Editor's note: Hot Stove U. is a six-week course devoted to higher learning, a series consisting of 30 need-to-know topics for 2010.
Imagine the following scenario: Your favorite hitter unloads on a fastball down the middle of the plate, ripping a screamer into the gap between right and center. As he approaches first base, he steps on the gas, knowing he has an extra-base hit to leg out. But out of nowhere, the speedy center fielder leaps parallel to the ground, making a sliding grab that sends his body gliding across the turf. Your favorite hitter throws his hands in the air in disbelief, turns and trots bitterly to the dugout. His teammates offer their condolences and give him high-fives anyway. He deserved a double. Instead, he is 0-for-1.
Our perceptive eye tells us that nine times out of 10, that ball falls in for a hit; but our eyes are all too often poor calculators of probability. What if there was a system that actually put a hit percentage on every batted ball? What if we could strip the luck out of which balls fall in for hits and those that get scooped up by extraordinary fielding? A system like that would revolutionize the way we watch, analyze and appreciate the game of baseball.
A system like that is already in place. Welcome to the burgeoning world of Hit f/x and Field f/x.