This thesis serves as a baseline for the potential for prediction through machine learning (ML) in baseball. Hopefully, it also will serve as motivation for future work to expand and reach the potential of sabermetrics, advanced Statcast data and machine learning. The problem this thesis attempts to solve is predicting the outcome of a pitch. Given proper pitch data and situational data, is it possible to predict the result or outcome of a pitch? The result or outcome refers to the specific outcome of a pitch, beyond ball or strike, but if the hitter puts the ball in play for a double, this thesis shows how I attempted to predict that type of outcome. Before diving into my methods, I take a deep look into sabermetrics, advanced statistics and the history of the two in Major League Baseball. After this, I describe my implemented machine learning experiment. First, I found a dataset that is suitable for training a pitch prediction model, I then analyzed the features and used some feature engineering to select a set of 16 features, and finally, I trained and tested a pair of ML models on the data. I used a decision tree classifier and random forest classifier to test the data. I attempted to us a long short-term memory to improve my score, but came up short. Each classifier performed at around 60% accuracy. I also experimented using a neural network approach with a long short-term memory (LSTM) model, but this approach requires more feature engineering to beat the simpler classifiers. In this thesis, I show examples of five hitters that I test the models on and the accuracy for each hitter. This work shows promise that advanced classification models (likely requiring more feature engineering) can provide even better prediction outcomes, perhaps with 70% accuracy or higher! There is much potential for future work and to improve on this thesis, mainly through the proper construction of a neural network, more in-depth feature analysis/selection/extraction, and data visualization.
- Predicting Outcome of a Pitch Given the Type of Pitch for any Baseball Scenario
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