Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kind of a brave new world

If Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, do sabermetricians cry binomial numbers? The world of technology took a blow recently when the Korean Baseball Organization outlawed the use of electronic devices from dugouts. While their use had already been outlawed by the league, it was a still a common practice that nothing much was said about. Oh, those pesky ballplayers, flaunting the rules. Who would have thought it?

The league has until now overlooked the use of electronic communications devices - including notebooks, cell phones and walkie-talkies - even though they are prohibited in dugouts under KBO rules.

Since 2003, teams have spent substantial amounts of money equipping their dugouts with sophisticated software that allows them to keep track of real-time statistics during games and analyze scouting reports on opposing teams.
I'm not going to pick on the saber crowd here, as there are a lot of uses for computer technology in the dugout. Watching video of your last at bat, watching the pitcher for signs that he's tipping his pitches, all things that can't be done by coaches actually watching the action instead of a computer screen.

The sight of grim, rather stiff baseball managers staring hard into notebook screens during games has been rather amusing. They receive data from scouts who sit directly behind home plate and record every pitch. Instead of conferring with coaches and veteran players, managers squint at their computer monitors.
And I'm not against the use of sabermetrics by managers and coaches to help make certain decisions. In fact, it only makes sense nowadays for a manager to have printouts of match-ups, left/right splits, and late inning situations. But having computers in the dugout just seems wrong to me. It's still a game played by human, watched by humans, and controlled by humans. Are we really ready for the Jetsons?

And this just seems wrong to me:

Some teams have been accused of watching instant replays on Internet broadcasts of their games before arguing with umpires over disputed calls.
I'm not anti-technology, and I'm not anti-sabermetric. But those are tools that use to help make decisions, not the decision-making process itself. I wholeheartedly agree with the banning of technology, not because it isn't helpful, but I want the manager and coaches of my team to be watching the actual game action, not a computer or video screen.

And when you get into the lunacy of having cell phones and walkie-talkies in the dugout, you just create too many problems. It gives to many self-righteous people the ability to complain about stealing signs and other nefarious deeds. And unless it's made mandatory for all teams to have it, you'll always have the issue of who says they can afford it and who can't. Which is probably the reason it's outlawed to start with. Because there is a correlating:

Kim Sung-keun, manager of the two-time defending champs SK Wyverns, is apparently computer illiterate. But that hasn’t kept him from devouring stats. His only son, Kim Jung-jun, has been the Wyverns’ chief statistical analyst since 2003, also the year when KBO teams started installing notebooks in dugouts.

SK’s success has likely pushed other clubs to reach into data even deeper. The Wyverns are in first place again, poised for a three-peat.
So the use of technology works. But please, can we leave it in the clubhouse and not bring it to the dugout. It's baseball, not a rocket launch.

Link from the Joong Ang Daily.

Agree or disagree as you like. References to hot android sex with Sean Young always welcome.

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