5 Entertaining Uses of MLB’s New Statcast Tracking Technology

Great play, but what does the science say?

Most baseball fans will remember Alex Rodriguez's 660th home run whether they want to or not—the May 1 blast at Fenway Park tied A-Rod with Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list. Some fans also will remember it for being the first pinch-hit homer of Rodriguez's career, and Yankees fans in particular will remember that it was a game-winner against the Red Sox.

But now, thanks to Major League Baseball Advanced Media's new Statcast technology, fans might also recall the speed and angle at which the ball came off A-Rod's bat and how high it flew on its way over the Green Monster.

No. 661 for A-Rod, which came six days later at Yankee Stadium, was somewhat less dramatic, but it was also tracked by Statcast.

Previewed at last year's All-Star Game, league championship series and World Series, Statcast made its official debut on MLB Network's April 21 Cardinals-Nationals broadcast. Fans will get to see plenty more of it this season.

Every Major League ballpark is equipped with the technology, which uses optical tracking (a battery of high-resolution cameras set up around the stadium) and radar to measure every movement of the ball and the players. According to MLBAM, Statcast provides "the first-ever reliable measurement of every play on a baseball field."

While the novelty of knowing how high, far and fast every home run is hit might wear off, the defensive metrics Statcast reveals are, at least, entertaining—and probably useful for scouting purposes. But is the fan experience improved if baseball can quantify exactly how a player makes a great play, or is it more fun just to see it done? (MLB did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how Statcast will affect fan experience or viewership.) 

Watch these five Statcast videos and decide for yourself:

George Springer's home run-robbing grab
Nice route efficiency, right? But, how high did he jump?

Nelson Cruz hits a train
Compared with A-Rod's rope, Cruz's moon shot was the equivalent of a changeup off the bat. No word on how fast the train was moving, though.

Ian Desmond throws from the hole
He can throw 63 MPH jumping off one leg with his momentum carrying him away from first base? Sign that guy up.

Stealing bases, the right way
Who's the fastest base stealer—Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, or Mike Trout—and who takes the biggest lead? Now, we know.

Gio Gonzalez's hook and heater
If you've ever wondered what the difference is between the true velocity of a pitch and its perceived velocity, you've come to the right place. And is 2,881 RPMs a good spin rate for a curveball?