With so much technology available, it is easier than ever for pitchers to view data from hundreds of plate appearances. With just a single click of a mouse even the common fan can see where to pitch to a player to get a popup, groundball, or even where he is most likely to swing and miss.
Before WiFi and iPads, there were laptops with DVDs, and before that VHS tapes. Both held roughly 120 minutes of video. Video that the team’s scouting department would have to go through games worth of film in order to edit out the pieces they needed, burn or copy the film to the DVD or VHS and then make sure the players could get them, all in time for them to still have enough time to watch over the film in preparation for the game. To give an idea of how much raw data we are talking about, think about it this way. In 2013 the average time for a pitch was 22.6 seconds. Joey Votto that year had 762 Plate Appearances (PA) and an average of 4.18 pitches per PA. That means if you applied the 22.6 seconds to Votto’s PA, you would be looking at roughly 19.05 hours of footage. That is 10 VHS or DVDs of raw data that has no way to narrow down the search for what you are looking for.
Now though, players have it all at their fingertips with companies who have the sole purpose of breaking down all game data in an easily searchable form. With all this in a convenient device a player can take just about anywhere with them, the iPad’s release in 2010 just might be one of the biggest causes for offense to plummet in MLB.
In the ten seasons prior to 2010, the average number of teams that had an On base Plus Slugging (OPS) of at least .700 was 29.2, with no single season having less than 27 teams that did such. From 2010 to 2014, though, the average number of teams that OPS’d at least .700 is only 20.
Not only that, but the fact that all plate appearances are tracked and charted automatically and put online means the wait for film to be cut and edited together to be a useful highlight reel is removed, making the ability to change approach on a hitter year-by-year or even month-by-month even easier, leading to teams having a larger than previous gap between pre-All Star and post-All Star performance.
From 2000 to 2009, there was an average of 28.4 teams that OPS’d at least .700 before the All-Star break. The number of teams that managed to OPS at least .700 after the All-Star break lowered down to 27.4, for an average of 1 team less. Those numbers the last five years though are 20.4 and 18.4, for a difference of 2 teams. Pitchers are getting the better of hitters more so as that season’s tendencies with each hitter become available for them to study and plan for.
Nick Carrington explained earlier how technology showed how the strike zones are getting larger in his Strike Zone Expansion article. But while it’s getting larger, thanks to technology, it is also getting more accurate. Just eight seasons ago for starting pitchers, when an umpire had to make a call on a pitch inside the strike zone, 22% of the time it was falsely called a ball while 9.2% of pitches outside of the strike zone that umpires had to make a call on were falsely called strikes. Thanks to the umpires able to study with technology like Pitch f/x, in 2012 for a starting pitcher the number of falsely called balls has dropped down to 14.4%, and the number of falsely called strikes dropping down to 7.4%. For relief pitchers in the same time frame The difference between then and now greatly reducing the advantageous calls batters were seeing from the umpires due to poorly called balls and strikes.
Between the pitchers and the umpires both studying up, it has helped contribute to the run deficit we are seeing now in baseball and led to a lot of teams seeing a lot more of Milton when the game is finished.