Many of us casual fans were introduced to the culture war in baseball (i.e. Bill James / data-driven analysis vs. grizzled old scouts looking for five-tool players) by the book Moneyball.
Well, with the recent news that the St. Louis Cardinals may have been caught hacking the Houston Astros data base, it is pretty clear which side won. This article explains why the until-recently hapless Astros were the target of hacking by one of the last decade's most successful teams.
If you remember the scene in the movie Moneyball where there were a bunch of traditional old scouts sitting around the table debating players, compare that image to this:
When the Astros plucked Colorado's Collin McHugh off the waiver wire after the 2013 season despite his career 8.94 ERA, the move might've surprised some folks. But today's major league stadiums are wired with systems such as PitchF/X and TrackMan that use Doppler radar to track the ball in three dimensions. For every pitch thrown in every game, teams now know the location, acceleration, movement, velocity and the axis of rotation of the ball. The Astros grabbed McHugh because they saw that while his sinker didn't play well at Coors Field, he had a superior curveball that rotated about 2,000 times a minute, or 500 times more than an average curve spins.
It was the baseball equivalent of noticing a needle in the data haystack.
Once he was in Houston, the coaches told McHugh to change his arsenal by throwing that terrific curve more and replacing the sinker with a high fastball.
The result? His ERA nosedived to 2.73 in his first season with the Astros.
By the way, given the technology described here, and the tech I see deployed on the typical baseball TV broadcast, why do we still have human beings calling balls and strikes?