Happy World IP Day! As promised, I’m continuing to share how IP has played a role in enhancing sports. If you missed my first article, IP in the FOREfront of Golf, be sure to check it out here otherwise, enjoy as I dive into my favorite pastime – baseball.
Baseball has remained unchanged for over a century when it comes to how organizations view their talent on the field. For years, select statistics such as batting average (AVG) and earned run average (ERA) were seen as gold standards when determining a player’s value.
In 2002, Sportsvision filed a patent called Virtual Strike Zone which ultimately transformed the way baseball is experienced.
This new system added a graphical image of the strike zone to a video or other image of a baseball game. The system displays a virtual strike zone and the location of the pitch in real-time. Based on the location of the strike zone and the ball, the system determines whether the pitch is a strike or a ball.
PITCHf/x became the formal name of the product and Major League Baseball (MLB) began using this technology during the 2006 postseason. Usage expanded and the system was officially installed in all 30 MLB ballparks in 2008. Broadcast networks started to use the virtual strike zone on their telecast and replays during games while MLB integrated the technology in their digital products. To this day, MLB GameDay and the MLB At-Bat app rely on the visual strike zone to give fans live tracking of games.
Since PITCHf/x was introduced, the technology has evolved into a more advanced system, dubbed Statcast, where it was migrated into every MLB stadium in 2015. Building on the foundation of the virtual strike zone, Statcast is a high-speed, high-accuracy, automated tool developed to analyze player movements and athletic abilities. Front offices began using this data in quantifying values within hitting and defensive categories, which were unable to be tracked prior to the system’s introduction. This advancement in data collection has fueled new ways of thinking about how General Managers build their rosters and spend ownership dollars to stay competitive. The technology has produced new statistical measures while increasing the popularity of sabermetrics in the sport.