From the moment he was hired last November, Orioles general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias acknowledged the organization’s need to catch up with the industry in the analytics and player development spheres, which routinely overlap these days. As his first season atop the club’s baseball operations department wound down, Elias repeatedly said he planned to invest in technology this winter with an eye toward modernizing Baltimore’s operations amid baseball’s ever-changing, largely data-driven landscape.
Thursday brought another step toward advancing those goals.
The Orioles announced they reached a partnership with K-Motion, a 3D evaluation and biofeedback training solutions company that’s seen as a leader in the emergent field of wearable motion-training tech. K-Motion’s signature product is the K-Vest, which provides instant analysis of players’ biomechanics with team-time measurements, and has been championed for years at progressive independent training academies like Driveline in Seattle, Wash.
Though the Orioles already used the K-Vest in the Minor Leagues this season, the agreement makes K-Motion the organization’s official 3D motion data technology.
“With K-Motion Baseball’s precise and personalized 3D swing data, the Orioles’ coaches can objectively identify opportunities for improvement in players’ swings, train the exact solutions and track progress through a centralized cloud dashboard,” the statement read. “Through the dashboard, coaches can now easily see relationships between different data points to uncover trends that will facilitate improved outcomes across the entire organization. K-Motion will also assist the Orioles with processing 3D swing data to detect potential injuries before they occur.”
Assistant general manager of analytics Sig Mejdel said the partnership allows the Orioles “to quickly build a smarter, more efficient foundation for our player development programs.” He said the technology would be implemented “from Single-A all the way to the Majors.”
Mejdel and Elias were key members of the front office in Houston that was among the first to implement data into their player development operation earlier this decade. Since then, the industry has rushed to emulate them. Tools like Trackman, Edgertronic cameras and Rapsodo have become standard across the sport. Teams are often hesitant to disclose their efforts in these spaces at the risk of revealing data they consider proprietary or willfully giving away some competitive edge. But K-Motion’s CEO Michael Chu said more than 22 teams have integrated K-Motion tech into their player development operations.
The Orioles, who had little data-driven infrastructure in place when Elias and Mejdel arrived in November, began using Edgertronic, Rapsodo, K-Vests and Blast Motion bat knob sensors in the Minors this season. Elias and new player development director Matt Blood are looking to fill the organization’s upwards of 30 vacant positions in player development, scouting and baseball ops with instructors who are data-fluent and tech-proficient. Elias has said he hired Blood, who has ties to Driveline, for his connections and experience in those areas.
“The reality is there has been a significant amount of new information and new technology that has exploded across baseball in the last five or six years. We’re all doing our best to react to it and position ourselves for it,” Elias said last month. “Baseball has been kind of insulated from changes to this degree for a while, and this is a period where there are just a lot of changes going on and a lot of different areas of investment for teams there were five or 10 years ago. When we were in Houston, we were one of the teams out ahead of the curve, in terms of recognizing the trends and positioning ourselves for them.”