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MLB To Debut 'Statcast' Tracking Technology Tonight


For baseball fans who can't get enough statistics, today is like a holiday and a birthday pool party shoved into one giant scientific calculator.


That's because tonight's TV broadcast of the St. Louis Cardinals taking on the Washington Nationals launches Statcast, the latest in player-tracking technology. Major League Baseball says that by equipping stadiums with all sorts of high-def cameras and sensors, just about everything about a play will be quantifiable and shown in real time or close to it.

JONAH KERI: Everything from the exit speed off of a bat to the speed at which an outfielder is chasing down the fly ball that was just hit off the bat, to the root efficiency that he takes to get to the ball.

BLOCK: That's Jonah Keri. He covers baseball for grantland.com and you can count him among the many who are excited for Statcast.

KERI: You can see things that you just didn't see before. You might have a sense for what was going on, but now we can get some numbers and some cool graphics and images to really help us better understand.

BLOCK: Stats have been an integral part of baseball since there has been baseball, but even the most advanced metrics have had trouble with explaining everything, like defense.

SIEGEL: MLB says with Statcast, now we'll know.

BOB RYAN: I mean, I know I sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I'm sticking up for common sense, damn it.

SIEGEL: Bob Ryan, former longtime sports columnist for The Boston Globe, says some stats are useful, but there are just some things you can't quantify.

RYAN: It's just - you know, the field conditions, the weather, other stuff that is - considerably could figure in, but it's not figured in. I just dispute vehemently that you can quantify defense the way that these people - these people - say they can quantify defense.

BLOCK: Also, could all these numbers be too much of a good thing? Can you overwhelm even the geekiest baseball fan? Jonah Keri of Grantland doesn't think so.

KERI: When something truly remarkable happens in any sport, we need replays, we need analysis. We need to know over and over to really savor and cherish the moment. And I think this is an opportunity for Major League Baseball to do that if they can get the technology to work in real time and to show it to us in real time.

SIEGEL: Well, ready or not, Statcast will debut tonight on the MLB Network and it will be on most networks showing baseball games by June. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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