In the past, MLB players would watch hours of tape in order to get the edge on an opposing pitcher. This wasn’t the same as stepping into the box with them and actually taking swings, however. With virtual reality, players are now able to bat against their rivals before the game even begins.
I know all of your moves
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Dodgers first baseman and outfielder Matt Beaty explained how using a headset has helped improve his game. The technology allowed him to see flamethrower Noah Syndergaard ahead of time and learn how his fastball moved. He could take practice swings, giving him more experience before facing Syndergaard in a game.
The system for this was built by WIN Reality, founded by former minor league player Chris O’Dowd and his father Dan O’Dowd. The senior O’Dowd is currently an analyst for MLB Network and formerly served as general manager for the Colorado Rockies. The systems have been endorsed by the likes of manager Charlie Manuel and former all-star infielder Harold Reynolds.
The technology certainly has more potential advantages for hitters than pitchers — the latter of whom normally control the flow of the game. The Dodgers’ own pitching coach Ross Stripling said the system “feels like an advantage” for those stepping into the box.
Not every player is convinced yet, with players like Russell Martin and Justin Turner not finding success quite yet. However, as VR visuals continue to improve, the authentic look of the baseball could contribute to greater success. Seeing its spin in advance is crucial to predicting its final location as it crosses the plate.
Virtual reality systems are capable of offering much more variation in pitch type and location than a traditional pitching machine. Knowing the traits of individual pitchers well in advance could give batters a big advantage in the future. If batting averages and slugging percentages start rising, pitchers will need to step up their game even more.