Seasoned Major League Baseball managers who think they’ve got a beat on player performance by counting pitches and so forth will soon gain access to more detailed data analysis. The league announced Monday that it had approved the use of biometric monitors to be worn by players during games.
ESPN reported that the device, manufactured by Boston-based Whoop, is the first of its kind to be allowed during competition in any American sports league. Players in leagues such as the NFL, NBA and MLS often wear monitors in practice, but not in games.
ESPN says teams cannot force players to wear the device and players themselves will decide if they want a monitor to collect information day and night about everything from heart rate to amount of sleep.
Whoop founder and CEO Will Ahmed wrote in a blog post on Monday that his company’s mission is to “unlock human performance” and that “athletes and competitors alike deserve data to help them better understand their bodies and ultimately perform at a higher level.”
— WHOOP (@whoop) March 6, 2017
He told ESPN that MLB’s approval of the devices was like “Moneyball 2.0” — a reference to the 2003 book and 2011 film about Oakland A’s general manger Bill Beane’s successful use of data analysis to field a competitive team.
Last season, Whoop and MLB conducted what the company called “the largest performance study ever in professional sports” and acquired “massive amounts of quantifiable data” regarding players’ strain, sleep and recovery.
Wearables and biometrics in pro sports and how they can factor in a player’s playing time, contract status and longevity in any particular league are contentious issues for modern athletes and team coaches and owners. Players have a vested interest in maintaining their health and productivity — but not in tipping their hand too much to the people determining how rich they can become.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver said during last summer’s GeekWire Sports Tech Summit that there is a positive side to data collection and players can use that data to adjust workouts accordingly. But he also said wearables can make some players anxious because they worry they can be cut from a team based on bio readings that are delivered to the coaching staff.
ESPN said the Whoop device costs $1,200 per athlete per year and includes the dashboard to the analytics. Consumers can get a Whoop 2.0 for $500.