Studies around the game are investing significant resources into the study of players’ health, and though we know all change is bad and everyone hates it, baseball could soon turn to the model-based resting patterns that has swept through the NBA in recent seasons, per The Athletic’s Eno Sarris.
Technological advancement has already clung to the pitching side of the game, where Driveline and pitching labs have entered the common vernacular. Studies continue to work towards a better understanding of pitcher health, including looking at spin rate changes as an indicator of future injury. The naked eye can only gauge so much in terms of a player’s fatigue level, and the goal here is to put as much precision into the process as is scientifically possible.
Pitchers’ rest has obviously been a key part of the modern game, but it’s the position player side that might lean towards an NBA-style model-based resting program. It’s not uncommon, of course, for players to want to play everyday or even insist that their play improves the more often they’re in the game. Sarris provides Marcus Semien as an example – Semien feels days off knocks him out of rhythm.
There’s certainly validity to Semien’s line of thinking, but the counter would be that a day or two of feeling off in the box is worth it in the grand scheme of a 6-month long season. Tracking acute stress versus chronic stress is one of the key issues in managing player fatigue, and there’s more than one philosophy on how to manage it. It’s difficult to quantify the impact of fatigue on player performance, but there’s little doubt it plays a significant role in the game. In fact, it very well might be the area of greatest impact of which we know the least.
Of course, getting enough information to make a model-based resting program would mean cooperation from the players. There’s a fair amount of data acquisition possible through wearable technology, but if players aren’t invested in these programs, it will be difficult to progress. Players have plenty of reason to invest themselves in this brand of technological advancement, but they also have cause to be wary. If data collected is owned by the teams, players are put in a vulnerable position – as said data could be used against them in contract negotiations.
As pitcher velocity rises and injuries continue to threaten their livelihood, expect this conversation to gain traction, and don’t be surprised if the data ownership conversation spills over into the next round of CBA negotiations. In an increasingly flattened competitive landscape, teams already view health as a new frontier to gain a competitive advantage. To delve further, Sarris’ full article is well worth a read, as he explores this issue in full, citing a number of studies currently working to better understand player load management.