Spin For A Strike: Valley’s pitching staff finds new ways to develop their game

Through the lead of pitching coach Josh Goossen-Brown, the Monarchs are using technology to recruit, improve techniques and find success.

By Benjamin Royer, Valley Life Editor

Freshman pitcher Josh Kim walks by pitching coach Josh Goossen-Brown after completing a drill on the mound. (Photo by Stephen Castaneda/The Valley Star)

Pitch velocity used to be the telltale factor on the track to a professional career, but with technology, the path to the majors is also about spin.

Valley College pitching coach Josh Goossen-Brown has stepped in line with the direction baseball is moving, changing the way to look at how a baseball moves, using the popular measuring device Rapsodo. The technology tracks the speed, spin, control, command and velocity of the ball as it is released from the pitcher’s hand. Now using the same innovation as the major leagues and throughout high-level Division I baseball, the former Valley graduate is hoping to find the formula to success while helping his players improve.

“The biggest thing for me is knowing how my pitches move, it [Rapsodo] helped me to locate better,” said freshman pitcher Josh Kim. “Once I consistently get things to move a certain amount, I know exactly where I can aim. If I want to induce more swings and misses, force contact, I actually have numbers that support what I want to do.”

Goossen-Brown praised Kim’s application of the data gathered from Rapsodo saying that the freshman is “a genius with this stuff.”

After playing for Valley, Goossen-Brown headed to CSUN and the University of San Diego, where he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2014. Playing professional baseball until two years ago, the former reliever returned to where it started, Valley.

The Valley alumnus started using Rapsodo last year. He incorporated the device with the goal of learning how to use and interpret the data to help players succeed. Spring baseball is still a few months away, but through the summer and fall, Valley’s pitching guru has been preaching efficiency.

During bullpen sessions at Valley College, the pitch tracking device Rapsodo is in use collecting data on spin, velocity, control, command and other information. (Photo by Stephen Castaneda/The Valley Star)

“We [Valley] use Rapsodo,” said Goossen-Brown. “We have that in bullpens and we also use it in intersquads. [Rapsodo] gives you more of the picture and more than you can see out of your eyes. We’ve got the radar gun, a lot of Driveline PlyoCare balls. We use certain instruments with some players, but not everyone uses the same things. It all depends on what the player wants and what’s best for them.”

Driveline and Rapsodo had their companies gain prevalence with the goal of making baseball players better through the use of analytics. Rapsodo is one of many tools used by professional teams and employees from Driveline have been hired by MLB teams to bring their knowledge to the majors. Knowing how to read the data can be just as crucial to the process of pitching development.

The data collected from Rapsodo helps create a profile of information that can be sent to four-year colleges and Division I programs.

With reports easy to share with others, Goossen-Brown started posting film and pitch data on his Twitter account. Recognizing how recruiting has transformed during the pandemic, Valley pitchers can now be seen at the touch of a screen.

“That’s such a big thing about junior college,” said Goossen-Brown. “Just to develop these players and get them to that level that they were not at in high school. To get eyes on them and just try to get them looked at in any way that we can.”

In October, Goossen-Brown posted a video of freshman pitcher Kyle Ayers in a game against Moorpark College. Averaging between 90-92 miles per hour on his fastball with a spin-rate of 2,600, the right-hander pitched two hitless innings and struck out five of the six batters he faced.

Ayers credited technology and his coach to his success on the mound, saying that Rapsodo allowed him to recognize how to improve his fastball and that “Goose” recruited him to Valley from nearby Notre Dame High School.

Freshman pitcher and outfielder Owen Jennings started throwing a cutter through his work with Goossen-Brown.

In years past, a pitch thrown in the low 80s would not get much attention, but with the use of Rapsodo, Jennings’ cutter does.

“The way you throw a football is similar to how you throw a cutter,” said Jennings. “I started throwing a two-seam to get some arm side run, but I could never get it. So, I started throwing the cutter and it has really helped, especially going with a slider and cutter [pitch combination].”

The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of challenges for community college baseball, including the cancelation of Valley’s season, but Goossen-Brown recognized the struggles and took advantage by attending 2-3 high school games a week.

“A lot of the guys that we have here today are guys that I went and watched,” he said. “I think it was awesome for me to get to build relationships with them last year. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a season, but it was a blessing in disguise because it gave me a chance to go recruit.”

All three pitchers said that Goossen-Brown and other coaches were a part of their recruitment to play for the Monarchs and are looking forward to playing this spring.

Affirming the buzz from the players surrounding Valley baseball, the pitching coach feels the same way.

“I think our team this year is going to be the best we’ve had in a long time,” said Goossen-Brown. “The talent is better than ever before, and it is going to be an exciting season for us.”