By STEVE KRAH
Baseball in 2021 is full of metrics — numbers attached to performance and development.
The Northridge High School program uses data collected by their portable Rapsodo unit to improve hitting.
A system that includes a machine that weighs about 14 pounds costs upwards of $4,000 and comes with a $500 a year subscription.
“It’s an investment,” says Northridge head coach Andrew Brabender. “But it helps utilize the kids’ potential.”
During indoor workouts and continuing into outdoor practices, metrics on such things as exit velocity (“the speed of the baseball as it comes off the bat after contact”), launch angle (“the vertical angle at which the baseball leaves the bat after contact”), spin rate (“the rate at which the ball spins during flight after contact, measured in rotations per minute or RPM”) and spin direction the tilt or angle of the baseball from the contact point, measured in degrees, created by the Magnus effect. The Magnus Effect is created by the air pressure surrounding the spinning baseball on its path from the bat”) is being collected, displayed on a laptop and stored in a cloud, which players and coaches can access.
Brabender says he wants his hitters to bring the metrics together, experience an “aha” moment and put it into action.
“We’re trying to stay as current as possible,” says Brabender. “But Launch Angle is the metric and not the swing.”
The coach emphasizes that is data that is giving hitters feedback and helping them learn how to swing to create the backspin that gets to ball to elevate — and hopefully — carry.
“It’s not something you teach, it’s something you measure,” says Brabender. “We’re trying to hit line drives over the infielders’ heads.”
It’s what Brabender calls “result-oriented” training.
“The guys put their body in the right position — for example — to hit it over the L-screen or into targets,” says Brabender.
To promote competition, weekly leaderboards have been posted.
“We make it really competitive in the winter,” says Brabender.
The Middlebury, Ind.-based Raiders can earn T-shirts for various clubs — 85 mph, 90 mph, 95 mph etc. This means the player has reached that level in exit velocity off their bat and with running “pulldowns” while throwing.
Senior Carter Gilbert, University of Kentucky commit, and junior Clint Walker have reached the 100 mph plateau this year.
“College coaches want to see (metrics),” says Brabender. “It’s more than (traditional baseball) stats.
“It’s taken over the game and how you instruct. But you still have to throw and catch the baseball. That’s where is starts and ends.”
After missing the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northridge was to start the 2021 season today (March 30) at West Noble then debut the new turf of D-Bat Elkhart Field Wednesday (March 31) against Penn.