Yakkertech Defines A Pitcher's Spin
A pitcher needs to understand the physics of his spin in order to improve. Greg Lumsden, Yakkertech chairman, says his camera system gives pitchers and coaches the most accurate way to understand pitches and their spin.
Launched in summer 2017 and only available in professional baseball and the NCAA's Division I to start, Lumsden uses a stereo vision imaging system to provide accurate data on the spin of a pitch, instantly showing the results on an iPad or laptop so coaches can make real-time adjustments.
“Coaches can make small changes with technology instead of eyesight and feel, so they know what the ball actually did,” Lumsden said.
Also, having the data right there may make it easier for a pitcher to believe in the change.
“If you have a weak slider, a grip change is a highly likely outcome, but it is going to feel funky,” Lumsden said. “If the pitcher sees the slider with a new grip was served better than a normal grip, even though it feels weird, you are more likely to stick with it because you see actual results are better.”
Using a pair of cameras instead of radar allows Yakkertech to create a spin efficiency calculation that takes the basic spin rate of a ball and eliminates gyro spin—where the ball spins straight on its access. Lumsden says that a good fastball might move at 2,400 revolutions per minute, but that doesn’t mean it is an effective spinning ball. If it has a lot of gyro spin, it may only have 1,200 rpm of effective spin.
“We basically give the pitching coach the spin efficiency rate right on the tablet so they don’t have to do math,” he said.
Lumsden says the technology was birthed in golf and after spending time learning how it worked he knew that baseball, particularly pitching, was the ideal next-step application for it.
“If you were to look at what teams have to spend on pitching and then what they have to invest in the development of pitching, no other sport has that type of investment,” he said. “Every MLB team has between 80 and 100 pitchers.”
While the technology also works with the ball coming off the bat or in softball, soccer and tennis, Lumsden says that starting with pitching made the most sense from an economic and need standpoint.
Along with the surface-level spin data that any pitcher or coach can understand, Lumsden says the system also tracks much deeper-level physics data that MLB teams can mine for more information about a pitcher’s grip or pitch repertoire after the fact.
Yakkertech started in professional baseball, having success helping pitchers recover during rehab and helping young pitchers develop quicker.
“A couple of pitching coaches told me these pitchers come out of high school and think they are unbelievable, but they have only one good pitch and need to improve other pitches,” Lumsden said. “It is really good for the younger ones. They will be using it all season long.”
For high-level pitchers, Lumsden expects the tool will serve more as an off-season training tool. Lumsden hopes the usage will continue to increase, bringing the technology to more colleges (Old Dominion University uses it now), as well as expand into high school, travel teams and academies. Two of the country’s largest academies are set to start trials of the system. Yakkertech, which performs indoors or outdoors, can work as a portable system set up in 10 minutes or get installed permanently.
“Why not use a product,” Lumsden said, “so a coach can see within three seconds what each pitch is doing?"
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.