War tech can help baseball’s struggling lineups
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Tim Anderson wanted to study his swing. After a season hampered by groin and arm injuries, the Chicago White Sox shortstop wanted a more fluid approach at the plate.
That job led him to Driveline Baseball, first to the company’s main factory in Washington, D.C., and then to its Arizona outpost.
“They showed me a lot. Break everything from scratch,” Anderson said. “They’ve got everything you really want to see.”
The competition continues behind closed doors at places like Driveline and Baseball Performance Lab in Louisiana, and in unmarked buildings in the major leagues. Some of baseball’s brightest minds are working on the gap between the technology available to Anderson and other big league hitters and the technology behind the pitching renaissance.
Forget trying to find a lost swing, or go around the batting cage. Batters now have high-speed cameras to report subtle mechanical adjustments. They use pitchers that mimic Justin Verlander’s curveball or Shohei Ohtani’s split. Some even envision a future where many of the best players in the game will choose between specialized bats based on specific matchups or situations — much like golfers choose between a wedge and a 9-iron.
They need all the help they can get. The major league batting average dipped to .243 last season, the lowest since 1968. The only seasons with lower averages were the 1968 record .237 and the 1967 dead ball seasons of 1884, 1888 and 1908.
A slew of rule changes, including a new limit on field trips, could lead to more offense this year, but hitters still have to put the ball in play. 2022 had a record 3,356 pitches of 100 mph or more and was the fifth time in the last five full seasons (excluding 2020) that the sport had hit more than 40,000 after never hitting that plateau before.
After years of pitchers using biomechanical analysis to increase velocity and carefully shape their throws, there are signs that the same or similar technology may hold the key to reversing some of the game’s downward offensive trends.
“The last few years have seen the advancement of hitting technology and the acceleration of how organizations and coaches support hitters,” said Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Asked if there had been any recent promising developments on this front and any examples he was willing to share, Antonetti replied: “Yes … and no.”
“That’s all you can do,” Antonetti said with a laugh.
One of the reasons for early adoption of pitching technology was the quantitative results. Make the right modification to your curveball grip, a small adjustment to your batting motion, and the data shows an almost immediate increase in spin rate or velocity.
It’s a subtle and subjective proposition when it comes to hitting.
“It was easier to follow baseball than it was to follow baseball,” Chicago Cubs general manager Carter Hawkins said. “Now there are so many things that we can follow the bat, which gives us more information about the embryos.
“But the swing is more dynamic and contextual to the pitch, because the pitch, you know you have full control of it, and there’s so many different areas of the swing.”
One of the tools used to capture the data is the Hawk-Eye camera system – which, among other features, calculates exit velocity and estimates the distance the ball is hit. That system and the data it captures are getting a major upgrade this summer with the addition of five high-frame-rate cameras on 30 major league baseball diamonds and fields in Salt Rivers, Arizona.
The HFR cameras tested by MLB last season can shoot video at 300 frames per second. They can provide an accurate picture of bat speed and trajectory.
“Hawk-Eye is going to be huge because having data and biomechanics in the game is completely game-changing,” said Conner Watson, head coach at Driveline in Arizona.
Watson is also optimistic about the prospects for motion capture — a common tool for pitch analysis over the years — when it comes to making improvements, especially when it comes to the path of at-bats. mouse.
“We can quantify it now,” he said. “Where’s his velocity relative to his bat trajectory?” Does he speed up here and lose speed on contact? Why is it loud? it’s just that we can answer better now.
“There’s still a lot to discover in motion capture…and I still think we’re a lot closer, but we’re still a long way from getting those answers because you need data, you need large sample sizes.
In addition to motion capture features, Trajekt Sports creates an advanced pitching machine that can replicate aces and their best pitches in the majors. The technology surrounding bats has also come a long way.
Born out of a conversation between Titleist Performance Institute founder Dr. Greg Rose and baseball agent Kent Mathes at the 2019 PGA Show in Florida, there is a Baseball Performance Lab at the Marucci Sports Campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. turned the science behind golf club fitting into major league club fitting.
His client list, past and present, includes some of baseball’s most dangerous hitters. St. Louis Cardinals sluggers Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado and San Diego’s Matt Carpenter visited one day last season. Last season, several stars used sticks with puck-like buttons that were tested in Baton Rouge.
“We build bats to combat pitch design,” said Micah Gibbs, the lab’s director of player development. “We are trying to open the design of the field. We said, “Okay, you want to build seats? Perfect. We build bats for him.
Gibbs sees a day coming when it will be common for players to use multiple variations of bats in the same game. Getting more support is a personal quest for Gibbs, 34, a former third-round pick of the Cubs who played six seasons in the minors.
“I’ve been a switch and I know I shouldn’t use the same bat on both sides,” he said. “But I used the same bat on both sides. It’s a total no-brainer, and I want every player that walks in to walk away with the confidence of knowing that they have the best gear for them when they walk into the box.
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