The Smart Coach’s immediate feedback is a favorite of Jackson Zarubin, a former Angels farmhand released by the club last season despite strong numbers in the low-minors. Zarubin prevented runs and induced ground balls in Low-A in 2017, but he admits that his stuff wasn’t eye-catching enough to stick around. “I was 90-93 (MPH), and the Angels wanted guys hitting 95-plus,” he said, unintentionally echoing his former boss, Eppler. In an effort to save his career, Zarubin turned to Driveline Baseball, a Washington facility for professionals and amateurs noted for its weighted ball training designed to increase pitchers’ velocities. Zarubin only logged five weeks at the facility in-person but, with the aid of the Smart Coach, he’s been able to continue training remotely.
Zarubin sets up his radar gun and iPhone on a pair of tripods in front of him on the mound as he throws, so he can monitor his mechanics and velocity readings in real-time. He’s been working on shortening his arm stroke, believing that inconsistency in the length of his arm action has impeded his velocity. The Smart Coach’s technological capabilities are equally valuable for Zarubin’s training as they are for Corral’s recruiting. Not only can Zarubin monitor his velocity as he throws, he can upload the auto-clipped videos to Driveline’s database, where his personal trainer, Sam, can evaluate his mechanics and velocity simultaneously. Zarubin and Sam then bounce ideas off one another for future training sessions in advance of Driveline’s January pro day, where the pitcher will throw in front of professional scouts with an opportunity to revive his affiliated ball career.
While velocity has long been a commonplace metric for pitchers, it has increasingly become a part of the offensive evaluation in recent years. Exit velocity- how hard the ball comes off a hitter’s bat- is a statistical proxy for a player’s raw power, having become a feature in the baseball lexicon after the 2015 advent of Statcast. Again, as teams have incorporated the metric into their player evaluation models, players began to train to improve it. Perry Husband has been at the forefront of that training. An independent instructor with ties to myriad MLB teams, including the two most recent World Series champions, Husband has worked with players for the better part of two decades. He opined that the Smart Coach was among the most impactful of tools he’s encountered in that time.
“It’s incredible. You set it up with your (iPhone) or iPad, put it on a tripod and you can watch the side view, or any view actually, to see what the hitter’s doing,” Husband said. “It registers pitch speed and hit speed, so if you’re doing simulated at-bats, I can simulate what game reactions would look like based on knowing the pitch speed on every pitch…. It’s a really, really impressive tool.”
Figure 4 Pocket Radar app showcasing exit velocity speed in video
Husband has used the Smart Coach in both baseball and softball, incorporating it into his work with the Peruvian national baseball team as well as the Oregon and UCLA softball teams. Despite that work with organizations, Husband thinks the gun’s value is most apparent in independent training. Unlike Zarubin, though, Husband sees it primarily as a tool for hitters. “I can imagine being next to the cages during batting practice and having the radar set up so it’s picking up every ball hit. You can get feedback on every (swing). The pitch speed coming in is really important because it tells the hitter the reaction time of each pitch. Most guys aren’t going to go that deep into (the data), but when I’m simulating an at-bat, I need to see what reaction times guys have.”
This isn’t just a niche product for struggling minor-leaguers. Carlos Peña, who hit 286 home runs in his MLB career, has been in contact with Husband about establishing a Smart Coach-based training regimen for his son in high school. Again, the product’s accuracy and video capabilities drive the program. “The video I get is consistent from one day to the next, so when we’re doing remote training…. we know we can trust the speeds that we’re getting,” Husband said.
If you have any questions or would like to share your Pocket Radar stories, please give is a call toll-free at 888-381-2672 from 9 AM to 5 PM Pacific Time, or e-mail us at Info@PocketRadar.com
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