Adler: ‘Pitching Ninja’ gives fans insight into the game

From Lindsey Adler at The Athletic on July 20, 2018:

At​ his home​ in a suburb outside of Atlanta, Rob​ Friedman​ checked Twitter. In​ his notifications,​ people are quote-tweeting​ his​ GIFs​​ of the best pitches of the day with fire emojis, and in his direct messages are established major-league pitchers reaching out and asking for his help in finding a competitor’s changeup grip. He’s the rare outsider ushered inside by the most talented people in the game.

Friedman has a slew of his own pitching contraptions arranged in his unfinished basement. Some nets, a wedge mound, and a Rapsodo pitching monitor — a $3,000 portable sensor system similar to a Trackman sensor.

It’s here that Friedman helps his son train as a pitcher. It’s also here that his dogs, Roo and Darvy (as in Yu) chase down baseballs of varying weights and sizes for their personal pleasure. It’s here that Friedman hands me a standard-issue ball and invites me to try out the Rapsodo system, showing me the interface on his iPad that will instantly show him the spin rate, the spin axis, the ball trajectory — all of the components of effective pitching that have become increasingly well-known as a result of MLB’s proprietary Statcast system.

The first ball I throw isn’t skilled enough to even be registered by the system. Friedman goes to check on the set-up, wondering if he has it turned on and calibrated properly. It doesn’t register the second throw, or the third, but when Friedman gives it a shot and fires a strike, the machine lights up blue and within seconds shows us exactly how the ball traveled, and why.

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Originally published: July 20, 2018. Last Updated: July 20, 2018.