May 032011

The hitter’s knees buckle as he can only watch a filthy slider catch the inside corner for strike two. The pitcher considers his next pitch choice, from the other side of the world, enabled by Clickpitch.

Video game baseball with physical hitters and actual pitched balls
The hitter digs in for the next pitch in a batting cage type facility loaded with sensors, video cameras and software that virtually transform the cage into a full-size field. 60 feet, 6 inches from the hitter is a sophisticated pitching machine, or even a robot pitcher, but the brain of the pitcher can be anywhere – the machine is told what pitches to throw from anywhere on the web, as part of sophisticated video games and training programs.

In this case, a boy in Japan, via his Droid, is considering following up the slider with an inside, shoulder high, 86 MPH fastball, a couple inches off the inside corner, trying to get the hitter to chase for strike three, although his tweet stream and GroupMe group is urging him to go back to the nasty slider. The pitcher could just as easily be an actual MLB starting pitcher, playing on his iPad in the clubhouse on his day off, and for that matter the hitter could be an MLB hitter getting his practice in.

Pitching from Android, Wii, Xbox, iPad
The boy in Japan is not just any pitcher – he is a superstar – he leads both the Facebook and virtual Cy Young award voting for Clickpitch enabled baseball video games. If he still leads at the MLB all-star break, he will pitch an inning to the National League All-Star team at Citi Field, using his Droid. He’s a catcher on his school team so knows a thing or two about pitch selection.

The robot pitchers can emulate all levels from a Little League pitcher to a MLB ace, including software to manage margin for error by level, e.g. if the bot is a Little League pitcher instructed to throw an outside corner fastball then he might hit the hitter, whereas the MLB ace robot pitcher is going to paint the black. Actual MLB pitchers, based on their actual pitch data, can be imitated such that a hitter can choose to face Roy Halladay in the first inning, Clayton Kershaw in the second and CC Sabathia in the next. Today’s advanced statistics, pitching charts and sabermetrics could make this very sophisticated.

Hitting against smart pitchers instead of dumb machines
The hitter is enjoying the best offseason hitting practice of his life, as he’s now facing pitchers that are trying to get him out, based on his strengths and weaknesses, and the pitchers’ characteristics. The session are not lost when the hitter leaves the virtual field – the hitter uses telepresence to work with his coach at anytime and video to keep all results. Right now, the coach, from his basement office, demonstrates over telepresence a swing change that he wants the hitter to try. Video is tagged such that the hitter and his coach review all clips of swings on 90 MPH fastballs on the inner half of the plate over the past two months, or any other set of swings they want to analyze. A former coach that is in the hitter’s GroupMe baseball group may contribute advice about a subtle change in stance that he’s noticed in the hitter over time.

The next generation of baseball video games and video game ecosystems
Clickpitch turned legacy baseball video games into typewriters – most people barely remember them. There are hundreds of different video games on various platforms that simultaneously utilize each at-bat between hitter, robot pitcher and pitcher controller, creating millions of parallel games for players to join at anytime. Some video games for example create entire games for their users, enabling broadcasting students to call each game, whereas others are geared purely towards training and practice.

Little League numbers have soared as well as America’s pastime has been reinvigorated by kids being introduced to baseball on their iPad apps, going to the hitting zones to compete against their friends and then finding their way to their local Little League programs.

Clickpitch is the software and algorithms platform, built in the new peer-produced, crowdsourced product development model. Many companies have leveraged Clickpitch data and APIs to add various sensors, telepresence solutions, video games, statistical packages, iPhone and iPad apps, browser-based games, robots, pitching machines, video footage review products, social net integrations, etc. Some college coaches run full live practices but with the pitcher replaced by the Clickpitch/bot/virtual pitcher combination. In this way, pitchers’ arms are saved from practice innings, while the hitters still face top quality pitching and all the statistics and video clips are archived away for follow-up.

Note: ClickPitch doesn’t exist. I offer the idea out to the interwebs in the event that someone wants to run with parts of the idea. Meanwhile that boy in Japan is anxiously waiting for the opportunity to pitch to David Wright at a future MLB All-Star game.

  • gzino

    More details to try to better explain concept:

    Hitter faces pitching machine/robot, controlled by you, from anywhere, but of course can be linked via video and the game software to be virtually in the cage if desired.If you’re hitter, you are facing a machine that thinks like a pitcher/catcher and is trying to get you out based on your strengths and weaknesses. In the process, hitter can get enough data to choke a sabermetrician, and can use video and telepresence to turn it into serious training. Video games built around that hitter vs pitcher confrontation could be anything from a social game purely for fun on Facebook to a serious training-focused game like the military uses with private GroupMe groups etc. What’s kind of cool is each at bat could be simultaneously leveraged by (n) different video games.The training requires the sensors, cameras etc such that hits off the bat can be properly categorized, and the sophistication of the pitching machine to execute advanced pitch selections. The pitching machine’s ability to truly emulate ball coming out of pitcher’s hand and advanced change-ups etc is of course the furthest off, so this would start out at high school level and below in terms of training. Of course the xbox game version requires very little of that – just replaces the fake at bats you take in video baseball with real at bats.