SARASOTA, Fla. -- Like so many pitchers in Major League camps, Orioles hurlers have extra sets of eyes on them this spring. The Edgertronic cameras, perched on tripods, are set about a stride's length beyond the backfield bullpen mounds at the club's Ed Smith Stadium complex, as conspicuous as the coaches standing cross-armed behind them.
The pair of lenses qualify as two of the more notable additions in a camp full of fresh faces, and they've documented upwards of a thousand pitches thrown by Orioles this spring in painstaking detail. The club spent much of its first week in Florida rotating pitchers in front of the high-speed cameras, which produce ultra slow-mo images of each pitcher's delivery, before sending those pictures to a row of laptops lining the bullpen wall. Pitchers need only to throw, then turn around for immediate feedback.
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"As pitchers, we kind of have an idea of what our ball does, but there are times when what you're doing is actually counter-intuitive to what you're trying to do," said starter Alex Cobb. "Seeing it broken down changes your perspective, helps your mind wrap around what's happening with the ball more clearly."
The intricacies of release point have been an early focus, what Cobb called, "the way the ball is coming out of the hand." But the O's will use the cameras in a variety of ways over the next few weeks, positioning them differently to provide insight on things like stride length, body position, pitch grip and other mechanical complexities. The immediate goal is to collect a baseline of advanced info for every hurler in camp, then use it in conjunction with Trackman data to drive decisions in player evaluation and development. The ultimate goal is to fully modernize the O's efforts in those spheres.
That process has already started in the form of mandatory group spin axis seminars run by Minor League coordinator Chris Holt, as well as in one-on-one meetings with the club's front office and analytics department.
"I've never had a meeting like that before," said right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis.
"It felt weird in the beginning because it's something new," said right-hander Miguel Castro, who has battled control issues throughout his career. "I'm looking to improve my mechanics, perfect them to a point where I can be more consistent. I think they are going to be a useful tool."
It only takes a quick scroll through Twitter to see that the Orioles aren't alone. Reports of teams implementing advanced tech into their workouts have popped up across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues already this spring, from Tigers camp, to Phillies, Yankees, Indians, Brewers, Pirates and Rangers camp, et al.
As a franchise, the Orioles qualify as late adopters. But for many members of their turned-over front office -- who pioneered these practices earlier this decade with the Astros -- transferring technology to the field is nothing new. And while the Orioles are not yet entirely up to speed -- there has been no sign of any Rapsodo devices or batting cage pressure plates yet at the Ed Smith complex -- the cameras mark a tangible first step in their attempt to keep pace in baseball's increasingly data-driven landscape.
"It's just a start," manager Brandon Hyde said. "We've had a great response for the interest level from [our pitchers] into the new analytics stuff that we've brought in, the guys from Houston have brought here. I think we've got a great response to it."
For some pitchers, like Castro, it all makes for an entirely new spring experience. Most others, though, are familiar with the technology, or at least want to be. Cobb lobbied for the O's to buy Edgertronic cameras last year, after hearing how they'd helped friends on other teams. Yacabonis had access to similar tech at Maple Zone Institute outside Philadelphia, where he works out in the offseason. Prospects Dean Kremer and Luis Ortiz were both surprised after coming over in midseason trades to learn Baltimore's system lacked the hardware they'd become accustomed to with their previous teams.
"When it first started coming, everybody was totally against it, thought it was almost hocus pocus," Cobb said. "I think guys realize now how overwhelmingly obvious the information has become, as a proponent not only for the front offices, but for other players, and how its been able to help them accelerate their production on the field. Nobody is too naive now to not embrace it."