Lindbergh: PitchGrader, the app that’s making data easier for hurlers to digest

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on May 31, 2019:

At some point early next week—likely on Tuesday, when rounds 3-10 of the MLB amateur draft take place—a team will select Jordan Martinson, a left-handed starter out of Dallas Baptist University. Martinson, who’ll pitch on Saturday in the Lubbock Regional bracket of the NCAA tournament, has posted sterling stats this season, recording a 2.50 ERA and leading the Missouri Valley Conference with 108 strikeouts (which is tied for 30th in all of Division I). Yet his name likely won’t be called before the back half of the first 10 rounds because he isn’t a big-bodied flamethrower. A senior sign who’s listed at an even six feet, Martinson throws, he says, “87 to 91, depending on the day.” Asked to compare himself to an MLB pitcher, he aims fairly low: Brian Duensing. He’s the type of prospect who needs to make the most of his modest natural talent. And he’s enrolled at the right place to do so.

DBU, which has sent 17 players—most notably Ben Zobrist—to the big leagues, became the eighth school to install a TrackMan ball-tracking system in 2015, when a grateful graduate who’d earned a sizeable bonus in the draft made a donation that covered the cost. When Martinson got to college in 2016, he hadn’t dug deep into how his pitches worked. But at DBU, he began getting a TrackMan-powered report delivered to his locker after each game, which helped him understand his stuff, adjust his approach, and keep track of his progress. He also started throwing bullpen sessions under the electronic eye of a Rapsodo device that provided real-time feedback on his pitches’ spin and movement. At DBU, he says, “you kind of learn analytically who you are.” Martinson and his teammates use information to “get a benchmark of … ways you can utilize what you already have.”

The increasing availability of data on amateur players has changed the players teams target in the draft, drawing attention to talent that scouts might have missed from the stands.

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Originally published: May 31, 2019. Last Updated: May 31, 2019.