Clark column: With high-tech software, FSU embraces science of baseball


It’s hard to explain just how much information it provides.

You’d have to see the spread sheets. All the rows. All the columns. All the numbers that seem like you would need a degree in advanced mathematics to fully understand.

Mike Bell doesn’t have one of those, but the Florida State pitching coach still knows what he’s looking for.

He is familiar enough with the TrackMan software — which originally was a Doppler radar system developed for military purposes before being used for both golf and baseball — to know what most of the numbers mean.

Though he admits that wasn’t necessarily the case when it was first installed four years ago.

“I had no idea,” Bell said. “I had to learn some of that stuff. And I’m still learning. That’s the biggest thing. … You didn’t have a way to calculate any of this until this product started coming out. You were more worried about miles per hour.

“Now you can get more into the science.”

In 2015, Florida State was one of the pilot programs to use the software.

If you’ve ever been to Dick Howser Stadium, you might have seen a large, black, TV-shaped device outside of the press box. It’s the radar that provides the information TrackMan compiles.

And here’s how it works.

On every pitch of every game, the Doppler radar tracks the velocity of the pitch and where it crosses the plate … as well as about a thousand other things.

It tracks the speed of the pitch when it leaves the pitcher’s hand and when it crosses the plate. It tracks the launch angle of the ball off the bat. It tracks the extension of the pitcher’s arm when the ball is released — was he 58 feet from home plate or 55 feet?

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It tracks how far the ball travels (so far, Jackson Lueck has the longest hit of the season for the Seminoles — a 449-foot home run) after contact.

It tracks how far a pitched ball moves both vertically and horizontally — from the time it’s released until it crosses the plate.

Every single pitch. Of every single home game.

That data is collected by the TrackMan software and recorded by FSU team managers sitting behind home plate. It’s also collected and sent out to the participating schools in a bi-weekly report.

There are so many numbers it can make you dizzy.



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