Baseball is rapidly advancing into deeper spheres of technology. So much so, that teams are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the newest and brightest technological devices possible. In fact, when the most inexpensive player in the clubhouse costs more than half a million dollars, shelling out the cash needed to afford a supercomputer seems comparatively cheap.
So what's stopping teams from utilizing their finely-tuned tech to the fullest?
The answer: Major League Baseball. Well, sort of. The tacit agreement between all 30 teams lives on to this day: there shall be no technology in the dugout besides the bullpen phone. Even the bullpen phone is heavily regulated, with its only connection being from dugout to bullpen and vice versa. The closest baseball has ever gotten to an official banning of electronics was this statement issued by former MLB executive Vice President of Baseball Ops., Sandy Alderson:
Please be reminded that the use of electronic equipment during a game is restricted. No club shall use electronic equipment, including walkie-talkies and cellular telephones, to communicate to, or with, any on-field personnel, including those in the dugout, bullpen, field and–during the game–the clubhouse. Such equipment may not be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a club an advantage.
With all that being said, there isn't a clear consequence if this statement is violated. This article, however, is not written as a petition for rampant technology in the dugout during a game. What I'm proposing is the question: what might baseball look like if a new sabermetric-based coaching position existed, one that could bypass the "rules" barring technology?
Billy Beane hypothesized that there might be an "IT Coach" in the near future. Going off that idea, this coach would essentially replace (and sometimes upgrade) the game-calling portion of a catcher's responsibilities. The basic outline is that the saber-friendly coach would utilize real-time pitchf/x data and transmit via headset a specified pitch and location to the pitcher. Of course, most of this theory involves the pitcher being able to locate his pitches in the 13-portion strike zone.
Every team might use a different algorithm for determining which pitch, location, and sequence is best suited for the situation though. We might see weighted variations placed on certain parts of the pitchf/x formula (what splits are used) given the need to induce a groundout, strikeout, or other type of out.
I want to leave this open-ended and let the reader think about some of the possible effects such a position might bring to the MLB, so I'm going to close with these guiding questions.
- By what degree would pitching get better league-wide?
- Would this kind of technology ever be allowed in dugouts?
- Which pitchers would benefit more from the coach?
- Would the average fan accept this change?
With the rapid advancements made on the field in recent years, it may not be too long before we get to see these types of questions answered in Major League Baseball.
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