Advanced analytics and progressive technology power Iowa baseball’s player development

The Hawkeye Baseball program has been at the forefront of introducing new technology to aid player development and consistency.

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Jerod Ringwald

Iowa second baseman Michael Sergers Faust nudges head coach Rick Heller during an Iowa-Minnesota baseball game at Duane Banks Field on Sunday, April 11, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 18-0.

Advanced Analytics has been at the forefront of college and major league baseball teams for over a decade.

The University of Iowa baseball program hasn’t hesitated to move with the times.

Even before the Statcast era began in 2015, MLB front offices and Division I programs began investing thousands of dollars in the latest baseball technology to improve player development and performance.

“We were pretty quick on the draw,” said baseball head coach Rick Heller. “I have the feeling that we were way ahead of most of them. We were able to use the Trackman pretty quickly and used a lot of pitching stuff that was out there. “

Heller took over the helm of the Hawkeye baseball program in 2013 – his fourth job as head coach. He began his leadership career in 1987 at Upper Iowa University.

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Since arriving in Iowa City, Heller has promoted the Hawkeyes to two NCAA Regionals in 2015 and 2017, won the first Big Ten Tournament title in program history in 2017, and averaged 30 wins per season.

The eight-year-old Hawkeye head coach said almost all of the advanced technology his program uses today wasn’t in place when he became a manager.

“We have always been the staff and the program trying to be ahead of the times,” said Heller. “I think the most important thing is that as soon as we have it, we [the technology], we use it. We don’t leave it standing in the closet and gathering dust, as is the case in many places. “

The Hawkeyes have used a variety of technology tools since Heller’s arrival.

“Rapsodo, HitTrax, Blast motion sensors, Trackman, Yakkertech, Motus, Edgertronic cameras, Senaptec Vision Station and then a lot of machine learning for all the data we collect,” said pitching coach Robin Lund.

Trackman and Rapsodo use different radar technologies to track metrics like Spin rate, Spin axis, release speed and release height on the pitching side – for hitters it tracks the exit speed, the starting angle and the starting direction.

According to the Rapsodo website, a unit costs $ 4,000 with a monthly subscription of $ 185. A Trackman wearable device comes priced at $ 18,995.

HitTrax measures metrics such as point of impact, hit distance and game result in real time. In the batting cage, players can see how far the ball has been hit and project whether that swing leads to a hit. A HitTrax home device costs just under $ 10,000.

Blast motion sensors are attached to the pommel of a baseball bat using sensor-based swing analysis and edited video. The mobile app provides the hitter with the launch angle, attack angle and other statistics as well as a graphic and a score for each metric.

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A unit is priced at $ 150 and has an annual subscription of $ 100 for expanded insights into the swing of each hit.

Each tool is used in all facets of the baseball program, including player development, scouting, and recruiting.

“I don’t think recruiting will ever be the absolute, but I do [the advanced analytics data] That’s good to know, ”said Heller. “We also want to be the best at developing the players once they are here.”

Heller said fundraising helped the program acquire the new technology and he is grateful for the donors who made it possible for the Hawkeyes to purchase the tools.

“I would say we probably use more technology than most of the others” [schools]but I would also argue that with the technology we have, we’re doing more than most people, ”Lund said.