Rapsodo’s analytical devices are important tools for baseball players — and they’re how Kris Bryant is staying sharp

Tribune Content Agency

CHICAGO — The coronavirus pandemic left major league players scrambling for ways to stay sharp at their offseason homes or temporary residences without full access to equipment or supervision.

But some players, such as Chicago Cubs All-Star Kris Bryant, are ahead of the game.

Bryant, 28, is one of a growing group of major leaguers who has invested in equipment to use at his Las Vegas batting cage to maintain his swing.

“Since Major League Baseball went in shutdown mode, business has dropped off,” said Art Chou, manager of Rapsodo, a data-analytics company that develops performance-measurement devices for athletes. “But our phones are still ringing. Our sales are coming from major league players, minor league players and families who have kids who want to improve.”

In recent years, virtually all teams have started using analytical equipment to measure player performance, from a batter’s exit velocity to a pitcher’s spin rate.

But the trend has expanded to players and their agencies who “want their own data,” Chou said. That information can’t hurt when agents are trying to emphasize their clients’ value to prospective teams as well as simply to improve their skills in the offseason.

After consulting with the Boras Corp., Bryant contacted Rapsodo in December about purchasing a portable unit at the cost of about $4,000. The unit includes a camera and radar, and an app or tablet provides data such as launch angle, exit speed, exit direction and distance of ball hit.

“It’s a great hitting tool,” Mike Bryant, Kris’ father and personal hitting coach, wrote in a text message. “It really helps to lock in the positional technique the hitter is after.”

Plenty is at stake for the Cubs and Bryant should play resume this season.

Bryant, scheduled to be a free agent after the 2021 season, was the subject of trade speculation all winter, then embraced his new role as leadoff hitter in spring training before MLB shut down spring training March 12 and delayed the start of the season indefinitely.

Bryant vowed in February not to change his approach or swing despite moving from a run-producing spot he held since joining the Cubs in 2015. Hitting devices such as the Rapsodo machine help accomplish that goal by splicing the exit-velocity and launch-angle data according to a specific swing.

Yu Darvish is notorious for throwing spring training bullpen sessions longer than other Cubs pitchers, checking each pitch on a tablet. The results often are processed within 20 seconds.

Chou said the Cubs have been one of the early “adopters” of Rapsodo’s technology. Pitchers Tyler Chatwood, Ryan Tepera, Jharel Cotton and Jason Adam use the Rapsodo pitching monitor.

Craig Breslow, the director of pitching who joined the organization in 2019 as a director of strategic initiatives, sought officials from Rapsodo five years ago with the hope of extending his career with more effectiveness as a left-handed reliever against left-handed hitters.

At about the same time, Bobby Basham, who served as the Cubs’ assistant director of minor league operations before becoming director of player development, sought similar data on behalf of the organization.

Coaches have told Chou that devices such as the Rapsodo machine often settle arguments between pupils and coaches.

“When they show them the data, that’s when the argument stops,” Chou chuckled.


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