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Research & Development at Driveline Baseball

Driveline Baseball’s history and success is rooted in Research and Development (R&D), and has been since it was founded in 2007 by Kyle Boddy.

 

First, we evaluate our training through a review of peer-reviewed sports-science articles. Is there a tested or theoretical foundation for what we wish to implement with athletes?

 

Second, we do our best to replicate those studies in-house with our athletes to determine if those findings will work for our population of athletes.

 

Not until a drill or training methodology has met both parts of the two-part test do we include it with our programming. From there, our software team develops the tools and reports to help our trainers leverage the data and analytics to train our athletes.

 

Brief reviews of the research papers that drive our creative process are available at our Pitching Research webpage.

History

Matthew and Kyle at Home DepotIn January 2008, then-intern Matthew Wagshol and Kyle Boddy built a prototype motion capture control object in the aisles of Home Depot in Shoreline, WA. This would serve as the platform and foundation of the first markerless baseball biomechanics motion capture laboratory in the world built from consumer high-speed cameras and a do-it-yourself attitude.

 

It tooks months and years of reverse engineering, mathematics, and hard work to finish this monumental project, but it remains a historical moment in the company as a reminder to all new employees: With enough perseverance and desire, great things are possible.

 

From our humble beginnings in a small batting cage in North Seattle, Driveline Baseball began testing other training concepts – weighted baseballs were one of the first modalities tested, back in mid-2008. We interviewed multiple professionals in the field to get their opinions, ranging from biomechanical experts to pediatric orthopedic surgeons, and tested range of motion pre/post throwing protocols as well as our subject group’s velocity gains. Our case study reflected what’s currently written about in baseball – that weighted implement programming increases velocity, and that there is no causal or even corollary link between their use and injuries.

 

From then on, we decided that we would lead the industry in quantitative analysis of training modalities in baseball, and became the first data-driven baseball training facility in the world.

 

Since then we’ve continued to enhance our training modalities by building on past research, in addition to performing our own internal investigations. We acquired a gold-standard motion capture lab and force plates that we use to assess and evaluate our athletes, as well as contributing to further research of hitting and pitching biomechanics. We have also used EMG and IMU sensors, EEG/ EKG headsets, and gaze tracking glasses to help our athletes, as well as continued to contribute to the validation of technologies like Rapsodo and the MotusTHROW sensor.

 

Later this year, Driveline will be moving to a new facility where we’ll have a dedicated research and development wing. The 5,000+ sq. ft. area will include markerless and marker-based motion capture systems, batter’s boxes and a pitching mound instrumented with tri-axial force plates, research-grade EMG sensors, and the gamet of pitch and ball tracking technologies.

Team

  • Kyle Boddy: Founder
  • Joseph Marsh: Director of R&D
  • Michael O’Connell: Project Manager
  • Anthony Brady: Lead Biomechanist
  • Alex Caravan: Co-Manager – Baseball Analytics
  • Dan Aucoin: Co-Manager – Baseball Analytics
  • Krissy Heishman: Electrical Engineer
  • Garrett York: Lead Software Developer
  • Kyle Lindley: Biomechanist
  • Melanie Bell: Data Analyst Intern
  • Spencer Schneier: Software Developer
  • Gretchen Hoffmann: Biomechanist
  • Mike Tampellini: R&D Pitching Analyst

Remote / part-time:

  • John Scheffey: Biomechanics Intern
  • David Besky: Research Analyst

The Driveline Baseball R&D team is supported by other employees and internal contractors. Additionally, we have an informal advisory board of orthopedic surgeons, expert biomechanists, kinesiologists, quantitative analysts, and exercise scientists we consult with on a regular basis to guide the mission of the department.

