If you recently attended a baseball game at Wild Things Park, you may have noticed the four small silver tubular objects pinned to the home team’s shelter along the first base line.
Are these surveillance cameras? Do they have anything to do with the Frontier League live video streaming package launched this season? Are those radar guns?
They are high-speed cameras that are part of the Yakkertech system that was installed at the ballpark this spring. Yakkertech is an imaging system that uses multiple cameras to instantly measure data from a pitch and a hit ball.
“They have cameras that are aimed at all reference points from the pitcher mound to home plate. You track the speeds and rotations at those points and it instantly collects all the data and combines them all and visualizes them, ”explained Tony Buccilli, General Manager of Wild Things.
Yakkertech – Yakker is an antiquated term for a groundbreaking curveball – is an Arizona-based company that specializes in collecting high-speed data about the movement of a baseball and many other things about the sport.
“It does exactly the same things you would see in a major league park. It takes in the same things, ”said Buccilli. “It tells us how much depth there is on a playing field, how much it rotates, horizontal movement, vertical movement. It has everything you would expect from a traditional major league ballpark and more.
“Yakkertech is more of a startup, but their technology has received rave reviews.”
While the Major League Baseball Statcast has been using the Statcast since 2015 to provide similar data on their games, Yakkertech is carving out a niche for itself at the college and independent league levels.
“Yakkertech property has turned to Frontier League management. They traveled to Florida for the League Directors’ meeting and gave a presentation, ”said Buccilli. “The owners at this point voted to move forward as a collective group. They offered teams in the Frontier League two options to get Yakkertech. One of them was free and another came with a cost for equipment. The difference was based on who the player data would belong to. Every team but one chose the free option because it was just a completely unfamiliar one. Would we need this information? “
The equipment at Wild Things Park was installed days before Washington’s home opened. Steve Tahsler, deputy commissioner for the Frontier League, said Yakkertech systems have been installed in addition to Washington and are operating in ball parks in Florence, Windy City, Sussex County and New Jersey.
The system instantly provides data on every pitch thrown during a game, from speed and spin rate to breaks and movement. It also measures the exit speed, trajectory and distance of a struck ball. For example, during the last home stand of Wild Things, Washington’s Grant Heyman hit a massive home run over the video board beyond the right field wall in a game against New York. The Yakkertech system reported an estimated distance of 437 feet for Heyman’s explosion.
Yakkertech can also provide information about other facets of the game, such as player movements. It can even keep track of whether or not a pitch is in the strike zone and give a percentage of correct end-of-game ball / strike calls made by a home plate referee.
The only drawback is that the Yakkertech information cannot yet be transferred to the video board in Wild Things Park, which is why the pitch speed is no longer displayed during games.
While the plethora of Yakkertech information is new to Frontier League teams, it has been helpful to the Major League scouts.
“The biggest beneficiaries of this data are MLB teams,” said Buccilli. “It is interesting now that this data is here. I have (MLB) teams asking for certain things, mostly spin rates. They ask, ‘What is his spin rate on a fastball? What is his spin rate on a breaking ball? ‘ You want to see stats not only be a great measure of talent, they also want to make sure spin rates are in line with the priorities of the MLB teams.
“I even had an MLB scout in the stands asking about a pitcher’s spin rate. He was a guy in the Frontier League who had very good stats, but after getting the information the scout said he could see why his breakball is a little flat. He thought that maybe the pitcher’s things wouldn’t play well on the next level. Another team signed him. Every team is looking for certain things. “
The information that Yakkertech takes from each game is fed into a database and stored by one of its partners, BaseballCloud. Buccilli said the amount of data on the Frontier League is minimal at the moment.
“We can take in all the information and get answers. What does a guy throw at? What does he throw at certain points? In which zones does he work? You can really break it down, but I don’t think we have a large enough sample size to make all these kinds of judgments, ”he said.
“The game is more like math than people. Check out how much hype there is about the exit speed. That’s all people are talking about these days. … pitch speed, spin rate, exit speed, estimated distance, top speed, hand speed, home plate speed. All of this data has its place, but I’m not trying to get bogged down with these numbers. You can find a number to prove or disprove almost anything. “