Pitching Technology for Baseball Programs
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Technology is integrating in baseball more than it ever has in the history of the game. When properly understood and applied, it can help your players make significant strides in development you might not have had without it. In this post I will be briefly discussing each piece of technology, how it can be used, and groupings of items you should buy depending on your budget (low, medium, high). At the end of the day, buying these things won't make pitchers better. Understanding the tech yourself and being able to relay that to the players in a digestible manner along with proper planning and programming is when these pieces will help.
-The Stalker Pro is the gold standard and expensive option, which most colleges will have. It is also compatible with an LED board for visual display that I believe can have a huge motivational purpose for athletes. If you can see the MPH after every pitch thrown, you will want to see that number increase more than if someone was just reading them off to you. The drawbacks are it is very expensive for only reading velocity and it is big. It's not easy to use if you are on your own.
-The Pocket Radar is a very cheap and portable alternative that is accurate as well. Pocket radar offers a very user friendly app that can be connected to your phone that repeats the velocity through the speaker and can record video with your velocity. In terms of portability, it is the best option. It is small, light and easy to carry. It is easy to put on a tripod to record if you are training solo. In my experience, the PR is comparable to Stalker in accuracy out of the box, but with time and use the velocities will deviate which is acceptable considering how cheap it is.
Pitch Flight Analysis:
The next pieces of equipment are what you think of when you think baseball technology.
These items will measure (or calculate) pitch flight characteristics such as velocity, spin rates, spin axis/tilt, spin efficiency, break values, etc and present them to you after every pitch. I believe it is absolutely necessary to have one of these options for a pitching staff, it doesn't have to be the highest valued one, but I firmly believe that in order to consistently develop pitchers and pitch arsenals, you need to know what their pitches do and how they change.
For pitch tracking technology, accuracy is very important. Decisions that can change the way a pitcher pitches are based off of these devices, so it is imperative the information we are using is reliable.
-Trackman jumps off the page because of its price, $18,000/30,000, which is obviously not in most programs budget. Trackman can be installed at a stadium (30k) and as a portable device (18k). The higher price is because this is the accuracy gold standard in ball flight tracking for both pitching and hitting. Trackman utilizes a 3D doppler radar system that measures pitch release, pitch movement, pitch location, and batted ball information. This system actively measures the axis, spin and location of the ball, no estimates or calculation.
-Rapsodo Pitching 2.0 is (I think) the best option you can use if you can afford it. Rapsodo takes a picture of the ball in flight and calculates every ball flight metric you would need. However, due to the fact that it takes a picture and calculates, there is some accuracy problems with general pitch information and seam-shifted wake effects. It connects to an iPad app that is very user friendly and from there, you can view the metrics pitch by pitch and creates reports on each pitcher/session. I will most likely be doing more posts looking into Rapsodo further, its app, and analyzing pitch types. This option can be used in the bullpen as well as intrasquad/on field reps.
For the lower budget items, comes the:
-Pitchlogic and the DK Pitchtracker. For the Pitchlogic and DK, it provides you with speed, tilt, release, movement (DK is in beta), spin, and a variety of other metrics. I have heard great things about the accuracy of the Pitchlogic from people I trust, other than it consistently reads 1-4mph hot. I have used the DK and I will be honest and say it struggles with consistent accuracy, specifically with pitches that have a heavy gyroscopic component. Pitchlogic can be a cheaper alternative to trackman or rapsodo, but I would say the DK is more for younger athletes looking for the initial presence of data into their game, not the serious college or pro athlete. The draw back for both are the sensor is in the ball and you can only use that single ball. They can't be used for batted ball contact so that eliminates reads in game.
