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April 1, 2014 6:00 am

Moonshot: Cracking the Location Code


Robert Arthur

The next step in the study of sequencing.

The challenges of hitting a baseball are many and difficult. Depending on the speed of the pitch, a batter may have something like half a second to 1) locate the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand, 2) predict its movement based on the kind of pitch it is (fastball, slider, curve, etc.), 3) decide whether to swing, and potentially 4) adjust mid-swing to the path of the ball or check his swing. All of which is to say, hitting a baseball in MLB may actually be the hardest thing in the galaxy (I’ve never done it, myself).

Arguably the most demanding part of this battle is purely mental (as Hank Aaron noted). Because of how little time there is for a hitter to perform all of the above-mentioned tasks, it is helpful to have some notion ahead of time of what, where, and how the pitcher is going to throw. Conversely, the more uncertainty and confusion a pitcher can create in the hitter, the more chance he has of catching him off guard.

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A look at the ten most likely places for a new MLB club

It seems that nearly every week, articles surrounding the potential relocation of the A’s and Rays surface. A panel looking into a potential San Jose relocation for the A’s has been gridlocked since 2009 (and remember, the A’s have been looking to move to San Jose for a heck of a lot longer than that). The Rays haven’t been far behind in their efforts to get out of Tropicana Field. Whether it’s the commute for fans to get to the domed stadium, the aesthetics, or the need to be closer to an urban core, it seems that Tampa Bay has been seeking a new ballpark for just as long. Relocation for these two clubs is crucial.

Another thing that comes up less frequently but has extra meaning going into 2013 is expansion. With the Astros moving into the AL West, the American League and National League will now be balanced at 15 clubs a piece. The problem is that 15 is an odd number, and as a result, interleague will become a daily affair. It’s unlikely that’s something that the league wanted, so getting to 32 clubs would take care of that matter. That would mean revenues spread thinner with two extra mouths to feed. Additionally, it’s no given that one or both wouldn’t be revenue-sharing takers, and trying to get ballparks built is no easy feat in this economy. So, 30 is a number that seems to suit the “Big Four” sports leagues in North America. The NBA has it. Ditto for the NHL. Currently, only the NFL—which has the advantage of being highly centralized (revenues are shared more evenly across the franchises) and exceptionally popular—is the exception at 32 clubs.

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The results of the blind BABIP test are in. How did you do? And what can we learn from your answers?

On Friday, many of you took the blind BABIP test. I gave you 18 GIFs, in nine sets of two, each set comprising two batted balls. One was a hit. The other was an out. You guessed which was which, but you couldn’t see the outcome; the GIFs cut off at the frame just as contact was made, or just before contact was made. This was supposed to tell us something. I’ll get to the big result first: We’re the worst at this!

I tallied 82 full sets of answers, which is 738 individual guesses, of which 387 were correct. That is 52 percent correct. Closing our eyes and pointing would theoretically have earned us 369 correct answers.  All the wisdom of the 82 of you was worth 18 extra correct answers. So that's the big thing first.

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Before you yell at the umpire, consider making a few adjustments to your dataset.

After the last two postseasons, most baseball fans are familiar with the strike zone location graphic known as PitchTrax. Here’s an example from Game One of the 2010 American League Championship Series:

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October 5, 2009 2:39 pm

Checking the Numbers: Location and Perception


Eric Seidman

Changing speeds can depends as much upon where you throw as how hard you're throwing.

The velocity recorded by the radar gun and what the batter perceives do not always match. As discussed previously, several factors can cause a pitch to appear faster or slower to hitters. One such factor is the flight time from the point of release to when the ball crosses home plate relative to the flight time the PITCHf/x system projects at 55 feet away. Pitches released any closer than this predetermined distance result in a higher perceived velocity with the inverse true of pitches let go from distances greater than the default. During our initial look it was observed that a few pitchers generated perceived velocities dissimilar to their recorded velocity, a proof of concept that was much more important than the velocity discrepancies themselves. Johnny Cueto, for example, averaged 92.9 mph with a perceived 90.8 mph, while Ian Snell found himself perceived to throw just 87.6 mph in spite of the reported 91.7 mph. But where Snell threw these pitches must also enter the equation, since the location of a pitch works in conjunction to the flight time to add or subtract perceived miles per hour.

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