Dugout Data: Historic World Series Fueled By New Technology

The 2016 World Series is going to be historic, no matter how you slice it. The National League’s Chicago Cubs have not been to the World Series since 1945, and haven’t brought home a title since 1908. Their opponents, the Cleveland Indians, have a similar success rate when it comes to championships, having last appeared in the World Series in 1997, but have been title-less since 1945.

This year’s World Series will be historic for another reason, however, as both teams will have access to in-dugout technology in the form of iPad Pros, which were deployed to all 30 teams across the majors at the start of the 2016 season.

Those iPads hold everything from scouting videos to customizable reports and are fully accessible to managers, coaches, and players during the game. Each team was equipped with a customized MLB Dugout App, which includes that team’s own statistical reports and data visualizations.

Gone are the days when the biggest security threat a baseball team faced was sign stealing. The iPads give teams secure access to preload their own reports via private network infrastructure in the visiting and home clubhouses of each of the league’s ballparks, according to Major League Baseball. To enhance the security features on the devices, the tablets won’t be connected to the Internet or be able to stream live video during the game.

For Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, who believes the iPads are “wonderful to access information,” they’re still not moving fast enough for his baseball mind.

“This might sounds nuts to you, but it might slow down the process,” Maddon told reporters earlier this season. “Those things are wonderful to access information. But when you need it very quickly, I think you almost have to wait for artificial intelligence to take over where it actually moves at the speed of your thought.”

Maddon may soon see his thoughts come to life, as AI and augmented reality are poised to take the technology world by storm in the coming years, according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Even Amazon’s Echo – also known as Alexa – the artificial intelligence-powered mobile device, will be streaming this year’s World Series broadcasts as long as its user has an MLB Gameday subscription.

The use of tablets in the dugout is just a continuation of tech use for MLB. Telecasts have been using augmented reality to highlight balls and strikes in the form of "K Zone" since 2001. It'll likely be much less than 15 years before the next major advancement in technology for America's Pastime emerges.

The 2016 World Series will be a first in many respects, both on the field and in the technology world.  

Game 1 of the World Series will be held at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Tuesday, Oct. 25. First pitch is 8:08 p.m.