Apr 04, 2016

The IoT is Stepping Up to the Plate in Major League Baseball

The Major League Baseball (MLB) season is underway for another year of spectacular home runs, diving outfield grabs and plays at the plate. Yet there are many parts of the national pastime that we could do without.

Every year, calls by umpires are called into question and accusations leveled at game officials. There is not a team that hasn’t been affected by an erroneous call at the plate. Additionally, fans would love to see less injuries to the throwing arms of their favorite pitchers, which could ultimately affect their team’s standings.

Then, there are the often exorbitant sign-on deals for top players who fail to live up to their potential. Acquiring players costs more than ever, yet talent scouts have few tools at their disposal beyond past performance on which to base decisions. Teams often end up burning payroll for years and leaving ticket holders footing the bill.

Thanks to the IoT, MLB executives have at their disposal the technological tools to address these concerns, which can help increase umpire accuracy, keep players healthier and provide better scouting insights for teams before they make a huge investment in the wrong players.

Here are some IoT applications that can help MLB front-office executives take action:

Objective umpiring: Contrary to popular belief, umpires are not omnipotent beings, capable of making the right call on every play. However, with the advent of augmented reality technology, such as Google Glass, umpires could potentially use optical head-mounted displays to enhance their ability to make accurate calls.

Pitching mechanics: “Tommy John surgery” — a procedure to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) — has become one of the most feared utterances in all of baseball. Some of the game’s most promising pitchers have undergone the procedure, requiring a full year of rehabilitation, and never come back the same, altering the fate of entire franchises.

Throwing and releasing the ball at an angle that reduces stress on the elbow is critical to mitigating the risk of UCL injury. The mThrow wearable sleeve, a connected wearable device, has been adopted by 27 MLB teams to monitor pitchers’ mechanics and the stress impact on their elbows. The hope is that coaching staffs and pitchers will be able to use the sleeve to improve mechanics and keep pitchers on the mound where they belong.

Scouting tools: When researching a hitter, evaluators have little to base their judgments on besides what they can see. Because swinging a bat takes just a fraction of a second, many nuances of performance go unnoticed or are measured inconsistently. Something as small as how a player turns his wrist when extending the head of the bat can derail his swing or lead to injury.

Diamond Kinetics’ SwingTracker – a smart device attached to the bottom of a bat – can capture 10,000 data points per second, providing deeper insights into what is or isn’t working when players take a swing. As a result, organizations can make decisions based on empirical analysis rather than more subjective methods. Additionally, players already signed to the team will have more insights toward improving their swings as well, increasing the likelihood of a strong return on the team’s investment.

Thanks to the expanded rollout of 4G LTE, it is now possible to integrate IoT devices like these in Major League Baseball organizations across the country. The high-speed connectivity of 4G enables these devices to track, aggregate and transmit data in real time to provide immediate results that can be shared across the franchise.