U-M startup Diamond Kinetics releases PitchTracker for baseball pitching data
Diamond Kinetics has expanded beyond its roots as a bat sensor company with a new smart baseball and PitchTracker app to collect data on an athlete’s pitching mechanics.
A small sensor is embedded into the core of each baseball and generates six metrics on every throw: velocity, spin rate, extension and three timing data points, including time-to-the-plate, delivery and reach back until release point. There is also a pitch-charting program within the app, to replace the pen-and-paper methods most teams still use, and the ability to overlay the data over video for a more thorough analysis.
“I think, the more you have the ball in your hands, the more valuable the ball is going to be with the information you get from it,” former big league pitcher Matt Clement, who recently joined Diamond Kinetics’ advisory board, said, adding: “I think we’re just scratching the surface of the potential.”
Clement pitched nine years with the Padres, Marlins, Cubs and Red Sox, logging more than 1,400 innings and an All-Star selection. He is the father of three baseball-playing sons and a mentor to a number of aspiring professional pitchers near his Western Pennsylvania home.
Clement raved about the ball’s ease of use, as well as its possible applications. Among them: building preseason throwing programs, guiding rehab protocols, improving mechanics and getting exposure from college recruiters and pro scouts. That the ball and its companion Bluetooth app track throw counts and velocity can aid throwing and rehab programs by helping pitchers understand the quantity and effort of their throws (such as “take 20 throws at 80 percent effort”).
Receiving data such as velocity, spin rate and timing splits during a pitcher’s delivery gives athletes instant feedback on adjustments. Amateurs hoping to get evaluated at the next level now have a variety of new metrics that can get the attention of a scout, who might see a curveball’s high spin rate or see that a pitcher has great extension on his delivery, enhancing the perceived velocity of a fastball. Such information may entice a scout to follow-up for an in-person evaluation.
“That opens eyes and can really enhance the recruiting game,” Clement said. “When you talk about this stuff, you always talk about velocity and throwing hard and 95, 96 — whatever the case may be — but this can be just as effective with one of your secondary pitches or the difference between your fastball and your changeup.”
Diamond Kinetics chief commercial officer Jeff Schuldt said later rollouts of the PitchTracker will include more metrics and features such as in-app calculation of perceived velocity, pop times for catchers, a long toss program and a fast-pitch softball version of the smart ball.
The current ball is designed for bullpens, training and showcases rather than game use. Though testing was done to ensure durability, repeated contact with a bat would likely damage the inductive charging coil or the interior sensor. As part of Diamond Kinetics’ pre-release trials for the product, they gave the ball to a number of pro and college pitchers, who all affirmed that the smart ball looked, felt and moved like a real ball.
“There were some interesting challenges,” Schuldt said, “not the least of which was, how do you make a real, regulation whole-grain leather baseball that looks and feels just like any other leather baseball but is smart and contains electronics?”