I’ve said it in the past, and have said it more than once, but the Cincinnati Reds aren’t as anti-statistical analysis as they are spoken about by the national media. They still do some things that make me scratch my head (and sometimes it’s so head scratching that if it were a real head scratch it would draw blood), but the team isn’t simply ignoring statistical advancements in a day and age where things are quickly moving in that direction (and have been for a while now).
During the 2015 minor league season the Reds had the Trackman System installed in both Double-A Pensacola and in Triple-A Louisville. The Trackman System, for those who are unaware of what it is, is a radar based system that tracks the baseball during play. It’s used to measure velocity, spin rate, spin axis, release point, extension for pitches thrown and exit speed, launch angle, trajectory, distance and spin rate for balls that are hit. It can also measure throws from fielders in the same way it measures things from pitchers. These things can be key in both analysis of current skillsets, but also be helpful in the development of players in different ways.
A team could isolate a certain pitch thrown by a pitcher that tends to get good results versus the ones that get bad results (for example, his curveball) and compare the characteristics of the two breakdowns to find out the differences. Then they could head over to the video to compare the two things and look for reasons why one group had better spin (an example of why one set would be more successful) than the other, in mechanics, and use that to help the player become more consistent in throwing the good version of the pitch versus the bad version. Over time it could also track the progress of hitters in terms of how hard they are hitting the ball, with actual results. It could be used to identify specific pitches that a hitter struggles with, and give coaches something a little more specific to work on with that player. I’m sure that there are many more ways to utilize the data on the development of players, but these were just quick examples that jumped to my mind.
After the season I spoke with the Reds about their use of the Trackman system in Pensacola and Louisville, and while they obviously didn’t want to get into many specifics on how they use the information, I was told that the plan was to expand on it’s usage in the future beyond just the top two levels. It seems that the team is going to be investing the money this offseason to install the system in Billings, Dayton and Daytona for the 2016 season as the Reds have posted job openings for a Trackman operator for each of their affiliates (expect in Arizona).. It costs roughly $25-30,000 per installation for the equipment and then a nominal amount for someone to operate. For a big league team, that really is chump change, but it’s nice to see that the team is taking that next step to install the system in all of their ballparks for the upcoming season.