Leveraging Data Capabilities

St. Louis Cardinals President William DeWitt III shares how his baseball team leverages data analytics capabilities


GEOINT is a multidisciplinary field. We see experts from different arenas leverage GEOINT capabilities to aid in their decision-making process from national defense to agriculture, and now baseball.

At USGIF’s Geospatial Gateway Forum in St. Louis, the St. Louis Cardinals President William DeWitt III shared how his team uses large data capabilities to analyze games and improve plays. He harnesses advanced data analytics in order to predict outcomes and empower better business decisions.

Statcast, a state-of-the-art tracking technology, allows for the collection and analysis of a massive amount of baseball data. It includes two different tracking systems—Trackman Doppler radar and a high-definition Chyron Hego camera system.

The radar tracks everything related to the ball at 20,000 frames per second.

“It measures the speed of the pitch, the ball curvature, the spin rate, the speed of the bat and the ball off the bat, the plane of the bat while swinging, how the ball curves in space, and more,” DeWitt said.

The Chyron Hego camera system—which includes six stereoscopic cameras positioned in two banks of three cameras down each foul line—tracks the movement of the people on the field, measuring the players’ speed, distance, direction, and more.

“That is data for just one pitch, and any one data point is not predictive, but when you aggregate them and look across seasons, you can see trends becoming predictive,” DeWitt said.

However, he continued, while the data Statcast obtains is useful, it does not eliminate the need for recruiters. Statcast acquires exact technical capabilities of individual players, but recruiters can determine if that individual is the right fit for the team.

“It is a balance between the science and the art,” DeWitt said.

Ten to 15 years ago, the Cardinals employed a few data analysts. But the number of analysts began to grow as the available data increased.

“There is so much data out there right now that we are trying to get a handle on to make it usable and functional,” Dewitt said.

With this explosion of information, a challenge arose.

“[Analysts were spending] 90 percent of their time sifting and organizing data instead of analyzing. So we had to split that function to data engineers,” DeWitt said.  As the available data continues to grow, the Cardinals continue to develop their team of data engineers and analysts, Dewitt said.


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