Using a system of radars and cameras to deliver performance data, Rapsodo has opened up new possibilities for both pitchers and batters. The sports analytics technology moved from golf into baseball, first as a way for pitchers to improve arm angles and pitch movement, but more recently as a chance for batters to gain info on exit velocity, launch angle, backspin, trajectory and distance, whether inside or outside or hitting off a tee or from the pitcher's hand.
Rapsodo partnered with Mizuno in North America to place the hitting system alongside Mizuno's proprietary bat-fitting system, Bat Interactive Optimization System (BIOS). This fall, select Mizuno field sales team members across the United States and Canada were outfitted with Rapsodo units for use at events and tournaments to fit athletes with the Mizuno bat that maximizes their performance.
“Rapsodo has been setting the standards for ball flight analysis across sports categories,” says Chad Robertson, associate brand manager of bats and batting gloves for Mizuno USA. “The new unit is the perfect complement to our bat-fitting system, BIOS, to bring the visual impact of performance to reality in a demo format.”
He says that with Mizuno signifying a relatively new company in the bat world, the company wanted a tool to validate the product line to consumers. As Mizuno works on the challenge of converting customers away from their previous brand, Robertson says having a Rapsodo system allows them the ability to prove to the consumer that the Mizuno bat performs as good or better than what they are currently using.
"We plan to use Rapsodo to validate our bats through science," he says. "This is the first opportunity to put bats in players' hands and have science prove they perform better."
Rapsodo and Mizuno have worked together on the hitting application to ensure the data remains important for the consumer. In a typical use, Mizuno will have a player take about 10 swings with their current bat and 10 swings with a Mizuno model, showing a running average of exit speed, the velocity coming off the bat. Robertson says they plan to give the consumer two data points, an average and a maximum exit speed for each bat to compare side by side. Mizuno also plans to show how their Maxcor model creates a higher backspin rate than other bats.
"With this tool, we can prove and show them scientifically," Robertson says.
The BIOS system will also help players select the right weight and length of bat and the Rapsodo system can help validate those decisions, taking the perception aspect out of the equation and allowing users to base decisions on science.
Seth Daniels, Rapsodo sales manager, says the Mizuno partnership gives credibility to the hitting monitor system and offers players across the country exposure to data. A differentiator for Rapsodo, he says, is the combination of a high level of accuracy in the data at an affordable rate. "This enables us to introduce this technology and tool across all levels of baseball," he says.
And while the Rapsodo-Mizuno partnership represents the newest movement in Rapsodo, that doesn't mark the start of Rapsodo's baseball experience. Having started in the golf industry as a way to use computer vision and machine learning so PGA Tour golfers can optimize launch conditions, Rapsodo first moved into baseball as a pitching tool.
With the cooperation of Driveline Baseball, the first data-driven baseball training facility in the country, located near Seattle, Rapsodo made the transition from golf to baseball as a pitching monitor. Kyle Boddy, director of R&D and founder of Driveline, was on the forefront of Rapsodo product testing and verification. From there it moved into colleges.
“There is a little bit of a battle between the art and science of baseball and in my personal opinion you need to have a combination of both,” Vanderbilt pitching coach Scott Brown says on the benefits of Rapsodo. “If you want to continue to grow in the game you have to come over the science side a little bit.”
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.