April 12, 2018

FEELINGS ARE A MUG'S GAME:

MLB PITCHERS HAVE A NEW ACE UP THEIR SLEEVES: RADAR PITCH TRACKING (Ray Glier, 4/12/18, Ozy)

Now, pitchers have a surfeit of options at hand to fight back. There's FlightScope, a device that uses multifrequency 3D radar technology to track pitches and that 12 Major League teams were using in 2017, according to Fangraphs, a baseball website. PitchGrader uses a Doppler radar to gather pitch data. RevFire, which, like Rapsodo, launched a portable system that records data after every pitch, is coming up with an upgraded avatar. And Rapsodo -- which first started with a golf launch monitor in 2010 -- rolled out its pitching tool to MLB teams in 2017 and had 17 of the 30 big league organizations signed up on Opening Day this year. Three other MLB organizations are in negotiations.

While high-tech methods still earn a skeptical eye from some in the game who preach feel over numbers, many pitchers say pitch tracking gives them a chance to keep their competitive advantage. It allows them to change their grip, or change the pressure they put on the seams of the baseball, with instant analysis in a manner never seen in the sport before. "It's feedback right away," says Blair Lakso, 23, a minor league pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, speaking of Rapsodo. "You translate it right to the playing of the game. It's absolutely awesome."

For sure, tech in baseball isn't new. Stadiums across the country offer fans ball velocities on giant screens during games. In 2006, Sportvision devised PITCHf/x to measure spin -- this technology too is now available at most MLB stadiums. Two years later, Trackman, another firm, launched technology that uses a military-grade Doppler radar -- placed behind home plate -- to measure the location, spin, break, velocity and trajectory of pitches.

But the introduction of pitch-tracking technology in baseball is no longer incremental. There's a bouquet of options that has landed at the doorstep of teams, tailored not for fans but for training. "These are powerful tools that are giving meaningful data to the teams and players," says Dr. Glenn Fleisig, the research director for the American Sports Medicine Institute and a consultant to Major League Baseball. "It gives teams another tool for instruction and scouting, and that is all good for baseball."

At spring training this year, Rapsodo appeared the technology pitchers and coaches were most excited about. The data it churns out is not a labyrinth of numbers. The screen is straightforward and the data manageable. Many teams have added player-development personnel who specialize in performance science, which helps with the machine learning.

"It can show what works and doesn't work, as long as you know what the numbers mean," says Adam McCreery, a minor league pitcher with the Atlanta Braves. "You may think, 'Hey, my stuff is really good', but the machine might say, 'No, it's not as good as you think.'"



Posted by at April 12, 2018 4:10 AM

  

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