talent and companies to discuss. Send me an email at mike@michaelblair.com and let’s connect.

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