Pitching Technology on a Budget
As technology evolves in our everyday lives so does technology in baseball. The game is quickly shifting from outdated numbers and having players be able to just pass the eye test. Analytical statistics and advanced optics with the use of high frame rate cameras are soon going to be the only way to keep up with the rest of the baseball community. With this being my first year away from playing and the beginning of my journey in college and summer ball coaching I was quickly made aware of these circumstances. New terms such as vertical break, horizontal break, spin rate, spin direction and spin efficiency were just a few words that quickly had to become active in my everyday vocabulary.
With tools such as Rapsodo and Trackman which give us all of these advanced metrics, money can often become a deciding factor whether or not your program or facility can make this analytical jump. With Rapsodo being the cheaper of the two ranging from $4,000 to $5,000. Trackman on the other hand has two types of devices one at $18,995 and their more advanced system being somewhere around $30,000. With the idea that you often need to be able to pay umpires, coaches, pay rent for your facility, and make sure you are on time with all of your bills, the money put into one of these devices might make it harder to keep up with those other expenses.
The idea behind this blog was to help explain how we can get some of these similar analytical numbers but at a cheaper cost. The one piece of technology I have used quite a bit with my summer ball pitchers is Diamond Kinetics PitcherTracker Smart Baseball. What you need to realize is that you will not be getting the same amount of consistency or as many advanced metrics but, you definitely will get numbers that will help you develop pitchers and help them drastically during the pitch design phase. The three major metrics you get from this Smart Baseball is pitch velocity, spin direction and spin rate. With these three numbers however you can do a lot to help these athletes increase their ability to pitch.
Starting with spin rate, this a number that many people really do not understand what it exactly does. I have had many parents and players coming to me asking what is a good spin rate and how do I improve my spin rate? Well the problem with those questions are that there really isn’t one right answer to either of those questions. A good spin rate is one that keeps your fastball out of the 12 to 14 inches of vertical break range. With the DK Smart Baseball we do not directly get the vertical break metric. What we are able to do is use Baur units to better understand our pitchers spin rates and how it will apply to them as a pitcher. Bauer units are a pitchers spin rate divided by that pitches average velocity. What this allows you to do is compare your pitchers spin rates to professional pitchers and even other players in your program. High spin guys want to be up in the zone and low spin guys want to pitch down in the zone. The MLB average for Bauer units is 24. With that being said you can now figure out whether your players are high or low spin guys and can attack their pitch design phase with this new information. This is just scratching the surface of going into this topic.
The next metric to briefly touch on is spin direction. Spin direction is read off as if you are looking at an analog clock. A 12:00 spin direction is 100% completely over the top with practically perfect back spin. Anything in the 12:00 to 3:00 range should and will be a right handed pitcher. Anything on the other side will be left handed pitcher. These numbers are great for seeing how consistent your pitchers are at hand release. As we all know baseball is a game of inches therefor if we cannot stay as consistent as possible it is hard to be a consistent and successful pitcher. I found it best used to help with pitch design along with the use of a high frame rate (HFR) camera to see where these variations in the spin direction are coming from and how it affects their spin rate and velocity as well. The HFR camera along with the metrics from the DK Ball help pair video and analytic numbers together to even further dive into pitch design and developing a pitchers arsenal.