There is a pitching revolution throughout Major League Baseball and the San Diego Padres have embraced new technologies that include a Rapsodo machine and Edgertronic cameras. See how these devices have helped some of the Friars hone their craft.
Sharp-eyed baseball fans may have noticed some new pieces of equipment in use around the bullpens in the weeks since pitchers and catchers first reported to spring camps in Arizona and Florida.
Virtually every club across Major League Baseball has started to employ Rapsodo and Edgertronic technologies when it comes to evaluating and developing their pitchers. It shouldn’t come as a shock that most fans are still relatively unfamiliar with this technology, as just a short time ago the Houston Astros were the only team that had bought into the revolution. Following the success that they’ve seen from their pitching staff, including a return to ace status by Justin Verlander and the revitalization of Charlie Morton‘s career, other clubs have invested in these pitch tracking systems.
Those already familiar with the systems have probably come across it being referenced by pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Brandon McCarthy, who have spent time honing their craft at Driveline Baseball, located just outside of Seattle. Driveline has become a sort of a mecca for baseball players who have fully embraced the data revolution. Their usage of some of the most cutting edge sports science technology available has helped pitchers gain a better idea of what’s happening to the ball from the instant it leaves their hand and make changes accordingly. Edgertronic and Rapsodo are two of the systems that Driveline pushes the most because of their ability to give instant feedback.
Edgertronic is a high-speed camera that was developed by Sanstreak Corp based in San Jose. Their cameras give pitchers and coaching staffs up-close looks at the exact moment that a pitch is being released and allows them to better visualize even the most minuscule adjustments to a pitcher’s grip on the ball and their release point. While Edgertronic gives a magnified look at the pitch, Rapsodo offers teams hard data on what exactly the pitch is doing. Through the use of Rapsodo, pitcher’s are able to get a far better idea of the velocity, spin rate, and break of their pitches. The Padres have joined the fray of teams gunning for any advantage they can get as far as information, and they’ve begun to fully employ these systems around camp this spring.
With several of their younger pitchers working on developing or polishing pitches this offseason, including new cutters from Joey Lucchesi and Robert Stock as well as a slider from Eric Lauer, it’s important that the Padres are taking advantage of the wealth of data that’s available to them. Jacob Nix is especially focused on getting his curveball back, the loss of which was likely a big part of his struggles during his first taste of big league action in 2018 that saw him post an ERA north of seven in 42.1 innings pitched. In previous seasons, his curveball had much more velocity to it. A drop in spin rate was the most likely cause.
“Last year my spin rate was down on it… When you can see that spin rate up 300 in the bullpen from what it was in games last year, I think it’s really good feedback. Your spin efficiency, it shows how well you stay behind the ball and all that stuff” said Nix.
Nix has really taken to diving into the analytics behind his pitches and sees great value in coupling the Rapsodo data with the enhanced visualization that the Edgertronic cameras provide. “I’ll look at the Rapsodo data right after, kind of see what it was and then the next day we’ll do a video review. After my first bullpen when I got out here, we went in and saw that I didn’t have the ball buried in my hand very far and you could see it. Before I wanted it to, it started to slip and it was popping out of my hand. We made that slight adjustment of kind of pushing it deeper in the hand and then that thing is coming out on a downhill angle” said Nix.
The younger Padres pitchers seem to be the most enthusiastic about the new tools available around the facilities. Coming off a stellar first two seasons in the Padres system, 22-year-old lefty Nick Margevicius is looking to do everything he can to take the next big step forward in 2019, even on his off days. “They use it in the bullpens quite a bit now. They also film our bullpens, so I will watch my bullpen with the data side by side. I will also have a coach talking to me. We will look at the depth versus the sideways break, then compare the data to see what it means” said Margevicius.
“It’s like mental reps for the days I can’t throw” said Margevicius.
Nix and veteran relievers Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates all mentioned that this spring was their first opportunity to use either of the systems. As a veteran, Stammen has developed routines that work for him by this point in his career and the numbers certainly show it, but he did say that the data provided by Rapsodo can be especially reassuring. “I think it’s definitely useful for peace of mind. Sometimes your eyes deceive you, but Rapsodo does not” said Stammen.
While he’d only had the chance to throw a single bullpen on it thus far, Yates echoed Stammen’s sentiment that Rapsodo can provide extra comfort, even for one of the top relievers in baseball. “When I throw a good pitch and it looks good, the Rapsodo can help in that,” said Yates.
One notable standout in his familiarity with the systems is Padres twitter darling, Robert Stock. The right-hander personally used Rapsodo in the offseason to try and better understand his fastball. The former second-round draft pick by the Cardinals as a catcher reinvented himself as a reliever with a high-velocity fastball as his primary pitch. Despite his success on the mound last season, he still sees significant room for improvement that Rapsodo and Edgertronic can help him achieve. “Last year my fastball was fast but it didn’t miss many bats. So you can look at other aspects besides velocity, you can see spin efficiency and spin axis as well as spin rate” said Stock.
Rapsodo and Edgertronic are available to all the guys present at spring training this year. The Friars expect to start making strides towards contention in 2019 with the pitching staff being a big part of the expected improvement and Andy Green knows that it’s part of his job to make sure that happens. “We are just trying to be sure we have everything to help our pitchers” said Green.
And help them they will. The Padres have a deep vein of pitching through every level of their system. Some of those pitchers are considered to be among the best prospects in the game as they’ve been carving up minor league batters, but their continued development is going to be crucial to any chance of sustained success once they reach the majors. The Padres are giving them the tools, now it’s up to them to use them.