The Miami Marlins enter the 2019 season with a potentially electrifying starting rotation, including several strong candidates who will bide their time in Triple-A until reinforcements are needed. The staff thrived in the Grapefruit League with increased fastball velocity and nasty secondary pitches that have been modified from the previous year. A franchise that was struggling to produce top-of-the-rotation arms in recent years has seemingly raised the ceilings of their middling prospects.
It’s not magic—it’s investment.
Major League Baseball is no longer as simple as outbidding your rivals for established veteran free agents, or compiling amateurs with the most exceptional raw tools. Rather, the main objective is maximizing whatever talent you got.
Earlier this month, I interviewed Art Chou, the GM of Rapsodo, and he enlightened me on how technology is changing the baseball landscape. Imagine being able to analyze every practice pitch as thoroughly as real game action. Rapsodo technology is making that possible.
Rapsodo 2.0 devices began shipping earlier this spring. The Marlins are among the 28 MLB teams currently using these advanced cameras to track velocity, spin rate, spin axis and location of their pitches during workouts. An upgrade from the original line of products, Rapsodo now measures release point, too.
Rapsodo also has a hitting monitor that tracks exit velocity and launch angle. Chou says it takes about three seconds to process all the data from a swing.
With prices starting at $4,000, it’s increasingly common for players to buy Rapsodo monitors independent of their employers and train with them year-round. Marlins pitchers Dan Straily (designated for assignment by the team Monday morning), Caleb Smith and minor league right-hander Kolton Mahoney all use this tech consistently.
The company was created in 2010 by Turkish engineer Batuhan Okur. He noticed that his depth perception was way off while playing golf and wanted to create a tool that could track his ball accurately. The work eventually shifted to building a tracking tool for baseball and at a price point that consumers could swallow. Rapsodo 1.0 products were ready for MLB teams to test in the fall of 2016. They continue trying to innovate with new features.
The folks at Driveline training facility in Seattle, WA were early adopters of Rapsodo, which has paid huge dividends for their major league clients. The rest of the sport is gradually catching up.
Under Jeffrey Loria’s ownership, the Marlins were reluctant to spend on anything besides the baseball essentials. There has clearly been a shift in that mentality since the new group took over a year-and-a-half ago.
Marlins using Edgertonic cameras in game. Never saw these around the park before and now wherever there is someone throwing I see them. pic.twitter.com/tRwMZocc4H— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) March 10, 2019
With each advancement in tech, the players are getting better and the product on the field is getting more competitive. Chou brought up something interesting about the advantage that pitchers have over hitters when using pitch-tracking tools.
“As analytics and tracking tech gets more use, pitchers are always going to have the advantage,” he says. “They start the process and the hitter has to react to them.”
Now that pitchers can design their entire repertoire with an emphasis on pitch tunneling or getting a certain weapon to move differently using a new spin axis, hitters are in trouble. In an era where strikeout rates have steadily climbed, MLB has considered drastic rule changes to reverse these trends, catering to the majority of fans who find more balls in play to be aesthetically pleasing.
But overall, youth involvement in baseball is the most important issue for the future. Rapsodo believes it can play a role at that level, too.
Daily practices can become monotonous when all any kid wants to do is play games and see real results. However, with tools that quantify everything you do in real time, that process turns into a video game. Kids can find extra motivation in aiming for specific numbers, knowing that it will translate to more success on the field.
Baseball is America’s pastime, but it doesn’t have to be the same game that your dad or grandpa played. New technology is training this generation of baseball players to be the best we have ever seen, and the growth of baseball will be better off for it.