If you have watched any of the many videos posted of MLB players working out in the first days of spring training, you’re probably a serious baseball fan who was pining for any sign that MLB games are not that far away.
And you probably have noticed there are a lot of seemingly new items surrounding the players.
If you’re a player or coach in modern baseball, this guide is likely not for you. But if you are a fan who wonders what all these new devices are, here’s your Field Guide to Baseball Tech to try to explain what you’re seeing and how it’s used.
What It Is: A radar/video system that measures many aspects of pitches.
How Do You Recognize It: A red and black box sitting between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. (The earlier Rapsodo 1.0 was set up on a tripod behind the catcher, but no MLB teams really use it anymore).
What Does The Data Look Like: Rapsodo provides a wide array of metrics for each pitch, including velocity, spin rate, effective spin rate, pitch break, pitch location (in and around a strike zone) as well as release point data.
Why Is It Used: Logging data with a Rapsodo provides a wealth of data from any bullpen session. If a pitcher is working on tweaking a pitch, it provides feedback into whether the adjustments are providing the desired results or not. For example, if a pitcher is trying to improve the break on a slider, the Rapsodo read-outs will show the spin rate, the break of the pitch and the effective spin rate, letting a pitcher and coach know if the pitch is performing as desired.
What It Is: A radar/video system that measures many aspects of both pitches and balls hit by batters.
How Do You Recognize It: It’s a big black rectangular slab with a glass opening in the top right corner, usually mounted on a tripod behind the catcher. Helpfully it has a “Trackman” logo on it as well.
What Does The Data Look Like: The pitching information is quite similar to what is gathered from a Rapsodo, although each and every one of these programs is different in how they present the data. Unlike Rapsodo, a Trackman set up behind home plate can gather info on both the pitch and any balls hit as well (if it’s a live BP, for example). For a hitter, it can show exit speed, launch angle, ball flight distance and spin rate.
Why Is It Used: Many of the uses are similar to the reasons why Rapsodos are used. Pitchers (and hitters) can get instant feedback when working. If a pitcher is looking to get a certain action on a pitch, the info on spin rate, break and many other data points is nearly instantly available. Also for the team, logging the data every day allows the coaches and analytics staff to measure trends for improvement (or lack of improvement) over the span of days, weeks and months.
What It Is: A high-speed camera used to better analyze how the ball leaves a pitcher’s hand, among other things.
How Do You Recognize It: A blue rectangle with a camera lens poking out of it. It also has wires running to it (it needs an external power source) and usually has a technician watching the outputs.
What Does The Data Look Like: Extremely slow-motion video that allows players and coaches to focus on small details. High-speed cameras can be used by hitters and pitchers. There are now ways teams can then embed the high-speed video with the data from a Trackman or Rapsodo so each pitch can be analyzed both visually and analytically.
Why Is It Used: If a pitcher or coach wants to understand how a ball is coming off of their hand, there’s no better tool than slow-motion video. As some pitchers have explained it, seeing how the ball leaves their fingers can provide an “a-ha” moment that helps them make an adjustment. Coaches and scouts can also use the video to see a pitcher’s mechanics or a hitter’s swing mechanics to a level of detail not obvious to the naked eye.