Open for business since early June, the Mets' 360-degree pitching lab in Port St. Lucie, Fla., is among owner Steve Cohen's latest forays into improving the organizational infrastructure.
The lab is staffed by pitching development personnel, biomechanics experts and analysts with backgrounds in various disciplines.
One estimate put the number of teams using such labs around 10, so the Mets are hardly pioneers in this regard. But Cohen’s wealth — he's MLB's richest owner — could give the Mets an advantage in the amount of resources devoted to the lab.
The Wake Forest Pitching Lab is the biomechanics evaluation destination for pitchers at every level of the game. Our state-of-the-art facility, cutting edge technology and expert staff enable us to perform a comprehensive evaluation and analysis of a pitcher's mechanics and develop customized training programs aimed at reducing the risk of injury and enhancing performance.Our vision is to transform the future of baseball by combining baseball, science and medicine to revolutionize the way pitching mechanics are analyzed and taught.
"The thing that's been coming is the science of, 'How do (the players) do it?'" Dr. Glenn Fleisig, the director of the American Sports Medicine Institute, said a few months ago in a phone conversation.Fleisig was referencing the search for inputs: What does a player do that leads to the pitch that registers 100 mph?We are now starting to know. New motion capture technologies are allowing teams to utilize biomechanical analyses for health, velocity and deception purposes."Teams have woken up to this," Fleisig said. "The field of baseball has woken up to this. It's the next competitive advantage. That's what's happening."
While some of the earliest technology that Sarris and Lewis wrote about allowed some measurements of inputs in a controlled lab setting, the newest stuff will enable measurements to be taken while the pitchers are throwing actual pitches off of a mound. The obvious advantage in usefulness is apparent. If a pitcher is coached to make a change in his delivery, the results of that change can be immediately tracked.
While all of this practical data is wonderful, it will still depend on having coaches that can translate this information into something the players can easily digest and make use of in improving their game. The use of data has become somewhat controversial among the Mets' faithful this season. Data is neither inherently good nor bad. But it's only helpful when it is transmitted to a player in a manner that helps the player perform better without overwhelming him with data, leading to the dreaded paralysis by analysis.
Ben Brewster, a former minor-leaguer who founded pitching development outfit Tread Athletics, was quoted in the piece by Sarris and Lewis on the challenges for a team like the Mets who now have the technology and must figure out how to best implement it:
What comes next seems straightforward. It's a matter of figuring out how to infuse all the different aspects of running a baseball team with the findings gleaned from limb-tracking technology.
"I think the next frontier in (player development) is not in applying more technology," agreed Brewster. "All of this tech has gotten here really quickly. Everyone has slow-motion videos, Rapsodo, Trackman. A lot of orgs now use biomechanical analysis. The next frontier is learning how to apply it, implement it in the most optimal way."
Being able to measure the physical changes in a player before and after drills selected by their coaches is one thing. It's another to then use those measurements to create benchmarks with which to judge the efficacy of the coaches and the organization in developing players. It's a third thing to actually then make organizational changes based on hitting those benchmarks. It's maybe a fourth thing to understand your organizational strengths through this lens and then acquire players who will benefit the most from your ability to help them move better.