Pulled fly balls are harder to catch: a game analysis with a machine learning approach

Mamiko Kato, Toshimasa Yanai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Two hypotheses were tested: (1) the deflecting motion of fly balls caused by aerodynamic effects varies between the pull side and opposite side of the fair territory, and (2) the probability of flyout is lower on the pull side than the opposite side in Japan’s professional baseball games. From all radar-tracking outputs of official games in 2018–2019, fly balls that resulted in outs or base hits were selected for analysis (N = 25,413), and indices representing horizontal and vertical deflecting motions of fly balls were computed and compared between the pull side and opposite side. A machine learning algorithm was used to construct a model to predict the probability of flyout from the kinematic characteristics of fly balls. Flyout zones where the probability of flyout was > 0.6 were computed for a systematically constructed set of fly balls having identical distribution between the pull side and opposite side. The results showed that: (1) most fly balls landing on the opposite side deflected in the same direction whereas the pulled fly balls deflected to either direction, (2) the pulled low fly balls had greater variability in the deflecting motions than the opposite side counterpart, (3) overall probability of flyout of the low fly balls was lower in the pull side (0.41) than the opposite side (0.49), and (4) the flyout zone of an outfielder in the pull side (mean = 698 m2) for low fly balls was smaller than that of the others (≥ 779 m2). The hypotheses were supported. The pulled low fly balls had substantial variations in the direction and magnitude of deflections, which might have reduced the flyout zone on the pull side.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalSports Engineering
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec

Keywords

  • Aerodynamic effects
  • Kinematics
  • Outfielder
  • Probability
  • Professional baseball

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

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