The first time I saw the Rapsodo Pitching Monitor on display at Lantz Wheeler’s Pitch-a-Palooza 2016, I knew it was going to change the way we develop pitchers. Pitchers and coaches were going to have access to data they never had before. That data would lead to new insights on how to improve a pitcher’s development in a somewhat affordable solution. Anybody paying any attention to this space has heard about the amazing work Trevor Bauer has done while at Driveline to develop his pitches and their movement with Rapsodo with some equipment.
As a parent of a young, aspiring pitcher I am equally excited to see how having these types of technology and tools around will impact the quality of pitchers over the next decade.
The Rapsodo Pitching Monitor for Pitcher Development
Rapsodo costs $3000 compared to the more than $15,000 that previous solutions cost and the training package includes:
- RAPSODO TRACKING DEVICE
- TRIPOD WITH CARRY BAG
- PROTECTION SHIELD
- CHARGER AND USB CABLE
- FREE APP
You need to have an iPad or PC to run the app though. While they have a free app, it is limited to 1 player for 50 pitches. Because of that you will likely invest in a Team or Pro subscription for at least $500 a year.
Rapsodo uses a single monitor (that uses a combination of radar and camera technology) on a tripod that can measure velocity, total spin rate, true spin, spin efficiency, tilt axis and horizontal and vertical break.
At True Grind we have used it with many of our pitchers from youth to professional athletes during this past off season:
Yesterday at True Grind Systems Matthew Ponewash threw a bullpen. Here is an overlay of an up and in fastball and a down and away curveball. Using a Rapsodo device we are able to see Matthew has and above average spin rate on both his fastball (2,100 rpm) and his curveball (2,500 rpm). Knowing this, he can use fastball up and in to set up his curveball to get hitters off balance! @truegrindsystems @rapsodo_sports #pitching #truegrind #rapsodo #pitchtunneling
You can use the Rapsodo Pitching Monitor for baseball or softball.
Rapsodo really is best for pitch design because of many of the unique metrics it offers. When you understand spin axis, spin rate, spin efficiency and pitch break it allows you to experiment with pitch grips and angles to create and develop new pitches.
While visiting several of the backfields at Spring Training in Arizona it was common place to see two or three Rapsodo pitching monitors setup but not always active while they were working with pitchers. I also saw Rapsodo Hitting Monitors on several of the backfields to measure hitting performance.
The Next Evolution: Smart Baseballs
Last year, a company called Jingle launched a KickStarter to develop a smart baseball called Strike. It would give you velocity, spin rate a several other metrics inside a standard feeling baseball. I know a lot of coaches hear about these new baseballs and remember those old radar baseballs with the little screen on them that would show the velocity. This new generation is nothing like those old balls thankfully. The Strike baseball after several drawbacks finally shipped at the end of this February.
The Strike baseball costs $99. The well packaged smart baseball includes:
- Strike Smart Baseball
- USB Charger Cable that also plugs into the wall
- Wireless Charger Pad
- Strike Protective Bag
You will need the free IOS app.
The Strike Baseball and app can measure velocity, spin rate, true spin, 3D trajectory, tilt or rotation axis and pitch location. The ball was developed to have the same weight and feel of an ordinary baseball.
We tested the Strike baseball alongside the Rapsodo and while the speed and spin rate were close enough, the spin axis did not seem accurate. It may be because when you flip the ball up and spin it you can detect a small wobble. There are no other additional costs.
How to use: Start by setting up your profile with details such as height, throwing arm, arm slot, etc. Then the app lets you decide if the distance of the mound is 46′, 50′ or 60.6′ away and if you are using a pitcher’s mound or not. Once you do that you bump the ball in your glove and it is ready for throwing. You select the pitch you are going to throw and then it displays its results. When you are done you can review any of your past sessions or pitches.
Diamond Kinetics PitchTracker
Diamond Kinetics who is well known for their SwingTracker sensor and app, Axon sports pitch recognition app, started shipping their PitchTracker smart baseball this past week. This ball feels incredible and does not have the wobble seen in the Strike baseball. Other than the green stitching you would know it is not a regular baseball.
The Diamond Kinetics PitchTracker baseball costs $99 or $179 for two of them. The package includes:
- Diamond Kinetics PitchTracker Smart Baseball
- USB Charger Cable
- Wireless Charger Pad
You will need the free IOS app to get started. The DK ‘Smart’ baseball and PitchTracker enable you to measure velocity, spin rate, time to plate, extension, delivery time, reach back to delivery, manual pitch charting for up to 5 types of pitches and the ability to record video to sync with the data.
You will need a $9.99 a month or $89.99 a year subscription to access trend charts, groups & leaderboards, full pitch history and profile to profile connection (coach to multiple players for example).
The velocity and spin rate were consistent with Rapsodo but it is the other metrics with the portability and affordability of the smart baseball that make the Diamond Kinetics PitchTracker invaluable and a great compliment to your pitcher’s development. One of my favorite features is that the PitchTracker app will also use voice to tell you your velocity every time. If you want kids to throw hard they need to know how each throw performed. This feature will certainly help.
For example, when looking at extension we can see if our pitcher is using enough of ground forces and completing their hip rotation and follow through. When my son tested the ball we saw pitches where his extension was 8 feet and others where it was just over 4 feet. We have some work to do on that consistency. We’ll also use metrics like delivery time to focus on their movement efficiency and timing to keep runners from stealing on them. DK recommends 1.3 seconds while there are some professional pitchers who are at that 1.8 or 1.9 time. There is a lot more we will be able to do with these metrics to develop our pitchers as we get more of our own and data from DK’s leaderboards. Diamond Kinetics is working on releasing spin axis in a future release but I also suspect that they will have the ability to use your phone’s camera alongside the ball to allow you to long toss into a net. The app and ball can figure out velocity and launch angle to determine distance.
I would also guess, knowing Diamond Kinetics history, that they will likely release a softball version as well.
This is why I believe that it is not a decision of using the Rapsodo or the Diamond Kinetics PitchTracker but how you will use them to compliment your athletic development efforts and at a $99 price point it will put it in more coaches hands. What I am most excited by is seeing how people start using the ball in bullpens and on field. We’ll continue to use the Rapsodo and Diamond Kinetics PitchTracker at True Grind Systems and share with you what we learn about its use.