Technologies aid Flying Squirrels
Pitching monitor, swing analyzer provide more data
For many years, the scene in the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ clubhouse an hour before a game has been the same: players sitting in their lockers, focused on their phones.
That hasn’t changed. But this season, the phones may be helping improve batters’ swings and pitchers’ deliveries.
The San Francisco Giants’ minor leaguers are in their first year of using new technology supplied by the organization, the Blast Baseball Swing Analyzer and the Rapsodo Pitching Monitor.
The Rapsodo system involves a sensor held near pitchers as they go through afternoon bullpen sessions. For all varieties of pitches, velocity, spin rate, spin axis and horizontal and vertical break are measured. After each delivery, through phones or iPads, pitchers receive data that invites instant adjustments or experimentation.
Later, a pitcher can review the entire session by himself, or with a teammate or coach.
The Blast Baseball Swing Analyzer package includes sensors that attach to bat knobs. That sensor gauges bat speed, hand speed, bat angle, time to contact and other factors. The Squirrels’ hitters use the system during batting practice and in drills and immediately see results on their phones, or observe results later with a hitting coach.
“What I like to look at is how many times I’m squaring up a baseball,” said Squirrels outfielder Dylan Davis, referring to the desired contact that results from the barrel’s fattest section driving the ball. “It takes that into account, which is beneficial to me when I use it.”
Davis acknowledged that without any technological assistance, hitters appreciate when contact is solid, “but is it off by a quarter of an inch?” he said. “You get that, versus just how it’s feeling. You can break it down like that. It’s all good information.”
Davis and other Squirrels also utilize the swing analyzer when they’re hitting balls flipped to them during work in the indoor batting cage.
“If there’s one day when I feel like there’s something kind of off, I’ll take a look at the [readout] and see if it can help me pinpoint exactly what’s happening, whether it be I’m getting too steep, whether I’m getting too loopy, if I’m going around the ball, that kind of thing,” Davis said.
The Giants’ player development staff goes over data provided by the swing analyzer and the pitching monitor, with the goal of learning more about strengths and weaknesses of their farmhands.
“I think with the technology these days, that’s a great tool to get feedback on your bat angles and other stuff,” Francisco Morales, the Squirrels’ hitting coach, said of the swing analyzer. “Good data.”
A casing surrounds the sensor and attaches it to the bat knob, which causes a batter’s grip to “feel a little weird,” Davis said.
For this reason, the Squirrels generally do not keep FLYING SQUIRRELS 3, PORTLAND 0
Thursday: Portland at Richmond, 6:35 p.m.
Radio: 910, 6:05
Online: See more photos from the game at Richmond.com. sensors on their bats during games, though Davis thinks he has noticed that some hitters from other Eastern League teams had sensors attached to bats during games.
The knob sensors are kept in a suitcase-looking charging station in the Squirrels’ clubhouse.
Miguel Gomez and Jerry Sands, two Squirrels with big league experience, hit back-to-back homers in the first inning to power Richmond by Portland 3-0 before 3,827 at The Diamond on Wednesday night. The Gomez shot to right came with a runner aboard.
Four Squirrels pitchers combined to strike out 16, establishing the team’s season high. The franchise record is 18.
Notes: When the threegame series involving the Squirrels and Portland (Boston Red Sox) at The Diamond concludes Thursday evening at 6:35, righty Shaun Anderson will see many familiar faces.
Anderson, Richmond’s starter, came to the San Francisco system last July 26, when the Red Sox sent Anderson and another pitcher to the Giants in exchange for big league infielder Eduardo Nunez. Anderson was Boston’s third-round pick in 2016, out of the University of Florida. As a Squirrel, he is 5-2 with a 3.07 ERA.
This is the first series this season Richmond and Portland have met.
Former James Madison outfielder Johnny Bladel (last year as a Duke was 2013) was in Portland’s lineup for Wednesday’s game. Boston recently acquired Bladel, who’s from Ashburn, from an independent league.
Squirrels shortstop C.J. Hinojosa prepares to tag Portland’s Jhon Nunez in Richmond’s 3-0 victory.
Mike Connolly and three Squirrels pitchers combined to strike out 16 batters.