Made to Measure

Homing in on the stress of pitching—every day
December 21, 2015

FORGET PITCHf/x, MLB 2016 might be the year of PITCHERf/x. The former is a camera system that has been tracking balls from pitchers' hands to home plates since the 2006 postseason, but a new technology is planning on tracking actual pitchers—and batters too.

The MotusPro by a company called Motus Global in Massapequa, N.Y. (motusglobal.com), uses five measurement units—sensors that record acceleration and rotation—attached to a pitcher's or a batter's body. Working together, those sensors allow the device to analyze the biomechanics of a player as he throws or hits a ball. "We're able to get the kinetic chain," says Joe Nolan, CEO of Motus Global. "We're able to get a lot more, shoulder stress metrics, stride length and toe contact."

The wearable system is an effort by Nolan and cofounder Keith Robinson to take motion-capture analysis out of the lab and put it on the field. The traditional method, used at the Motus biomechanics facility in Bradenton, Fla., uses standard motion-capture technology, which requires technicians to stick 45 markers on an athlete's body and use 16 cameras to track his or her movement. But that only gives a one-time, baseline assessment, and cannot track the stresses on a player during thousands of hours of practice and play. A player can wear the MotusPro every time he takes the field. "We have a philosophy that every throw counts," says Nolan. "We're laser-focused on quantifying how much mileage that arm has on it."

Last week Nolan was at the MLB winter meetings in Nashville, talking with executives. Last season the mThrow, a one-sensor version of the MotusPro, was approved for in-game use by MLB and employed by 27 organizations, but only in minor league games.

According to Nolan, teams are hoping the system will help them reduce the number of Tommy John surgeries their pitchers require by understanding the stresses they put on their ulnar collateral ligaments when pitching. MotusPro can also help players rehab from ligament tears. When a pitcher is sent to the mound and instructed to throw at only 50%, now trainers will know exactly whether he's hitting that mark. It's the newest way to keep a recovery on track.

• MASTER SENSOR

• SECONDARY SENSORS

PHOTORICH GRAESSLE/ICON SPORTSWIRE (SYNDERGAARD) PHOTOCOURTESY OF MOTUS GLOBAL (SENSOR)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)