We are all familiar with Trackman, even if you don’t know it by the name. Statcast, the system that tracks the pitches thrown that show the strikezone on TV, and the system that tells you the estimation for how far the ball was hit – that’s Trackman. The reason the overall package is called Statcast is because there is another system in place that tracks the fielders movements for defensive purposes – and MLB just bunches it all together as one thing under “Statcast”.
Trackman, however, seems to be going away at the Major League level at least. Eno Sarris of The Athletic reported this morning that teams are installing Hawk-Eye this season and it is supposed to be ready to roll out for the start of the 2020 season.
Trackman, which we’ve seen in Major League Baseball since the 2015 season, uses radar technology. Hawk-Eye uses optical tracking and is considered to be more accurate. And it’s going to track even more than what is currently being handled by Trackman, too. From an email sent out to all Major League Baseball teams, from the article in The Athletic:
We expect this next generation system to significantly improve the accuracy and precision of ball and player tracking and unlock new tracing opportunities like bat swing path tracking and player limb tracking.
In the last 13 years we’ve seen these tracking systems change how the game is being played. And how players are being scouted. And how players are being evaluated. When Pitch F/X, a three-camera system that optically tracked the pitch came about, all of the data was released publicly if you knew where to find it. It was raw data, but if you were smart enough, you could do big things with it. And after that 2007 release, some people did. Josh Kalk and Mike Fast were among the early adopters to publishing great things on the internet around the Pitch F/X data and soon enough they were snatched up by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Houston Astros to work for them instead of doing things on the internet.
That system, though, was only tracking the pitches. Trackman made their staple in golf, first. But soon enough they made their way to baseball, and teams and Major League Baseball began to use their system instead. Everyone was using it at the Major League level by the end of 2015. It added more than just pitch tracking. And while it was an improvement, it’s not perfect. There are still errors being made, though far less than there used to be as some of the kinks have been figured out along the way.
The new Hawk-Eye system is going back to cameras to track things instead of radar. But unlike the previous camera tracking operation, Pitch F/X, Hawk-Eye uses four times as many cameras (12 in total). If you watch tennis, then you’ve probably seen Hawk-Eye in action. Here’s a look at how it works.
The video above does note that it’s accurate enough to 5MM. But in the article at The Athletic, Eno Sarris notes that the claim now is 2MM (though some peer reviews have said it’s as much as 10MM). For those at home who can’t calculate millimeters to inches in their heads, 10MM is 0.39 inches.
With more expected accuracy, and with more things that will be tracked, baseball will be taking another step forward in the amount of data they are using to evaluate the game and the players.