The Giants have created a new analytics-based position — Coordinator of Pitching Analysis — and have hired away Driveline Baseball’s Matt Daniels for that role. Of course, it’s likely they created the role just for him, but that just makes sense. Farhan Zaidi and crew have just dragged the Giants into modern baseball. Not every existing role was made to fit.
Anyway, here’s Daniels’ announcement on his Twitter page:
Maybe you haven’t heard of the “Driveline Baseball Revolution”, but imagine if you would a group of data engineers working under cover of anonymity collecting biometric and motion data on every open-minded baseball player, pro and amateur alike, and compiling baseball movements into a database for the express purpose of discovering peak efficiency.
Want to know why there are so many more 100 mph+ throwers out there and likely will be for the foreseeable future? Why are players seemingly hitting the ball harder? Data-driven performance analysis isn’t new, but Driveline Baseball has been a private company at the forefront of optimizing it for the modern game. If all this sounds like an ad, it’s because I don’t know how to describe what they do in a way that doesn’t sound like advertising.
There’s a limit to my knowledge, and whatever they do at Driveline exceeds it. Matt Daniels wrote a training guide/program called “Hacking the Kinetic Chain”. What do all those words mean together? As he says in the embedded Facebook video you probably can’t view on your device because of the way Facebook makes it difficult to embed videos:
The purpose [of “Hacking the Kinetic Chain”] is to outline the chronological order of movements that occur to optimize the end goal of throwing the ball as hard as possible.
The Giants want to bolster their pitching development to add more hard throwers. They had a decent showing on Baseball America’s list of organizations with 100+ mph pitchers — three (as many as the Dodgers, Astros, Rockies, and Yankees): Melvin Adon, Ray Black, Camilo Doval — but I think if you look at their 40-man, you’ll notice that they don’t really stack up in average fastball velocity as a team. Indeed, their team average 92.8 mph on the fastball was 26th in MLB. The Yankees and Astros averaged over 95 mph.
Fastballs aren’t everything, of course, but finding new ways to maximize pitching efficiency almost certainly is, and that’s where analytics come into play. So much of public-facing data shows us what players have done, but very little show us where they can improve. That’s probably for the best — we’re consumers of entertainment, not instructors.
But here’s where the same tracking technology that dings young players in arbitration or veterans who’ve lost a step in free agency can simply help young players overcome inefficiencies and veteran players find new ways to maximize their declining talents. And it’s a boon to player health. At least, ideally, a good system will create those circumstances. For an old team like the Giants, that’s a strong consideration when revamping the organization.
The Phillies hired Driveline’s Director of Hitting, Jason Ochart, this offseason and the Dodgers have been using them to “boost minor leaguers’ velocity” since at least 2016, if not earlier, so the Giants really are playing some catch-up here. We’ll discover in Spring Training just how Daniels’ role will manifest in the clubhouse, but one thing’s for certain: more weighted balls will be introduced into the pitchers’ training regiments.
Kyle Boddy of Driveline Sports in Seattle uses the balls extensively as a training method. He works with Bauer and more than 80 other professional pitchers who all have a very different experience when they arrive at Spring Training with their weighted baseballs.
Okay, well, actually, that’s a lie. Another thing’s for certain: we’re all going to be learning a lot of new terminology and methods of pitching analysis in the coming weeks, months, and years as the Giants finally get with the times.
12:10 PM UPDATE: Eno Sarris has an interview with him up on The Athletic now (subscription required). One excerpt:
Daniels was Driveline’s first full-time employee, and he helped founder Kyle Boddy grow the data-driven player development lab into the surging force it is today. But his hire as the coordinator of pitching analysis for the Giants is less about data and analytics and more about the growing need for middlemen, translators that can stand between the analysts and the players on the field, and bring the two sides closer together.
“I’m not a mathematician or a SABR nerd,” Daniels told The Athletic this week. “I’ve read all that stuff but at heart I’m a baseball guy that knows data, not the other way around.”
Welcome, Matt Daniels. Please excuse the lack of walled off bullpens.