Rapsodo Data in "Arkansas" Terms
-Certified Strength Coach
-Certified Speed and Agility Coach
-Certified in Driveline Baseball Foundations of Pitching Certification
-Owner Elite Athletic Performance LLC
-20+ years of experience training athletes
For those of you that know me you know that I am not a “big word” type of person.
Granted, that can lead to times that I do sound a little too much like a toddler when I’m speaking, but for the most part, it actually comes in really handy because I can explain things in what I call “Arkansas terms” or basic, small word explanations. Plus, not to toot the horn too loudly on my Thomas the Train set, but I am basically a ninja when it comes to analogies so here we go!
THE ONE QUESTION I GET MOST WHEN IT COMES TO RAPSODO DATA IS “WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?”
First, we should probably talk about what the RAPSODO is. The RAPSODO is that little black machine that sits about 3/4 of the way away from the pitcher between him and home plate. It is recording practically everything you could possibly know or want to know about the travel of A baseball.
In this blog I’m going to do my very best to explain what it is collecting and what it means. Which I’m sure will end up in me giving more in-depth looks at each one, but this is as good of a starting place as any.
So first things first-
THAT one’s pretty simple. It’s how fast the ball is TRAVELING. Just like HOW a radar gun in a police car MEASURES the velocity of your vehicle when you get a speeding ticket doing 90 on the interstate. SAME thing here, except we applaud speeding with regard to throwing a baseball.
Next thing is probably the buzz phrase that you’ve heard the most-
On Rapsodo it is referred to as “Total Spin”.
What does it mean? It is RPMs, plain and simple. How many times did the ball rotate?
While this is similar to a vehicle, it’s technically not the EXACT same thing. This is Rotations Per Minute.
Technically, the RPMs, in a vehicle is revolutions per minute.
The RPMs Rapsodo is talking about is rotation per minute.
Revolution is an object spinning AROUND another object, rotation is the spinning movement of the object.
Earth, for example is ROTATING itself, while REVOLVING around the sun.
Luckily for us, because obviously we like for things to be as complicated as possible, both words start with an R.
Of course they do because who likes simple things, right? 🙄
But I digress.
Also, while I am complicating things, I guess it is worth mentioning, the ball obviously isn’t in the air for a minute, so who knows how many times the ball actually rotated between the pitchers hand and the catchers glove (or the backstop, depending on who threw it😁)
It is simply a hypothetical measurement. It’s how many times the ball would’ve rotated. Had it traveled for 60 seconds.
Next, let’s talk about
This is what we often refer to as “ride “.
Vertical break is the measurement of where the ball ended up as a result of the spin the pitcher put on the ball, as opposed to where it WOULD HAVE ended up had gravity been the only force impacting the flight of the ball.
A fastball with 20 inches of positive vertical break means that it ended up 20 inches higher than gravity would have had it go.
I imagine every pitch out of the pitchers hand being originally headed towards a hypothetical zero on a target, and then through the spin induced on the ball, it ends up elsewhere.
The above mentioned fastball with 20” of “ride” is heading towards the hypothetical zero out of the pitcher’s hand, but by the time it traveled 60’6” it had stayed 20 inches above that zero.
Make sure you understand, it did not rise to that point because it is still lower than the release point.
It just did not go downward as much as it’s original path intended due to it’s spin manipulating it’s line of travel.
These type of fastballs are the ones that you will hear younger hitters claim that a pitcher threw a ball that rose.
FWIW it is physically impossible for an overhand thrower to throw a ball that rises.
But it does give the appearance to the hitter that it rose because it did not SINK nearly as much as it would have if a “normal person” had thrown it.
The reason for hitters saying that has to do with what the hitter sees when in the box or actually, it would be more accurate to say what the hitter does not see. But that is a super thick conversation that would require an entirely different blog.
If you follow baseball closely, you have undoubtedly seen a pitcher throw a ball at some point that just looked different to you. The ball just did not seem to follow the same trajectory as other pitches. It did not go downward the same way, it seem to float but super fast. That was most likely a very high spin, 4 seam fastball.
Ok, moving on to
This is what we refer to as “run “.
Imagine if you were standing directly behind the pitchers hand when the ball is released, now imagine a perfectly vertical line traveling through the middle of the ball. Obviously that line would go straight down and hit the ground and be going straight up to infinity.
If the pitch travels to the left side of that vertical line, it is considered negative horizontal break. If the pitch travels to the right of that vertical line, it is considered positive horizontal break.
“glove-side” run will have a negative number.
“Arm-side” run will have a positive number.
“arm-side” run will have a negative number and “glove-side” run will have a positive number.
The main thing I had to get my mind wrapped around regarding this topic was from the pitcher’s perspective, anything moving to the left is negative, anything moving to the right is positive.
It doesn’t reverse, depending on which arm you are throwing with.
