Baseball technology has exploded in the past decade due to the edge players and coaches can gain from the data it produces. The most exciting event that has happened most recently is this technology has become a lot more affordable for the average consumer. It is exciting to note that a decade ago when it comes to analyzing the biomechanics of skill like pitching or hitting the average consumer was lucky if he had a slow-motion camera, today that same coach could spend the same amount of money on a 3D motion capture system when motion capture systems a decade ago average in the range of somewhere around $100,000 – $150,000. Today you can get a 3D Motion Capture system starting at as low as $400.
Another hot piece of technology in baseball today is a technology that captures ball movement data. It is exciting to note that a decade ago this technology did not exist in baseball and today it can be purchased for as low as $100 with the new blue tooth inertial sensors that are placed into the baseballs. This technology was first developed for golf with vector or camera-based systems and eventually was adopted by baseball which is how most of the baseball gets its technology. The technology that is used to track the ball data at the highest level of play which is installed in stadiums is around $30,000 – $50,000. Evidence suggests that radar and stereoscopic optical launch monitors produce a sufficient quality of data in the sport of golf (Leach, Forrester, Mears, & Roberts, 2017). I would believe that due to slow speeds and a bigger ball in baseball these systems or even more reliable when it comes to capturing ball movement.
There is more technology being used in baseball today than ever. You can find much of this technology in baseball academies all over the world now. For example, the sensors that track the bat movement data which some technology tracks as a part of a 3D Motion Capture system, there is also new radar technology to capture the velocity of the baseball which is also captured by the ball-tracking technology and finally all the technology to track game statistics and player development programming which has been around much longer than the new motion capture and ball tracking hardware and software.
The first piece of technology I purchased when I started coaching baseball was a high-speed camera for video analysis. Eventually, the cellular phones improved camera quality which allowed app developers to design video analysis apps that were far superior to the old slow-motion cameras. The first apps I used at the time was Ubersense which was acquired by Hudl and Coaches Eye. I used Ubersense so much that their app software developers would contact me for permission to access my phone to learn how their app works with a high capacity of recorded video analysis. I continue to use high-speed video today for analysis because it is still a great tool for coaches to help players learn biomechanics. Evidence suggests that there is high reliability with this video analysis technology but that the angels are not anatomically correct (Sakiko Oyama, Sosa, Campbell, & Correa, 2017).
Around five years ago I started experimenting with motion capture cameras and software. I first purchased gaming depth cameras with 3d software that would convert the depth camera data into 3D motion. This was a total failure for me because the calibration process was very sensitive and took a long time and the quality of the motion capture was very poor. At this time, I decided to use a 2D motion capture system called Xcitex. It allowed me to use high-speed footage to plot points of joint movement on a Cartesian grid. I could connect two planes to form the Z plane which would give me 3D Motion data but the process was very labor-intensive so I stuck to the 2D Motion capture for quicker analysis of my players. I was the first biomechanist in Major League Baseball to use this motion capture setup for scouting. About two years ago a company 4D Motion Sports came to me with blue tooth inertial sensors that would capture 3D Motion in only a few minutes into a mobile app. It was very accurate and the software they had created gave me a long list of modules for measuring biomechanics. I am still using their product today and their hardware is already on generation 3. This is the most affordable 3D Motion Capture system for biomechanics analysis on the market. Evidence suggests that the use of inertial sensor systems for human motion analysis is reliable and accurate (Cuesta-Vargas, Galán-Mercant, & Williams, 2010). I highly recommend this technology to all coaches.
This is a great time for coaches to start purchasing technology in baseball. If a coach’s budget is up to $25,000 they can purchase some very advanced high-level equipment. If they have as little as $3,000 they are still in a good place. I will give my recommendations on what to purchase at both these price points. Starting with the $25,000 I would recommend purchasing an Optitrack camera-based motion capture system using the PrimeX 13 cameras. This will cost around $17,000. I would then purchase the Yakkertech optical ball tracker system for around $7000. This would keep the budget just around $25,000 with taxes. If the coach has a budget of $3,000 I would purchase the 4D Motion Sports 6 blue tooth inertial sensor system for around $2900. I would then purchase the Diamond Kinetic Pitch Track blue tooth inertial sensors ball tracker for $100. The data captured from both setups will be very similar with two very different price points.
Baseball Technology References
Cuesta-Vargas, A. I., Galán-Mercant, A., & Williams, J. M. (2010). The use of inertial sensors system for human motion analysis. Physical Therapy Reviews, 15(6), 462–473.
Leach, R. J., Forrester, S. E., Mears, A. C., & Roberts, J. R. (2017). How valid and accurate are measurements of golf impact parameters obtained using commercially available radar and stereoscopic optical launch monitors? Measurement, 112, 125–136. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.measurement.2017.08.009
Sakiko Oyama, Sosa, A., Campbell, R., & Correa, A. (2017). Reliability and Validity of Quantitative Video Analysis of Baseball Pitching Motion. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 33(1), 54.