High-speed cameras are becoming a main-stay in professional baseball and even college baseball to some degree. There's a good chance if you're playing college baseball you'll get high speed video on a pitch sooner or later. "High-speed" means slo-motion with a high frame per second (FPS). The main difference between high speed cameras, and their pricing, is their FPS capability, but I do believe cameras are the one department you can get amazing results for a fraction of the price. For reference, an iPhone can shoot at both 120 FPS and 240 FPS, which is actually pretty remarkable for a hand held phone. I tweeted a thread about how to use your iPhone as a high speed camera on twitter, the quality suffers but you can still get modest results on ball flight and spin. The cameras listed below range in price and can all serve your high speed video needs. *All cameras need a tripod*
Edgertronic: this is the gold standard for hi speed video capture. This camera's sole purpose is slow motion. It has the best ease of use and user-friendly features for capturing, viewing and saving. It has remote shutter capabilities. The camera can be easily hooked up to a TV or monitor to immediately view the video after throwing. The videos are time stamped and labeled for easy storing. The best option for a gym or team that has a higher number of athletes.
Chronos: Very easy to use, touch screen back of cam. Up to 38,000! FPS at low resolution. Still pricy. I have been recorded with this camera but do not have much experience using it. It is a great point and shoot option.
Sony: The best budget options. Used for $500-600 and you can get 960FPS which is more than enough for pitch design and slo-motion video. While it is the best option for getting hi speed at such a low price, easy of use is a drawback. This camera is made for other purposes than hi speed video. The videos take anywhere from 20-45 seconds to record before you can record again, which is detrimental to the flow of a bullpen. Immediate feedback is limited to back of the camera. Shooting the videos for the exact length I desire is difficult. The videos have to be saved to an SD card, edited, trimmed and saved, which is a pain. There is no option for remote shutter control, so you have to record the video by pushing the buttons on the camera. That being said, this is still a great option for a low budget gym, person, or someone who is using it with limited number of athletes.
iPhone: Everyone has one. It can be used as as hi speed camera. It can record up to 240 fps which is insane for a phone. You will lose detail and won't be able to get the details at release, but you can get a general idea of spin and pitch movement. Coloring the seams a darker color can also held the video out. There are also apps that can turn your iPhone video into higher fps. One that is common is SloPro app ($5) which claims to turn 240 fps into 1000 fps. I am not sure of the quality and you will be missing out on frames but this seems decent for the iPhone option
Video samples for each camera:
Edgertronic: (credit to Driveline Baseball)
Sony Rx10 ii
Chronos: (credit George Zirkel, MSI baseball)
The motus sleeve is not an absolute for a baseball program but it would be very beneficial to have one. This sleeve captures stress on the elbow and uses that to calculate workload and intensity with the goal of monitoring arm use, stress and workload. This can be especially useful for PT staffs and rehabbing throwers from arm injuries and surgeries. Driveline baseball purchased Motus and are understand and improving its use so expect great things to come in the future for this tech.
This will be my recommendations on which tech is absolutely necessary and what you can get depending on your budget (high, medium, low).
HIGH: (college/private training)
Radar: Stalker Pro + LED = $2,500
Flight tech: Rapsodo= $4,000
Camera: Edger= $7,000
MIDDLE: (Private training, high school, college)
Radar: Stalker Pro= $2,000
Flight tech: Rapsodo= $4,000
Camera: Sony= $650
LOW: (Personal training, high school)
Radar: Pocket Radar= $300
Flight tech: Pitch Logic= $250
Camera: Sony= $650
Here are my suggestions based on the budget your program has. There are obviously perks to buying more expensive gear, but even the low budget option will give you accurate and affordable items to develop pitchers. Sure it would be nice to be able to buy whatever you want but you really don't need much. Some items are important but planning and programming are more important that any piece of technology you can buy. Personally, I would rather spend less on the camera and be able to get the rapsodo. The Edgertronic is great but if you're only working with a few athletes you can get the similar results from the Sony for $6,000 dollars less. I also think it would be beneficial to have both a Stalker Pro and a Pocket Radar. I would use the Stalker for in-game and scout purposes and use the Pocket Radar for getting velocity reads on plyo balls and long toss/compressions because it's easier to carry that around and you won't have to worry about a player breaking a $2,000 radar gun. The rapsodo is a must for me and now you're the minority if you don't have one. Pro teams want this data when scouting players for the draft, it's necessary.
Happy Spending $$$$