Spin efficiency is a percentage given that tells you how many of the RPMs on a particular pitch contributed to the movement of the pitch.
So a four-seam fastball with 2500 RPMs and 100% spin efficiency means that all 2500 of THE RPMs contributed to the movement of that pitch. A four-seam fastball with 2500 RPMs and 90% spin efficiency means 2250 of THE 2500 RPMs contributed to the movement of the fastball.
When I say ‘contributed to the movement’, what I’m talking about is the movement that basically COUNTERACTED gravity.
A four-seam fastball, that appears to rise, (remember like I said earlier, it’s not rising it’s just sinking less) is ONE with a very high velocity, spin efficiency, and high RPMs.
True spin is that number that I just gave in the previous paragraph. SO a 2500 RPM fastball with 100% spin efficiency will have a true spin rate of 2500. A fastball with 2500 RPMs and 90% spend efficiency will have a true spin of 2250. If it had 50% spin efficiency that means the true spin was 1250. This is a whole OTHER blog in itself, but REMEMBER, this is all just information. It doesn’t mean a pitch is good or bad. Usually every pitch has its own range that it needs to be. YES, fastballs need to have a very high spin efficiency, but sliders for example typically don’t.
it just all depends on the goal for the pitch, or in other words, what the pitcher is trying to accomplish with the pitch.
This is another way to look at the how the ball is spinning. It is a scale of 0 to 90°. If you imagine a rotisserie chicken and you are standing with the stick that goes through the rotisserie chicken, directly in front of your eyes, that rotisserie chicken is spinning at exactly 90°. A football perfectly thrown spiral is also spinning 90° as well as a rifle bullet. Rifle bullets, and perfectly thrown spirals with a footballs have one very unique thing about how they travel that is different from almost every thrown baseball.
They would travel in a straight line forever if it weren’t for gravity.
A perfectly thrown fastball however, will spin at 0°. Imagine standing to the side of that rotisserie chicken, now FROM YOUR CURRENT PERSPECTIVE the rotisserie chicken is spinning at 0°.
Unlike the football and rifle bullet example, a perfectly thrown Four-seam fastball, without gravity involved, would eventually begin to rise, and continue to do so because of its backspin.
Just to paint a better picture for you, a slider thrown in outer space, would veer down and to the thrower’s non-throwing (or glove side) side and continue on in that direction forever.
A 12-6 curveball would go straight down, and I assume eventually begin to make circles, but now that I say that, they might all do that and that is way more than my brain can process, so I’m gonna stop talking about that now.
Spin direction is really simple it’s just like looking at a clock. Basically a perfectly thrown four-seam fastball will be spinning at 12 o’clock what I would call backwards or back spin.
A perfectly thrown curveball. What we would call a “hammer” or “12-6”curve ball that sharply breaks downward, will spin at 6 o’clock. I often use the word “tumble” to get people to be able to picture what we’re talking about when we say spinning at 6 o’clock, a curveball tumbles at 6 o’clock. A 4 seam fastball spins backwards at 12 o’clock.
Now, where this can get really confusing, at least to me, is when you bring a slider into the equation. Technically there are 3 kinds of sliders.
A perfectly thrown “gyro” slider is spinning like a football or like a rifle bullet. WHICH technically, as far as the RAPSODO and its data collection goes, that pitch is also spinning at 12 o’clock, just like a four-seam fastball, but your perspective of where the axis of spin is, is different.
REMEMBER the rotisserie chicken, whether you’re standing with the stick directly in front of your eyes or if you are standing at a 90° angle looking at the rotisserie chicken, that chicken is still spinning at 12 o’clock (or technically it could be 6 o’clock depending on your perspective).
The other two sliders, in VERY oversimplified terms, are basically differentiated by how much they “slide” (Think arm/glove side movement) versus vertical break typically seen on a curveball. Again, WAAAAY over simplified.
So that covers the main metrics that we use when looking at the Rapsodo.
When looking at a Rapsodo data report, you will notice stats regarding release height, release angle and some other “in the weedery” type stuff.
We don’t typically get into that too much, although it is valuable information If you are looking into making sure a pitcher’s pitches are tunneling well, but frankly, that is not the lowest hanging fruit for 9 out of 10 high school pitchers and college pitchers.
Most of them just need to:
Understand how their pitches are spinning. EG: “Why does this or that pitch do what it does?” “Is what it currently does, your desired outcome for that pitch?” “If you would prefer it do something different, how can we make that happen?”
Learn how one pitch’s movement profile can “compliment” or pair with another to be used as a sequence for better effectiveness.
Which I just realized, leads me to another blog.
Hopefully this gives you a better perspective and understanding of what the Rapsodo brings to the table for our athletes.
I would love feedback on what questions you have and I am always open to suggestions for new and interesting topics for blogs and videos so questions are greatly appreciated!