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Sage Creek pitchers using new technology to improve

CARLSBAD — Data and analytics have reshaped the sports landscape, from improving player performance to becoming a billion-dollar-plus industry.

And the more information, the better for players as athletes from high school to professionals are constantly looking to find ways to improve.

So, the coaches at Sage Creek High School came on board with Diamond Kinetics, a Pittsburgh-based baseball and softball data company, this season.

Bobcats assistant coach Guy Sabala said the team uses the company’s Pitchtracker to mine data from bullpen sessions to evaluate their players.

“We’re not really concerned with the velocity,” he said. “We’re more concerned with their extension, how fast they get to the plate and spin rate. We’re trying to figure out the physics behind that and what works.”

The technology is a chip inside the ball, which captures seven data points, said Kyle Bennett, business development manager of the West Coast for Diamond Kinetics. Those include velocity, spin rate, spin direction, extension on the delivery, delivery time, delivery time to the plate and arm speed.

The company also offers a hitting tool, but Sage Creek has not incorporated it. However, Diamond Kinetics works with more than half of the Major League Baseball teams, more than 100 colleges and dozens of prep travel ball teams.

“You use those data sets to evaluate a pitcher while he or she is throwing their bullpen session,” Bennett said. “We’re able to make suggestions or recommendations to their pitch types, aiding in pitch design to maybe maximize their spin rate, or bite, on a pitch.”

For the coach, though, he said it gives an object, evidence-based reference point to the players.

It also helps with any disputes between the observations of players and coaches as Diamond Kinetics also incorporates a video component, although currently it is only compatible with iOS (Apple) devices. Users can also download the app for mobile usage.

The benefits, Sabala said, allow for his stable of pitchers to maximize their arsenal of pitches, where to locate them and how to prepare for a specific hitter.

The data also allows for better development, especially with breaking pitches such as curveballs and sliders.

Sage Creek’s best pitcher, Steven Klenske, a San Diego State University commit, said the new technology is ramping up his game, especially with approaching his curveball and spin rate.

The 6-foot-5 senior said the video component is very helpful for reviewing his arm angles and pitch location.

“Spin rate tells a lot,” Klenske said. “And your mechanics and how you release the ball. The times I’ve used it, when I’m trying to throw a curveball or changeup, I need to look at the rotations of the ball.”

One challenge for the program, Sabala said, has been the rain over the past two months. A soaked field has not allowed the Bobcats to use the technology as much as they would like, but now the warmer weather has come, Sabala said it is easier to use.

Currently, the Bobcats are 12-2 (before their April 2 game) and will once again be a threat in the Division II playoffs.

“We’ve used it sporadically since September,” he said. “It’s been huge. We got the video to go along with each pitch so we can go back and break it down. There are instant fixes without me trying to mimic them.”

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