Science marches on. The rest of us try to catch up. It’s a useless battle though because even though no one has figured out a way to put toothpaste back in the tube (something practical),  it seems every day imagethere’s something “new” and different that’s meant to trump everything else. Baseball is not immune to the siege of science and technology on our game.

In fact, baseball is very much in the forefront in the minds of entrepreneurs and scientists. The reason for this is simple…… And lots of it. Ballplayers and team franchises are money making machines.

The newest version of snake oil comes from the field of biometrics. It’s called the Newton meter and it’s being touted by the marketers as the biggest thing since the Six Million Dollar Man.

“It’s the next sabermetrics,” said Glenn Fleisig, a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering who directs research imageat Dr. James Andrews’ American Sports Medicine Institute.

“It’s science and the competitive advantage of knowing what your players are doing vs. other people not knowing what their players are doing,” he said.

For the scientists, Newton meters is the next big baseball stat, measuring valgus torque — stress on the elbow.”

Valgus torque ……..everybody needs to understand that in order to field a ground ball and toss it to first, right? ………..

So, what exactly is the new wave that’s swarming around baseball……this Newton meter thing? Imagine a shirt sleeve that you wear as a pitcher ( though it’s being marketed to hitters as well) with five sensors attached that measure stress on your arm as a pitch is delivered to the plate. Enter valgus torque and voila……you have a computer driven printout of a pitcher’s potential for future arm injury imagedue perhaps to a subliminal fault in the pitcher’s delivery.

A useful tool perhaps for a pitcher who has already had arm surgery and you are trying to track his recovery progress. ……….But beyond that, there is guaranteed to be a confrontational storm heating up between players and team officials over the use of this device.

Imagine, for example, that a trade is brewing between two teams involving a pitcher. And the team on the receiving imageend refuses to consummate the deal until the player submits to the test. The test would likely reveal not only a current injury, but also predict the likelihood of a future injury due maybe to the pitcher’s mechanics. And what if the player refuses to take the test?………..

And within that context, can you imagine the Players Association even considering allowing that to happen. Beyond that, how would this play into arbitration and free agency where the player becomes like a defendant in a criminal case who exercises his right to refuse a lie detector test………

It gets even eerier than that though . Here’s a peek at the future from a company called Human Kinetics  looks at what they call “cocking” during a pitcher’s motion and delivery……From their website……..”Cocking begins when the hands separate and ends when abduction and maximum lateral rotation of the shoulder is achieved (Pappas et al., 1985). Cocking is divided into early cocking and late cocking according to the contact imageof the forward foot on the ground. In early cocking, the scapula is retracted and the humerus is abducted, laterally rotated, and horizontally extended. The elbow flexes. The stride leg begins to extend the knee; abduct, medially rotate and extend the hip; and evert and plantar flex the ankle (Braatz & Gogia, 1987). The non-throwing shoulder is abducted and its elbow is extending. The body’s center of gravity is lowered because the support knee and hip are flexing and the hips and pelvis begin to rotate forward”.

Did you get all of that? And don’t forget to research the footnotes too…………

And then, there’s something (parents pay attention) that every kid should have for his birthday this year. There’s a company out there called Motion Excellence  that takes pride in advertising that “Our in-depth analysisimage process takes approximately one hour. Reflective markers are strategically placed on key body locations, then, it’s up to you! Our experts will watch you swing and throw as our specialized high-speed cameras capture your movements. A computer will precisely measure your movements and mechanics, reconstructing them into a graphic and pictorial report providing an objective measure for improvement.”

Have we reached the end, or is this just the beginning of a all out attack on the integrity of baseball?  Because imagethat’s the bottom line. Will baseball be reduced to a automaton version of  what was designed to be a simple and non-intrusive game that exists and thrives because it is simply a welcome form of entertainment in our complicated lives……

Or, will baseball (read MLB) resist these so-called advances in the game and grasp the idea that science should move elsewhere seeking technology that advocates for change for the good of baseball……… Perfection of the pitcher’s helmet and collapsible fences that can easily be reconstituted might be a good place to start ………..instead of this mindless pursuit of nifty graphics that tell us only what our trained eyes can see……..that this particular pitcher is “off” today and we’d better get him outta there to see a doctor……

It’s not rocket science…….in fact it’s not even science at all…………



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