Despite calling it a career last summer, Tom Glavine has stayed busy in baseball. He recently agreed to a multiplatform position with the Braves, with whom he won 244 games over 17 seasons, and he has aligned himself with the new PitchSight product. Ken Riddle, director of business development for L-3 Communications, which developed PitchSight and QuesTec, says this new technology can be used for scouting, evaluation, progress measurement, assessment and even injury rehabilitation. The system, already in use at Boston College, uses cameras to record a pitcher’s measurables. Glavine recently spoke with Sporting News’ Chris Bahr about PitchSight, his new role with the Braves and couple of the Braves’ young arms.
SN: How is PitchSight useful for a pitcher?
Glavine: What I like about it is the feedback. It gives you the ability to gather information and use that information almost instantaneously. It measures release point, release angle, location, break, velocity. Those are all things pitchers are interested in and are all directly related to a pitcher’s ability to be consistent and consistently throw good pitches in the strike zone. … You’re in the middle of a bullpen session. If there’s a particular pitch that you threw that you felt really good about, you go to the computer, find the pitch, see where your release angle was, where your release point was, how the pitch correlated to the strike zone.
SN: What could you have used it for most in your career?
Glavine: The two pitches I struggled with most were my breaking balls. If I was able to throw a slider or throw a curveball I really liked, and this information was available where I could pinpoint the pitch, see where my arm angle, release point and all those things were, I think it would have been a little bit easier for me to focus on the release point and things like that — things that seemed to escape me a bit when it came to those two particular pitches.
For younger pitchers, the big thing they’re searching for is that consistent arm angle, that consistent release point. If you’re able to put yourself on the system and measure and see exactly where your release points are, it becomes a little bit easier to hone in on one spot.
SN: Ideally, this technology would complement a pitching coach and coaching staff. But could this become more important than the human factor?
Glavine: It’s not intended to replace anybody. We’re viewing it as an enhancement to the things that are already available. Even though you’re going to have this information and you can go back and say, "OK, here’s my most consistent release point, here’s my most consistent arm angle …," you still have to hone your mechanics where you can get to that point consistently. That is where a pitching coach becomes extremely important.
SN: How are you enjoying your new role with the Braves, doing a little bit of everything?
Glavine: It’s going really well. It’s given me the opportunity to keep my foot in the door in terms of baseball. It’s allowed me to experience a number of different things, which is great for me because I was hesitant to make a commitment to something and find out a year from now that I didn’t like it. The Braves have given me an opportunity to experience a bunch of different things, to see if there’s something I like better than something else — something I can focus on down the road.
SN: What do you see in young Braves starters Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson that reminds you of you, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux?
Glavine: Their stuff obviously is the first thing that catches anyone’s attention. They both have really good stuff. Tommy’s a little bit more of a power pitcher, and Jair also can get the ball up there pretty good. Both have really good makeups in terms of being mature and understanding what it is that they’re trying to do and having a game plan. From that standpoint, at this point in their careers, both of those guys are farther along that I was, or John was, at similar stages of our careers in the big leagues.
SN: What’s your best piece of advice for a young pitcher just starting out in the majors?
Glavine: Pay attention to the delicate balance that exists in baseball. Enjoy what you’re doing, have fun. Because, let’s face it, it’s a dream job. But at that same time, recognize the fact that you have to work hard to stay there. A lot of guys are chomping at the bit to take your job away. … There’s an opportunity to play the game for a long time and make a lot of money, but if you don’t take advantage of that opportunity, you won’t play the game very long.
SN: What was tougher: leaving the Braves after the 2002 season, or leaving the game for good in the summer of 2009?
Glavine: Leaving the first time was tougher. At that time, I was successful. I was pitching well and had some good years ahead of me. I knew there still were things I could accomplish. When I retired, I could have pitched another year or a half a year. But I accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish, and when that happens, it’s a little easier to walk away.
Chris Bahr is Sporting News’ baseball editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.