Yankees, Mets go all-in on baseball evolution


You don't want to sell it as a revolution.

"It will be more like a traditional camp," said Jeremy Hefner, the Mets' new pitching coach, about the upcoming spring training for his new charges. "They will throw their bullpens and then live [batting practice] and we're going to start playing games. "

"What I want to repeat most of the time is that we don't have to change anything," said Matt Blake, the Yankees' new pitching coach, on the same topic. "What we need to understand is that if there are things you want to know more about, we can make these conversations easier."

Because of me. However, if this is not a revolution, call it a kind of evolution. Imagine that it took only five instead of two million years for great apes to turn into humans, and that you had a sense of how quickly the age of analytics had shaped major league baseball – most importantly, that one could argue quite simply on the pitching side.

"A lot has changed," said Phillies manager Joe Girardi, a former catcher who has worked closely with pitchers for more than 30 years. "We have so much more information available."

The two New York teams dealt intensively with the information and the development. A year ago, the Yankees and Mets sent Larry Rothschild and Dave Eiland, men with over 40 years of senior league coaching / manager experience and two World Series rings per person to conduct their pitching operations. While age doesn't have to be an abomination for this new wave – the Astros have developed well under the 71-year-old pitching trainer Brent Strom, Rothschild became the pitching trainer for Padres and Eiland put Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler on the Mets with new ones Heights – 34-year-old Blake and 33-year-old Hefner will lead pitching teams for the first time, hoping that their convenience, accessible technology, and treats will make up for service shortfalls.

The delicacies come from the technology, and while each team brings their own secret sauce into the process, all 30 clubs are impressed by this new reality: nothing is left unattended, countless. From the moment a pitcher logs into the camp before his team's season, every place he throws – be it in bullpen, spring training or Game 7 of the World Series – should be recorded and then added to the pitcher database ,

Yankees throwing coach Matt Blake watching pitcher Tommy Kahnle
Yankees throwing coach Matt Blake watching pitcher Tommy KahnleCharles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Baseball's "statcast era" began in 2015 when Major League Baseball installed TrackMan radar technology in each of the 30 stadiums. TrackMan has proven to be exceptionally suitable for tracking the movement of a field (as well as the flight of a hit ball in terms of exit speed and starting angle). When clubs wanted to collect this information on fields thrown into the bullpen outside of play, especially at home and on the go, they invested in portable units that were first made by Rapsodo and use both radar and optical technology. The teams found that the Rapsodo device was particularly helpful when it came to tracking the rotation of a pitch, and the unit's survivability enabled the teams to use the same objective prism to move all pitches, be it in-game or outside display.

The fact that TrackMan 2020 is being replaced by the HawkEye, an optical technology best known for their tennis work (to determine whether shots go in or out) shows how quickly everyone has to keep up – not just the teams and their pitchers, but also the companies that fueled this industry. TrackMan sells its own portable equipment that allows it to stay in the game.

The Edgertronic high-speed camera meanwhile opened another window for teams and their pitching gurus. With the ability to take 500 frames per second at the highest resolution, the action for jugs and their coaches is slowed down. For the first time, people could see an extremely basic interaction between the hand and the ball.

These devices and their gigabytes offer several advantages. Above all, they can play an important role in maintaining health and preventing injuries. An unintentionally changed release point can reflect tiredness and a need to rest. Uncontrolled, the targeted hip movement of a pitcher can lead to an illness. This device dramatically reduces the likelihood that such a development will go unchecked. The integration of biomechanics experts by the teams, such as Eric Cressey from the Yankees, into their conditioning and coaching systems underlines this focus.

And once the jug stands upright, it can be more easily successful with all the facts and figures that are accessible to it. The newly collected statistics can be both the causes and the effects of an improvement in performance. A team can encourage a pitcher to drop a pitch that they are trying to develop if the underlying data does not support their viability. Each field contains an abundance of details, from the trigger point (the number of feet from the base at which a pitcher actually releases the ball) to the spin speed (the number of revolutions per minute – the more the better) to the vertical and horizontal Interruption and more.

