Major League Baseball embraces 3D motion tracking to scout players

Sometimes baseball feels like a game of inches. Clubs often compete for seemingly small advantages to get a leg up. Over the last couple of decades, that’s meant investments in both advanced analytics and cutting-edge technologies. Sometimes both at the same time.

While baseball fans themselves can be highly critical of changes to the 180+-year-old game, Major League Baseball has been looking for ways to spice things up, from the addition of a time-saving pitch clock to the sanctioning of the PitchCom device to thwart sign stealing.

This week, the league announced a deal with Uplift Labs, which brings the Bay Area-based company’s movement tracking technologies to the minors. The system will be used to evaluate and scout players as part of the Summer League and Appalachian League drafts and the Draft Combine.

The startup’s primary offering is mobile 3D motion capture, which relies on a pair of iPhones or iPads and a couple of tripods to track athletic movements in 3D. The system, which works with other sports like golf, is designed to take the place of significantly pricier camera setups.

“Providing 3D motion capture analysis has traditionally been a time-consuming, labor intensive process,” Bill Francis, MLB’s senior director of Baseball Operations says in a release. “Uplift Capture is making the process more efficient, breaking down many of the barriers to widespread adoption. This technology allows anyone involved in personnel decisions – coaches, executives and performance staff – to collaborate on the evaluation process.”

Certainly there’s information one can glean from batting mechanics that aren’t always present in sheer statistical data. Pro-level coaches have a way of getting the most out of players, and such information can potentially help clubs spot the occasional diamond in the rough. Mechanics are also key in helping players reduce the risk of injury over time.

Uplift co-founder and CEO Sukemasa Kabayama says “over a third” of the MLB’s teams have used its technology, adding, “Working with not only individual clubs, but also the Commissioner’s Office ensures more clubs will have access to the necessary data to make informed personnel decisions and maximize performance evaluation.”

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