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Showcase | Story | 9/29/2021

Old School Meets New School with PG Tech

Blake Dowson     
Photo: Dominic Hellman (Perfect Game)
Kyle Crawford was sitting in the bullpen of Tropicana Field during the Perfect Game National Showcase with his laptop open, knee deep in data he had been collecting over the course of the showcase on the top 2022 prospects in the country.
 
The data belonged to PG Tech, a company formed by Perfect Game and K-Motion to better provide unique data-based scouting and player development insights using the most advanced technologies in baseball.
 
Right beside Crawford was Bill Bavasi, former general manager of both the Anaheim Angels and Seattle Mariners. After over 40 years in Major League Baseball, Bavasi is now a member of Perfect Game’s leadership team, and lends his services in a number of ways.
 
On that day, he was simply curious about what Crawford was digging through on his laptop. So Crawford obliged, pointing to the player who happened to be pulled up at that moment and explaining how the PG Tech Cage measures data points such as kinematic peak speeds, stretch, and sequence, using a combination of technology mostly reserved for MLB teams – K-Motion 3D technology, Edgertronic high-speed video, and data collected from Pocket Radar, Diamond Kinetics, and TrackMan.
 


All this data put together, Crawford explained to Bavasi, tells the story of the hitter being tracked, in this case eventual Perfect Game All-American Dominic Hellman. It was all right there in cold, hard numbers, and in fact, Hellman’s numbers were phenomenal.
 
Bavasi was intrigued by the data itself and by Hellman, and called Bob Fontaine over to take a look. Fontaine, a long-time associate of Bavasi’s, is a former Major League scouting director, responsible for signing guys like Randy Johnson, Ozzie Smith, and Tony Gwynn in his day.
 
“Bob is clearly an old school scouting, eyeball scout,” Bavasi said of Fontaine. “He’s not an analytics guy because he never had the benefit of PG Tech or any other metric like that. The difficulty some people see in some of these metrics and the analytics in general is that no one is really trying to bridge the gap between old school, eyeball guys and the new school technology we have today. There’s been a disconnect there.”
 
Bavasi directed Crawford to wipe away all the data on his laptop screen. Blow up the high-speed Edgertronic video and have nothing else in view.
 
His ask of Fontaine at that point was simple – watch this slo-mo video and tell me what you see in this guy. What you like, what you dislike, problem areas, everything.
 




“Bill was sort of blind testing both of us to see how credible [PG Tech] is versus someone he knows and trusts, in Bob,” Crawford said. “But also, how much does Bob see what the tech is seeing?
 
“I just walked through the data and spoke about where [Hellman] was functioning really well. And then [Bavasi] had [Fontaine] come over and he asked him, just based on the video, what he thought of Hellman. Maybe the words were slightly different, but it was the same story being told.”
 
It was a moment of breakthrough. The disconnect that Bavasi spoke about, that gap no one had seemed to have bridged, now seemed…well, bridged. PG Tech proved what Fontaine saw with his eyes, and the way the long-time scout described Hellman articulated him in a way that sometimes gets lost in data.
 
“There was no prep, they just asked me to look at it and describe what I saw and tell them what I think,” Fontaine said. “I broke down the swing, and it was a kid I had watched over a three-day period.
 
“He’s a big kid with a balanced stance and a good approach to the ball…This kid has a quick bat. He generates really good bat speed. That’s what produces the power we saw during batting practice.”
 
Hellman was an obvious poster child for Crawford in the PG Tech Cage. His peak speeds were well higher than what you would expect of a fully mature, elite player. His hand speed especially, at 2366 degrees/second, was exceptionally fast compared to the 1800 deg/s marks of the “average” elite player. His speed gains were equally as impressive.
 


Pictured: Dom Hellman's PG Tech profile
 
“[Hellman] was in the top-10 in all of his different body segments,” Crawford explained. “And top 10 percent in exit velocity as well.”

| PG Tech FAQ |
 
When Fontaine looked at Hellman’s Edgertronic video, he saw a 6-foot-6, 17-year-old hitting balls off a tee at 100 mph with the fluidity typically reserved for prospects much smaller than him.
 
“Bob was looking at him based on his tools and his swing,” Bavasi said. “He didn’t really care what he did at the showcase…What he was saying about him was the exact same thing the data was saying.”
 
At the Perfect Game All-American Classic awards banquet held the night before the game at Petco Park in August, Hellman was honored on stage with the PG Tech Award, a nod to his prolific numbers in the PG Tech Cage at the National. It was an appropriate culmination to the conversation between Crawford, Bavasi, and Fontaine in that Tampa Bay bullpen the month prior.
 


It’s just the start for PG Tech, however. The PG Tech Cage is now available at every Perfect Game showcase across the country, which means coaches and scouts who are making decisions on scholarships and draft picks can now have a better understanding of each prospect who attends a PG showcase.

| Perfect Game showcase schedule |
 
The data that Crawford and Bavasi dug into is instantly uploaded to each prospect’s Perfect Game profile, and the high-speed video that Fontaine studied is on there, too. You can see old school meeting new school when you’re on those profiles, and the two are getting along brilliantly, bridging a gap that was too wide for too long.
 
“Too often when something new comes along, they don’t meet in the middle,” Fontaine said. “If you can find that middle ground, that’s where you want to be. You have to keep the human element in it, but if you can add in other things that aid that, it seems to me that you can come up with the best decision.”
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