Mets pitching trainer Jeremy Hefner leads a bullpen session from Jacob deGrom
Mets pitching trainer Jeremy Hefner leads a bullpen session from Jacob deGromAnthony J Causi

"I just think the gap between the adjustments is much shorter now," said Hefner. "Instead of month to month or season to season or season to season to season to season, it can also be game to game or game to game. It is the player's duty to make this adjustment to actually make it, but identifying the need for adjustment is much easier. "

Step into the Pitching Coach, whose mission is more than ever to master all of this information and its collection, process it and decide how best to present it individually so that this adaptation leads to success.

Of the two newcomers from Big Apple, Hefner has the more traditional profile. Hefner was designed and signed by Sandy Aldersons Padres in 2007 and selected by Aldersons Mets in 2011 for the pirate exception. In 2012 and 2013, he played a total of 50 games for the Mets and had an ERA of 4.65 Tommy John's right elbow surgeries left him out, and he never returned to the major leagues. He retired in early 2017 and spent the next two seasons as Twins Advance Scout. He mainly worked for the Big League club as he helped plan the game for both the pitchers and the hitters. The twins promoted him to deputy pitching coach in 2019, during which they won their first title in the American League Central since 2010. Another promotion brought him back to Citi Field.

"I've always been a process-oriented person," said Hefner. "I like to follow steps and procedures. I don't like being surprised. I am happy to be prepared. I always wanted the information [as a pitcher], This makes it easier for me to make decisions. "

Last year Hefner worked under Wes Johnson, who was himself a new sign of the times. The twins hired Johnson from the University of Arkansas and made him the first pitching trainer to ever jump straight from college to the big leagues.

"If you look at where the pitch is going, that balance has to be struck," Johnson told The Post. “The balance of some things that were done in the past with the stuff of the new school: Edgertronics, the biomechanics. It's another thing that Hef does well. His experience as a pitcher will be able to compensate for all of these people. "

Johnson also knows Blake from her interactions in the Pitching Brotherhood. "Matt is phenomenal with [a pitchers’] Delivery, analytics, ”he said. Johnson and Blake share less conventional ways up because neither of them played professionally.

Blake grew up in New Hampshire. His father, Carroll Blake, coached him as a pitcher in the youth league, but he might have been able to prepare his son even better for the way he worked out of the field.

"He liked to do things," Blake said about his father. "It was fun to see him perform a process to understand the different mechanisms, such as taking a car apart or building our house."

Similarly, after completing his pitching career at Holy Cross, Blake started a sales job with a desire to return to baseball straight away.

"I didn't understand the mechanics of the pitching as well as I wanted," said Blake. “That sent me through the rabbit hole to learn about mechanics and kinesiology. I started getting my hands on textbooks about pitching.

“Much of it was classic jargon about delivery, very rooted in baseballisms and not much about fundamental movement. So I read more about athletics and golf. When I looked at the swing, the throw, and the barrel, I thought, "It seems like there is a place where you can talk baseball."

Many agreed with him, including Cressey, who hired Blake to work at his Massachusetts institute. Blake's first professional job came with the Yankees, who worked as an assistant coach, and he had spent the past four years climbing the ladder that had promoted him to the Pitching Director a few days before he left for the Yankees.

In Cleveland's organization, Blake spent time with Steve McCatty, in many ways his biographical opposite. McCatty played for the majors for nine years, finished second in the American League's Cy Young Award in 1981 and was pitching coach for the Tigers in 2002 and then with Washington from 2009 to 2015. The Indians hired him to become their coach Single-A Lake County Captains in 2016 when Blake started his first job as a lower level pitching coordinator.

"It was probably an intimidating situation [for Blake] first. Here's a guy who has major league experience, ”McCatty said in a phone interview. "But he did it well. At the end of the spring training, he gave it back as well as possible.

"He would show up and we had a lot of good conversations. I really enjoyed Matt. He's an intelligent guy, and I don't think he has come to terms with it when you look at something: "It's 100 percent as it will be." You have to take what the player is doing. "

No matter how sophisticated the equipment is, no matter how scientific the metrics become, the beneficiaries and victims of evolution agree that the basic principles of coaching will not change.

"I don't like the terms" old school, new school ", said Hefner. "Being able to have a relationship with the player will never stop. TrackMan is great. Rapsodo is good. Edgertronic is great. Motion capture technology is incredibly helpful. Like all tools, they all serve a purpose.

"If you have someone who can best use the tool, you can [prevail], "

Expensive tools, young practitioners. Can the Yankees or Mets develop into a parade? Blake and Hefner's success rates will make a major contribution to achieving this end goal.