LONG BEACH, Calif. — Everything players did at the Area Code Baseball Games presented by New Balance was being dissected—and not just by the mass of scouts behind home plate.
The players were also being measured by an eye in the sky—a radar system mounted behind home plate that records all kinds of information about how the baseball is moving around the field and turns it into useful data for major league teams. The company behind the information is called TrackMan.
"It's actually a Danish company," TrackMan's manager of baseball operations and data Josh Orenstein said. "It was founded in 2003 and the radar is a 3-D Doppler radar system and it's actually a military-grade technology."
This is the company's second year at the Area Code Games, but TrackMan's roots are on the golf course.
"Our founders are golfers," Orenstein said. "Our CEO was the top amateur golfer in Denmark and they built the radar in a garage to measure how far the ball went, they could measure club speed and other numbers that you see here. They took it to golf manufacturers and it was an immediate success. We're the leader in ball-flight technology in golf. We work with the PGA Tour, individual players have the radar and there's one radar at every PGA event."
Baseball has been slower to adapt—currently, just a handful of major league organizations have TrackMan systems installed in one or more of their parks—but the company is growing quickly as more teams realize the differences between TrackMan and the industry standard, PITCHf/x.
"It's similar in scope, but theirs is camera-based, while ours is radar," Orenstein said. "And we do some things that they don't. We measure extension—how far the pitcher's hand is when he releases the ball, how close he is to home plate. And we also measure the spin rate in revolutions per minute."
TrackMan shared its data with Baseball America so, first off, let's look at which pitchers showed the highest velocity at the event. . .
But velocity doesn't tell the whole story, as Orenstein explains.
"With extension, what we're able to do is kind of redefine velocity," Orenstein said. "What we've found with extension is that the closer the pitcher is to home plate, the faster the ball gets there—and I think that's something that people knew—but now it's something we can measure. So there are some players here, like a Brady Bramlett, who's releasing the ball seven feet from the mound. He may be throwing 88-90 (mph), but it looks 90-92 because it's getting there just as fast as a guy throwing 92. What we've seen with extension is that guys with more extension tend to get more strikeouts and more swinging strikes."
Here are the pitchers that showed the most and least extension to the plate. . .
What about spin rate?
"We've looked at spin rate a lot on breaking pitches and what we've found is that players that have more spin on their curveballs tend to perform better," Orenstein said. "The average major league spin rate (in RPM) is about 2,450 on curveballs and we've seen some guys here spin it up to 3,000 rpm and that seems to translate pretty well to who scouts think have the best curveballs here—the numbers line up pretty favorably."
Here are the pitchers that showed the most spin on their breaking balls. . .
TrackMan also measures the speed of the ball off hitters' bats. Obviously hitters want to hit the ball as hard as possible. Let's take a look at which hitters produced the most consistent hard contact this week. . .
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