Major League Baseball has had a problem with their fanbase for quite some time. It’s not that MLB isn’t wildly popular – it is. MLB’s problem is that the average age of their fanbase keeps going up. There are plenty of people watching baseball games, but they’ve done very little to try and bring in the next generation of potential baseball fans. Left unchecked, that would mean that eventually the majority of baseball’s fans would, to be perfectly honest, die. Without appealing to younger generations, America’s national pastime could possibly face the same slow death. New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be taking this threat seriously, as MLB has unveiled two ways to help baseball appeal to younger audiences: faster games, and StatCast Player Tracking.
Speeding up the game is a pretty obvious decision. I’m admittedly not much of a baseball fan, but I can usually only make it through a few innings on TV before I’m ready for a nap. MLB has taken a look at a few possibilities to speed up the pace of play in the past, and some of these changes could definitely speed things up a bit. The baseball purists in the audience may cry foul at some of these changes, but I would argue that losing ten minutes of each baseball game would be preferable to the sport dying out due to a lack of interest.
Taking things a bit further though is the StatCast Player Tracking system. This system saw some use during the 2014 All-Star Game as well as the 2014 World Series, but for 2015 this technology will be installed in all Major League Baseball stadiums, and allow for real-time statistics and analysis as the game is in play. The system was available in a limited capacity during Spring Training, and even in this limited form, the results are pretty impressive.
StatCast provides a videogame-like overlay that gives real time stats based on everything from pitchers to batters to fielders to base runners. You’ll be able to see the lead that a runner has before attempting to steal a base, and then the runner’s speed when they take off for the steal. There has been radar to track the speed of a pitch for quite some time, but StatCast will track the speed at which the ball leaves the bat. It will even track the angle the fielder takes to make a play on the ball. In the above video, they did not have the complete system installed, but the broadcasters certainly seemed excited about the possibilities that StatCast provides.
Baseball has been slow to adopt technologies that could improve the game in the past, but it seems that Rob Manfred is more willing to at least try things where Bug Selig would have been content to keep the status quo. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m hardly a baseball fan, but the StatCast system intrigues me. It might not be enough to get me watching regularly, but if it’s enough to pique my interest, it might be enough to appeal to the younger audience that baseball has seen fit to ignore up until now.
What do you think about StatCast Player Tracking? What other improvements would you like to see MLB make? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.