Monday, June 22, 2015

A Work in Progress

(Video technology to track pitches started to be installed in every major league ballpark in 2007.
The system is called PITCHf/x5
. The fabulous thing for you and your students is that the data is
provided at no cost by Major League Baseball (although it is copy righted). Alan Nathan has a
good web site ( to describe how to download
the data and what the quantities actually mean6
. The easiest way to get the data is from Dan
Brooks’s web site PITCHf/x Tool7 (

They are already coming up with equipment to call balls and strikes. Because I believe the consensus is the powers that be and most fans don't appreciate that the umpires in major league baseball all have their own interpretation of what a strike is and consistency is lost in the shuffle.

It is known that Roger Clemens took notes and studied the umpires. I would like to think all pitchers did this, since their livelihood depends very much on the way an umpire calls balls and strikes. You would have to know the umpire's preferences just as you would have to know a hitter's tendencies.

I recall recently listening to a ballgame in which the announcer suggested that Tim Hudson may have a long day ahead because Hudson is a low-ball, sinker pitcher, while that day's umpire was a "high strike" balls and strikes guy. This is exactly the sort of thing in which those capable of devising methods/machinery could come up with/discover a method of accurately and more consistently determining balls and strikes, if queued up precisely.

There are scientists and engineers out there who love the game of baseball and they have the acumen and intelligence to pool their ideas together to come up with a way to make the game better by assuring consistency to a game that needs its human elements but not where interpretations of the rules are concerned.

We're already talking to automated voices when paying bills or needing further assistance on matters that companies have no trouble passing off to the robotic voices asking us to enter whichever number or asking us to speak clearly into the phone. Not taking into account that accents or misinterpretations may get lost in the translation and this could dramatically remove their effectiveness.

(I will leave references for those interested in pursuing this subject. It's where I got the idea for this piece.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Footnotes to the aforementioned highlighted site at

The author makes no apology for the use of English units throughout this paper. After all, they
are the traditional units of the National Pastime!
An amazingly sharp 30-frames/second video of Bonds hitting the ball can be found at Video of the entire at bat as well
as just the last pitch can be found by searching Major League Baseball’s site
3 is their home page
4 is their home page. You may want to check out their Gameday feature that uses
this data at
Sportvision’s description is at
Ironically, just before this fateful pitch, the pitcher requested a new baseball. He tossed home
to the catcher and this event fooled the software into thinking it was an actual pitch. The data
from this toss is what you will get if you use PITCHf/x Tool. MLB has put the corrected data on
its server and that is where the author collected it.
The author has made little effort to track significant figures because the data from PITCHf/x
has little regard for them. Just keep in mind that trajectory data is good to about one-to-two
See Nathan’s web site,, for an explanation.
several physics of pitching references