Research Lab

Most of the website talks about the benefits of training at Driveline Baseball. Here’s where we get to talk about the features, the real nerd stuff. Inside of our training center and research lab (separate buildings in our complex), we use the following tools to maximize athletic performance, develop better injury prevention programs, and perform industry-leading research and experimentation:

Motion Capture and Biomechanics

  • Optitrack Prime 13/13W/17W 240hz cameras (15) forming the backbone of our pitching motion capture laboratory – generate gold-standard kinematic, kinetic, and computed muscle control reports and validate inertial measurement unit (IMU) products
  • Optitrack Flex 3/V100 100hz cameras (18) in our High Performance motion capture lab to capture single-plane movement and gait analysis
  • KinaTrax 300hz cameras (8) for markerless motion capture system providing biomechanics data in a more natural throwing environment, no markers required. Validation forthcoming
  • Bertec Portable Force Plates (2) providing force plate data on various jump protocols, as well as isometric strength testing. The force plates are also paired with the High Performance biomechanics lab for tracking kinematics and kinetics of gait and jump testing
  • Edgertronic SC1 and SC2X high-speed cameras (3) for extreme slow-motion optical tracking and videography, genlock capable

Monitoring

  • Somaxis Cricket wireless electromyography sensors (4) to precisely measure muscle output in athletic movements
  • Omegawave heart rate variability and DC potential sensors to measure fatigue and readiness
  • Emotiv Flex electroencephalography headset to analyze brain wave patterning in vision-related tasks and efficiency metrics on skill development
  • Pupil Labs gaze tracking headset to characterize gaze patterns and eye tracking
  • MotusTHROW IMUs for workload tracking and biomechanical data
  • K-Motion K-Baseball package for monitoring hitting biomechanics

Baseball Physics

Resistance Training

  • Keiser Infinity Series Functional Trainer to measure rotational power and prescribe minutely graduated consistent resistance exercises in injury rehabilitation cases
  • Tendo Power Analyzer with Bluetooth sending units (2) to measure bar speed and power output in resistance training movements

Prototyping

Take a look at the beauty of two synchronized and genlocked Edgertronic cameras – filming pitching mechanics in slow motion:

 

 

Here are some example reports and visualizations that we generate to improve athlete training results and to conduct research to contribute back to the scientific community:

Publishing Research

We are committed to publishing open source research back to the baseball community where it belongs. Our Primary Research category contains all in-house collected data and reports that we are making publicly available at no charge. In almost all cases – except when it would violate personal privacy – we release full datasets for independent validation and analysis. Researchers like Dr. Mike Sonne have used these datasets, and we advocate that any independent researcher, coach, parent, or player do the same!

 

Furthermore, in 2017, we took steps to begin submitting our research to peer-reviewed journals. After a lengthy education and selection process, we have decided to submit articles primarily to PeerJ. Professor Dee Carter, one of PeerJ’s editors and a Fellow at the American Academy of Microbiology, said it best:

[PeerJ is] driven by people with a real passion for communicating science and for making a difference to how we access and read about scientific progress, which aligns with my own passions for research and written communication. With PeerJ I feel like I’m part of a team aimed at pushing forward open access research.

 

PeerJ is extremely strict when it comes to submission guidelines and they believe strongly in the ethos of Open Access. They require IRB approval for all human studies and also require that all data be published with your article submission, where it will then be made public for everyone to view. There is also the option to make the peer review process open to readers, which reveals how the system works after submission.

 

It is our view that science is not truly science unless it can be replicated, and PeerJ’s mission statement agrees with that. Replication requires open access – all article submissions are free to download under a Creative Commons license – and detailed methods and datasets to analyze and start as a jumping off point for meta-analyses and new research projects.

Science is not truly science unless it can be replicated.Click To Tweet

 

Furthermore, PeerJ’s time to first review and their revision process is faster than the average journal by a wide margin, which incentivizes us to continue to engage the peer-review process.

 

We plan on splitting our blog post-style research and submissions to PeerJ – we will publish Case Studies to our blog, as we’ve done in the past, and we will publish more rigorously designed research to PeerJ. We may also submit Case Studies to PeerJ’s Preprint server as well.

 

Published Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • Surface electromyographic analysis of differential effects in kettlebell carries for the serratus anterior muscles: Caravan A, Scheffey JO, Briend SJ, Boddy KJ. (2018) PeerJ 6:e5044 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5044
  • Effect of a six-week weighted implement throwing program on pitching velocity, arm kinematics, arm stress, and arm laxityMarsh J, Wagshol M, Boddy K, O’Connell M, Briend S, Lindley K, Caravan A (2018) PeerJ 6:e6003 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.6003
  • Exploring wearable sensors as an alternative to marker-based motion capture in the pitching delivery: Boddy KJ, Marsh JA, Caravan A, Lindley KE, Scheffey JO, O’Connell ME (2019) PeerJ 7:e6365 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.6365

Pre-Print:

