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Twins use tech for data-driven insights

@dohyoungpark
February 24, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Like many other teams this spring, the Twins are expanding their use of the Rapsodo technology in Major League camp and have also installed new high-speed Edgertronic video cameras in the bullpen to help new pitching coach Wes Johnson and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner evaluate

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Like many other teams this spring, the Twins are expanding their use of the Rapsodo technology in Major League camp and have also installed new high-speed Edgertronic video cameras in the bullpen to help new pitching coach Wes Johnson and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner evaluate their staff.

"We've made this game of inches into a game of millimeters, basically," reliever Matt Magill said. "The analytics is there. There's no hiding anything anymore."

But what does that actually mean? What does this data-driven kind of coaching actually look like in practice? And what exactly is the technology?

Trackman

According to Johnson, the Trackman technology collects 56 different data points from the moment the ball leaves a pitcher's hand to when it's ultimately either caught or hit, including elements of spin, break, velocity, release point and hand positioning for a pitcher.

While the upside from having so much information is apparent -- the more information, the better -- the downside is that it's often difficult to sort through all of the data, draw meaningful conclusions and convey that information to players.

But Johnson has plenty of experience doing exactly that. He acquired his first Trackman system during the fall of 2014, when he was the pitching coach at Dallas Baptist University, as a gift from a departing player.

"I think that's probably why I'm here," Johnson said. "That's what I've done for a long time. It's long nights at first, combing through all of this stuff and going, 'Oh, there's the needle in the haystack. There's the needle in the haystack for this guy, and this guy, and this guy.' And then, you've got to come back and write that plan just for Martin [Perez]. Just for [Adalberto] Mejia. Just for Jake Odorizzi."

Rapsodo

Rapsodo doesn't give as much information as Trackman, but much of the data it ultimately yields is the same. It's easier to use in bullpen settings, when a team doesn't necessarily need all of the detailed information that a Trackman system would record. According to the product's website, it provides instant data on velocity, spin rate, spin axis, spin efficiency, break, trajectory and release information.

"The Rapsodo is immediate feedback, not only for us, but for our players," Johnson said. "If I can get the break and the release height, then I'll have a pretty good idea of what's going on."

Edgertronic

The Edgertronic high-speed cameras are new in Twins camp this year, and Johnson feels that the slow-motion video technology has taken a significant step forward in recent years. The cameras, installed in the Twins' bullpen, allow for players and coaches to instantly see exactly how the ball comes out of the hand.

"Edgertronic is really good because we live in a visual world," Johnson said. "Everybody looks at their phone all day long and learns, watches video. So the great thing about the Edgertronic is that it's immediate. It's right there."

What does this look like in a coaching setting?

As an example, Johnson walked through some recent work that the Twins have done on one particular, unnamed pitch thrown by Michael Pineda.

One of the things that both Trackman and Rapsodo can measure is the tilt of a pitch, and the coaching staff noticed in the data that less effective breaking action on Pineda's pitch could be correlated with two data points that could be tracked on every release.

So, every time Pineda threw that pitch in a tracked setting -- whether in a bullpen, a live batting practice or just playing catch -- Johnson was monitoring those two numbers to be able to positively or negatively reinforce Pineda's mechanics on that pitch in real time. If needed, the staff could refer to the Edgertronic video to give the right-hander a visual aid to reinforce the data-driven conclusions.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.