Statcast a 'coaching tool' for Royals' Wakamatsu

Statcast a 'coaching tool' for Royals' Wakamatsu

KANSAS CITY -- Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu has the daunting task each season of taking the mounds of data provided daily by the Royals' analytical department and transforming it into knowledge his coaching staff can use to win games.

That's why Wakamatsu is very curious about MLB.com's revolutionary Statcast™, the state-of-the-art tracking technology capable of measuring all aspects of player movement on the field as well as exit velocities and launch angles of batted and thrown baseballs.

"We're always mining for new information," Wakamatsu told MLB.com. "This technology is fascinating, especially if it provides us information we can utilize."

Statcast on Davis' spin rate

Wakamatsu seems most intrigued by the ability of Statcast™ to track a defender's movement.

Previously, baseball has relied on the highly subjective statistic of Defensive Runs Saved used by the sabermetrics community to evaluate defenders. Statcast™, through its tracking devices, can replace that with an objective measure of route efficiency based on the flight of the ball and the defender's route to it.

"To be able to determine whether or not [Jarrod] Dyson or anyone else took the proper route," Wakamatsu said, "is something we as coaches can use as a coaching tool."

Statcast: Dyson dashes home

Statcast™ also provides an outfielder's exit velocity and accuracy on throws, which is helpful for coaches in scouting opponents.

"We can also use baserunning efficiency as a coaching tool," Wakamatsu said. "It can take the guesswork out of the picture."

Statcast™ also may replace, to a degree, another statistic -- batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which by itself provides little in terms of useful data, other than to serve as a possible warning sign.

"We had a situation last year where Paulo Orlando at one point had a BABIP of about .400," Wakamatsu said. "You know that will regress at some point."

Statcast: Perez nabs Gordon

Yet Statcast™ can provide data showing a hitter's average exit velocity, a far more accurate measure for evaluating a hitter. For example, if one player with a low BABIP has an average exit velocity of 72 mph, chances are that player simply isn't very good. If another player with a low BABIP has an average exit velocity of 100 mph, that player is just unlucky, and that luck statistically should change.

"To me, BABIP simply raises a red flag, one way or another, and tells you to dive into it more deeply," Wakamatsu said. "Along the same lines, if we look at an opponent who is 0-for-5 on sliders low and away, and he has a BABIP of .000 on those, you might think that's the way to pitch him. But if his average exit velocity is 105 mph on those balls and they were all rockets, you're not going to pitch him that way.

"The bottom line is we're in an age where there is all kinds of data coming in. The key is being able to use it to win games, not just to sit around and admire it."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.