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How did the Chicago Cubs have the best team ERA in baseball during the 2016 regular season? The easy answer is to just take a look at its starting rotation, but off the diamond, the answer might also lie in the club’s use of big data.
With the World Series knotted at one game apiece heading into Game 3 on Friday, the Cubs have been leveraging the power of data, analytics and new technology integrations during the team’s 2016 run.
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The Cubs have worked with KinaTrax, a markerless motion capture technology company, to discover innovative ways of analyzing pitching performance. Currently, KinaTrax counts the Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays and another undisclosed MLB team as customers.
KinaTrax deploys its motion capture technology throughout the ballparks, working close with each team’s IT department to ensure the stadium is already outfitted with the appropriate bandwidth and connectivity. As of now, 12 cameras are all oriented on the pitcher’s mound. The video is recovered in 3D and reconstructed frame by frame, producing an image for every motion within the pitch sequence.
“The Cubs are particularly ambitious on the data,” KinaTrax CEO Steven Cadavid said. “They have a variety of different uses for it, not just a skeletal standpoint.
“The primary uses for it are evaluating the mechanics over time, the performance enhancement and injury prevention component. From an injury prevention, the datasets we’re collecting are really unprecedented.”
Over the last year, KinaTrax has worked with digital services company iMerit to glean insights from the data captured. In short, the two companies work in tandem, with iMerit delivering the datasets and 3D models, which then enable KinaTrax to conduct in-depth analysis and pull noteworthy data points for teams.
“iMerit is a critical partner for KinaTrax, providing on-demand and scalable annotation resources from end-to-end through KinaTrax’s data analysis workflow,” added Jai Natarajan, Vice President of Technology and Marketing. “First, iMerit teams process in-game footage and prepare it for analysis. We then annotate images and videos in order to create 3D models of the players. iMerit integrates directly with KinaTrax systems, facilitating a seamless handoff of data. In the past year, iMerit has built a precise 3D model for approximately 300 pitchers across all 30 MLB teams, covering most pitching personnel.”