  • Surface electromyographic analysis of the serratus anterior during bench press variations: Kyle L. Rogers, Alex Caravan, John O. Scheffey, Kyle J. Boddy (2019) SportRxiv https://doi.org/10.31236/osf.io/cgfwh
  • Arm Stress Comparisons Between Common Baseball Pitch Types: Erin Bristow, Alex Caravan, Kyle J. Boddy, Michael E. O’Connell, Sam J. Briend (2019) OSF Preprints https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/jxu86
  • A Kinematic and Kinetic Comparison of Mound and Rocker Throws: Anthony C. Brady, Sam J. Briend, Aex Caravan, Michael E. O’Connell, Kyle Lindley, Griffin Gowdey, Kyle J. Boddy (2020) SportRxiv https://doi.org/10.31236/osf.io/j2tvg

Other articles that are planned, in the data collection phase, or in peer-review:

  • A motion capture analysis on differences between single-leg strength dominant vs. double-leg strength dominant athletes (in writing phase)
  • Validation of Blast Baseball’s bat sensor metrics (in analysis phase)
  • Effects of mound position on kinematics and kinetics during a baseball pitch (in analysis phase)
  • Validation of biofeedback from K-Motion’s K-Vest (in analysis phase)
  • Differences in kinematics, arm stress, and arm laxity controlled for the velocity variation in the spread of weighted ball running throws (in data collection)
  • Biomechanical comparison of pitching 3-7 oz. weighted balls (in data collection phase)
  • Biomechanical comparison of weighted plyo throws (in data collection phase)
  • Comparison of kinematics and kinetics to spin rate data in a baseball throw (in data collection phase)
  • Validation of Diamond Kinetics’ SwingTracker bat sensor metrics (in data collection phase)
  • Finger and grip strength measurements and their relationship to spin rate of baseballs (in data collection phase)
  • A kinematic comparison of the back squat using a standard barbell and the Kabuki Strength Duffalo Bar (in data collection phase)
  • Effects of different recovery methods on blood lactate levels after pitching (in data collection phase)
  • The Genesis of the Kinetic Chain: Investigating the effects of different loading strategies on baseball pitching biomechanics (in data collection phase)

Published Case Studies and Articles

Click to see all case studies and articles

Hand Positions and Hitting: A Grip Study

How different grips on a bat can affect a hitter’s swing

How We Interpret Biomechanics Reports

A Discussion of how we use biomechanics reports to drive program and help pitchers improve

Full Signal Analyses: the Next Step in Biomechanical Analysis

Exploring the value of full signal analyses in biomechanics

Comparison of Elbow Torques Between Pulldowns and Pitching

Recreating ASMI’s study by comparing 5 oz pitches from the mound to pulldowns with 5 oz

Comparing Overload vs Underload Weighted Ball Stress on the Arm

Comparing elbow stress of 3-7 oz balls when doing running throws

Bullpens, Tracking Elbow Torque, and mStress

What we’ve learned after collecting data on 70 bullpens

Analyzing Lower Half Pitching Mechanics Using Force Plates

Looking at force production and direction of the lower half when throwing

Fastballs vs Offspeed Pitches: Comparative and Relative Elbow Stress

Comparing the stress of fastballs, curveballs, sliders, and changeups on the elbow

Training Hitters with Overload and Underload Implements

The research foundation of training hitters with over/underload implements.

Does Arm Speed in Pitchers Matter?

Looking closer at the relationship between arm speed and velocity

Weighted Baseball Research And The Data Supporting Their Use

Covering the ASMI weighted ball study and reviewing our own findings

Spin Rate: What We Know Now

Reviewing what we know about creating and analyzing spin rate of pitchers

Spin Rate Part II: Spin Axis & Useful Spin

Explaining why some pitches get great break and others don’t

Rapsodo, Trackman, and Pitch Tracking Technologies – Where We Stand

Our in house validation study of Rapsodo and Trackman

MaxVelo Velocity Study

Looking at the effectiveness of our MaxVelo program when compared to a control and basic test groups.

Elbow Stress, Motus Sleeve, and Velocity

Giving context to Motus data on the mound while examining the relationship between elbow stress and velocity

Vertical Jump and it’s relation to Pitching Velocity

Examining a number of athletes vertical jump metrics to see how it related to pulldown and mound velocity.

