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Friday, March 19, 2021

The Quest for the Perfect Pitching Machine

Baseball’s recent player deployment and development overhauls have “definitely favored pitchers this decade, rather than the hitters,” says Colin Young, a former minor league pitcher who topped out in Double-A and the Atlantic League before he was hired to throw live BP to the 2019 Padres. Pitchers control the parameters of each pitch, whereas hitters have to react and adapt; although they’re ostensibly on offense, they’re always underdogs who have a limited influence over the terms of engagement, and strikeouts usually start edging up when pitchers’ power is left unchecked. One way to help even the pitcher-batter balance without moving the mound back or shrinking the strike zone could be by enabling and inculcating better batting practice. “I think the hitters are starting to come around,” Young continues. “More companies are gearing towards hitters on the tech. If you could get in there and have a machine that throws basically a certain pitcher’s repertoire … I don’t know if we can ever get Yu Darvish’s repertoire, all 10 pitches, but if you can simulate that stuff and see it beforehand and then in the game recognize it, that’s an advantage.”

These days, Darvish’s arsenal goes to 11. But even if he adds a dozenth pitch type, the next generation of pitching machines could be capable of recreating them all. Joshua Pope is the president and founder of Trajekt Sports Inc., a two-person (full-time), Toronto-based company that’s demoing its new-age pitching machine for major league teams this spring. Except Trajekt doesn’t call its product a pitching machine; the big black box—a blend of baseball aerodynamics, precision motor control, image processing, and machine learning—is the “T1 pitch replication robot.” The robot indirectly came to be because of Marcus Stroman, who debuted for the Blue Jays in 2014, when Pope was still in high school. Stroman’s arrival prompted Pope and his friends to discuss how many swings they would need to take to hit one of the phenom’s pitches. Starting in 2015, Pope noticed pitch data from MLB’s brand-new Statcast system popping up on baseball broadcasts, which gave him an idea. “I said, ‘Hey, if the data exists, and we can extract the launch conditions for any pitch thrown in a game, surely there can be a machine that can impart those launch conditions,’” Pope recalls.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 19, 2021 at 02:15 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pitching machines, player development

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   1. Rough Carrigan Posted: March 20, 2021 at 09:33 AM (#6009323)
That's a fascinating article but the assumption that "Oh no! We have to get hitters better training methods because they're all striking out so much!" is kind of silly. Everyone knows that a significant part of it is because they're all trying to hit homers. Still there's a lot of interesting information in it.
   2. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 20, 2021 at 12:10 PM (#6009330)
   3. Walt Davis Posted: March 20, 2021 at 04:23 PM (#6009349)
Easier to say than "twelfth"

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