MLB.com have just published a raft of articles about the services they will be offering during the upcoming season.
I can’t start anywhere else other than with the piece on MLB.tv. You will notice that the article is populated by several quotes from a certain Matt Smith who “not only blogs about the games, but about the ongoing thrill of this technology”. They contacted me to ask if I would like to contribute to the article and I was more than happy to do so because I genuinely believe MLB.tv is a fantastic product.
The main news from the article is that you will need to install the MLB.tv NexDef plug-in to watch the 1.2MB streams, which are stated to be “TV-quality”. The plug-in apparently “boosts the performance of your Internet connection to provide smooth, TV-quality viewing”. I’m not technically-minded enough to know how that would work. Sounds interesting though.
They’ve announced that three games will be broadcast for free on Saturday so everyone will be able to log-on and give the various options a try. I’ve got some doubts about my PC/Broadband set-up’s ability to cope very well with the 1.2MB feed, but we’ll see.
The great thing about MLB.com is that they also provide lots of brilliant services that don’t require a subscription fee. Over the last two years, we have all been able to enjoy the fantastic Daily Rewind: a 30-minute highlights show available to watch for free. They will be changing the format this season, producing ‘Rewinds’ individually for each game with a compilation broadcast on the free BaseballChannel.tv . One apparent knock-on effect of this is that the Condensed Games feature that was previously part of the Premium subscription package looks to have been discontinued. A reader e-mailed me earlier in the week about the disappearance of this feature and this appears to be the reason behind it.
Finally, the new Gameday display was launched for the second A’s-Red Sox game and while there is a lot of information on the screen, they’ve managed to create a fairly clean, uncluttered layout. They will be adding lots of video clips straight into the window, including the top plays during the game itself. However, the real advance with Gameday this year will be in the PITCHf/x system, which provides a stunning level of detail about each pitch that is thrown. MLB introduced this at the end of the 2006 season and last season around half of the MLB ballparks had the cameras installed that are necessary to capture the data. The cameras are now in place in all thirty stadiums to ensure that every game can be tracked using the ‘Enhanced’ gameday service. Previously we were given data to show the location, speed and ‘break’ of the pitch, but one vital part was missing: the pitch type. Sure you could work out that something logged at 95MPH was a fastball, yet having that extra info for each pitch would put the icing on the cake. Well, it’s now here and I look forward to seeing it in action once the season gets underway.
Incidentally, these improvements should also be a boon to the people that are using the PITCHf/x data to provide some fascinating information. I mentioned in a previous post that Josh Kalk publishes player cards using this data and that the stated information about pitch types should be taken with a pinch of salt. Kalk and other analysts have had to devise their own ways to identify pitch types from the data, but now they will be able to use the ‘official’ data and build it into their work. This should increase the accuracy of the data and make the subsequent information and analysis all the more revealing.
So, just in case you weren’t already counting down the days/hours before the season starts, MLB.com has given us even more reason to be excited by the prospect of what lies ahead.