Back/Front Leg Force Production

Using Neulog force plates, examining the relationship between back and front leg force and throwing velocity during a rocker throw.

Measuring Readiness of Baseball Pitchers Using Omegawave and HRV

Examining our programming using Omegawave to measure athlete recovery

Bauerfeind and Motus

Using the Motus sensor the examine the claims that the Bauerfeind EpiTrain Powerguard reduces UCL stress for pitchers.

Trackman use at Driveline Baseball – How we Validate our Equipment

Find out what sports science really is. Validation and lots of math. See how we validated the readings of spin, release height and extension of our in-house Trackman unit.

Post-Activation Potential with Weighted Baseballs

Examining whether pitchers can see immediate gains from throwing over/under weight baseballs.

FORWARD DYNAMICS RESEARCH

Click to see our forward dynamics research

1.Challenges with Typical Biomechanical Analysis of Pitching

Going over the important missing piece of biomechanical analysis

2.A More Forward Approach to Understanding Pitching Biomechanics

Going from Inverse to Forward analysis of biomechanics

3.How Muscles Work and Protect a Pitcher

Reviewing how muscles can protect a pitchers UCL

4.Forward Dynamic Simulations of Pitching Mechanics

How we validated and adjusted our model for Forward Dynamics analysis

5. Computed Muscle Control Analysis of Pitching Mechanics

A more detailed look at how individual muscles affect the distribution of the overall peak valgus torque from pitching.

ON-GOING DRIVELINE RESEARCH PROJECTS

To check out some of the work that’s currently ongoing or that greatly interests us, click below.  Additionally, check the Pitching Research page for articles that formed the foundation of our scientific curiosity.

 

Also, check out the Driveline R&D Podcast to stay up to date on what’s going on within Driveline R&D and the baseball research world as a whole. Available for viewing/ listening on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple.

 

Click to see the ongoing research projects

SPIN RATE

Investigating whether there is a relationship between grip strength and fastball spin rate. Using Trackman to collect spin rate data.

Comparing the differences in spin rate between collegiate and professional pitchers.

Investigating whether fastball spin rate is dependent on velocity.

MOTUS

Examining the difference in stress of throwing regulation baseballs compared to weighted baseballs.

Examining the stress of pulldowns compared to pitching off of a mound.

Examining workload and its effect on training programs.

Examining the stress levels on the elbow when throwing long toss.

PITCHING-GROUND REACTION FORCE

Examining the relationship between front and back leg force with Bertec force plates.

HITTING-GROUND REACTION FORCE

Examining ground force production with Bertec Force plates.

HITTING-WEIGHTED BATS

Examining the long-term results of using overload and underload bats in training.

VERTICAL AND LATERAL JUMP FORCE PRODUCTION

Using Bertec force plates to examine average & peak power and velocity of our athletes in vertical and lateral jumps.

We are also examining whether there are relationships between peak/average measurements and throwing velocity.

Relevant research paper: Anthrompometric and Performance Comparisons in Professional Baseball Players

Examining the correlation between the distances jump and throwing velocity in pulldowns and mound velocity.

Relevant research paper: Correlation of Throwing Velocity to the Results of Lower-Body Field Tests in Male College Baseball Players

VISION AND GAZE RESEARCH

Defining gaze tracking strategies and evaluating how to test and improve gaze behavior.

Comparing hitters of different playing levels (professional and collegiate) to see if there are difference in gaze and pitch tracking.

GRIP STRENGTH

Examining the differences in grip strength between collegiate and professional hitters and pitchers.

Investigating whether there is a relationship between grip strength and velocity.

Investigating whether there is a relationship between grip strength and hitting metrics such as average or peak exit velocity.

Relevant research paper: Anthrompometric and Performance Comparisons in Professional Baseball Players

Contributing Factors for Increased Bat Swing Velocity

BARBELL VELOCITY AND THROWING VELOCITY

Investigate whether there is a relationship between velocity and power output in the bench press and throwing velocity. Post warm-up athletes bench press with set weights of 45lbs, 70lbs and 95lbs. We are collecting all data using Push band (linear position transducer) and Tendo unit.

Relevant research paper: Relationship between throwing velocity, muscle power, and bar velocity during bench press in elite handball players

Predicting the throwing velocity of the ball in Handball with Anthropometric variables and isotonic tests