Baseball: The Game Data Built?

By Jason Danielson, NetApp's Media and Entertainment Expert

mlb.pngOctober is a sensational time of year! There’s a crisp in the air, leaves are changing colors and most exciting, the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs are in full swing. This is the time of year to watch the best pitching staffs and the best hitting line-ups, giving all they have at a chance for the World Series championship!

During this year’s post season—whether at home, the local watering hole or at the stadium—fans will have unprecedented access to videos, stats, and commentary like never before. With the sky rocketing adoption rate of smart devices and the explosion of online fantasy pools, today’s sports fans are more savvy, engaged, and most importantly, hungry for data.

Same Game, New Tools

With the proliferation of smart devices, the age-old love of baseball stats has found a new venue and is increasingly becoming a trend among young baseball fans. Of all the professional sports, statistical data – stats – have always been an integral part of the MLB, from ERA (Earned Run Average) to OBP (On Base Percentage). Even before movies like Moneyball or Trouble with a Curve highlighted the importance of data to the attention of the public, success in the Big Leagues was always built on statistics with baseball scouting as an early adopter of Big Data.

Thanks to the evolution of technology, fans can now put themselves in the shoes of scouts. From tracking and comparing players, matchups against specific pitchers, or even monitoring the humidity and temperature levels in stadiums, fans now have access to granular statistics in the palm of their hands. This is a natural extension of baseball. It’s less about ‘Big Data’ and more about the history and extension of baseball’s love-of-statistics – it’s the same game, just with better tools.

Out of the Park

For today’s fans, access not only to data but also to video clips is no longer a luxury, but an expectation. To answer this growing demand, MLB Networks has invested heavily in their IT infrastructure.

Working with suppliers like Cisco, VMWare and NetApp, MLB Networks underwent a major league rebuild and expansion of its infrastructure to better store, log and – ultimately – deliver content to its fans; anytime, anywhere.

Was the rebuild an ‘out of the park’ home run?

Simply put, yes. In 2014 alone, MLB Networks recorded, stored, managed and delivered on average, 4,200 hours of video content a week. During the course of the first 26 weeks of this season, that is roughly 109,200 hours of video or just over 11 billion video frames. Recorded content is capturing everything from the final pitch in a perfect game, to Derek Jeter’s inspiring walk off single to win his last home game at Yankee Stadium.

But with any sport, the outcome is only as good as the team behind it. MLB Networks has a roster of video analysts watching live streams of every game, tagging each play, pitch or pick-off. In 2014, analysts logged almost 40 million metadata tags around gameplay.

For fans, regardless of whether they’re a casual viewer or a hard-core follower in multiple fantasy pools, this means fast access to content, vastly improving the in-game experience.

While at its core, the post season is an event only the ten top teams play in. The roar of the crowds, the silence as the first pitch is thrown; and for the winners, hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy. But with baseball embracing new digital streaming technology, fans are now closer to the field and the game, whether they’re at home, the sports bar or in the nose-bleeds.