Zebra Player Tracking: The NFL announced a partnership with Zebra Technologies to begin player tracking in 17 stadiums this season. The process will use two RFID tracking chips on players, according to FastCo Labs’ Matt Hartigan, which will enable the capturing of all kinds of spatial movement data. With these chips, the NFL will have access to different kinds of data than either the NBA (SportVU) or MLB (StatCast). Here’s a quote from Vishal Shah, NFL vice president of media strategy:

“Really, the focus and the genesis of this project was the ability to capture proprietary new statistics in real time. Then secondarily, create fan experiences which have applications. Probably the most visual one is within the broadcast itself.”

This is really, really big news. But perhaps it didn’t make quite the splash of the NBA or MLB announcements, even though those both are based on high-tech camera trackers? This is player tracking with chips. This is a whole new ballgame for pro sports leagues. Zebra and other companies (such as Catapult Sports) have been pushing this movement for a while. It’s really neat to see it on the big stage now.

MLB Links: Jason Schultz questioned why some still see a “problem” with the sabermetrics movement. Robert Arthur dug into the gory math of when we can tell that a rookie’s performance is for real. Dan Szymborski ($) updated the top 10 worst contracts in baseball with his ZiPS projection system. Kevin Kleps looked into how the Cleveland Indians are using “analytics” to study their stadium attendance. And economist Rodney Fort followed up on the “how much is Billy Beane worth” conversation by looking at the difference between marginal and average.

NBA Links: Shane Young analyzed how statistics are driving on-court strategy in the NBA. Jack Moore adamantly maintained that the mid-range two-point shot can still be valuable. Amar at SLC Dunk looked into the track records of rookie head coaches. Neil Greenberg crunched the numbers on Anthony Davis’ upside. And a little humble-brag, as I wrote at Nylon Calculus about Kevin Garnett’s transformative offensive prime.

Other Links: Nathan Kinch wrote about the emerging role of innovation in sports. Michael Lopez concluded his series on what he wished he had known before starting his statistics graduate program. Ed Valentine shared how the English Premier League is like a game of two halves, with the upper elite and the bottom tier. Neil Paine suggested that the Seattle Seahawks’ youth actually could lead to a long-term dynasty. QuantCoach rated all 32 NFL coaches. And Michael Florek profiled the Dallas Stars’ balance of analytics in the delicate NHL landscape.

Fun Tweets: To enter into the weekend, here is some fun with numbers.  [Editor's note: Having problems getting the tweets to embed as actual tweets. I'll try and fix it when I get a chance.]