Daily Archives: August 15, 2010

Technology doesn’t replace the human factor

Technology is a wonderful thing for tryouts. It certainly helps to be able to put numbers against certain things in performance, because it reduces the guesswork — especially when you’re trying to remember back after the fact.

Yet over-reliance on technology can work against you, too. As with many things in life, you have temper that technology with some common sense.

I saw this today when I was working at our program’s tryouts. When it became time to view the pitchers, out came the technology. In addition to my Jugs radar gun, another coach brought out the Rev-Fire, a device that measures ball spin in revolutions per second. The higher the number, the faster the spin and presumably the more the ball will move.

So there we were, standing behind (and a bit to the side) of the catcher as the pitchers were doing their thing. The coach with the Rev-Fire was dutifully calling out the numbers. It seemed like no one but me was really watching the pitches critically. At one point, a pitcher threw a screwball and the guy with the Rev-Fire whistled and said, “Wow, 21.3” or something in that range. I looked at him and said, “Doesn’t matter. The ball was spinning in the wrong direction.” Instead of a screwball spin, it was more of a curveball spin.

And that’s the issue. If all you do is run the technology and take down the numbers, you might think the pitch was impressive. Yet not only did it not move a bit, it wasn’t even spinning properly. It wasn’t physically possible for the ball to act like a screwball.

The Rev-Fire is probably a good device. But it doesn’t replace a coach using his/her eyes. No matter how fast the device says the ball is spinning, it doesn’t matter unless the pitch does what it’s supposed to do. Because the hitter could care less how fast the ball is spinning, or in what direction, if it comes in flat. She’s going to hit it a long way.

The same works in reverse, too. No matter how fast the bat measures on a device, if it doesn’t contact the ball it’ll just be a more impressive strikeout.

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