Baseball's Digital (Imaging) Revolution

Runs, hits, errors - these are some of the classic measures of a pro baseball player's potential and value. But is there a way to compute what separates an average player from a great one? CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports.

Baseball has always been a game of statistics and stats provide valuable information:

"Knowing what kind of hitter, what a hitter's tendencies are is all stuff that we study before a game, before a series," said San Francisco Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand.

It's easy to measure how many times a batter strikes out or how fast a pitcher throws. Judging a fielder's performance is much harder to quantify - but that may be changing.

The Giants' AT&T Park in San Francisco is the testing ground for a revolutionary data gathering system for Major League Baseball - combining cameras on top of the light grid and computer software designed by physicist Marv White.

The technology has been around for several years. It began with tracking pitches now that technology is being expanded to track everything that happens on the field for the entire game where the players are, where the ball is - more information than the league has ever had.


White demonstrates how the computer, almost like a video game, maps out the movements of the players during a typical baseball play. The batter hits a high fly ball and the system tracks the exact trajectory. The left fielder tries to catch the ball but misses it, then picks it up and throws it to the shortstop who throws it home, but too late. Two players score. It all unfolds on the screen, just as it is happening on the field.

"The player motion gives us information that, in the past, a statistician could only get with a stopwatch," said white, chief technology officer of Sportvision. "Now, we can see exactly what happened in a play."

Once it's fully developed, Major League Baseball officials believe all team owners will want to install it.

"It will enable scouts and talent evaluators and general manages to get a better sense of athletes. It will also allow them to set a benchline," said MLB president Bob Dupuy.

But Giants manager Bruce bochy says more data doesn't mean a better game.

"It's like the adage, paralysis by analysis," he said. "You overdo it. You don't want to get away from your instincts. You don't want that to dictate all your moves."

Giants fan Ron Miyake keeps track of the game the old fashioned way - with pen and paper. He calls himself a traditionalist when it comes to baseball.

Whether the stat is traditional or technology-driven, some moves are impossible for a computer to measure, like the unbelievable catch, last week by White Sox Center fielder Dewayne Wise -robbing the Rays of a home run, and saving pitcher Mark Buehrle's perfect game.

It was magic. How do you measure that?
  • Randall Pinkston

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