Applied Sports Science newsletter – February 24, 2020

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for February 24, 2020


Sandy Alcantara Has Prodigious Flexibility

FanGraphs Baseball, Michael Augustine from

Miami Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara showed a lot of promise when he was given a spot in the starting rotation last year. His 2.3 WAR and 3.88 ERA were impressive, but there’s much more going on that meets the eye. Alcantara has a very cohesive pitch ecosystem; the design of each offering makes for a lot of interchangeable parts. Being able to adapt to situations with flexible pitch options gives Alcantara an edge that a lot of pitchers don’t have with their arsenal.

Most pitchers have one, maybe two, pitch combinations that pair well together. Alcantara actually has four, which can allow him to easily flex and keep hitters on their toes.


Rachel Llanes’ journey from role player to star

SB Nation, The Ice Garden blog, Mike Murphy from

… In 2017, Llanes was presented with a unique opportunity to return to the CWHL both as a player and as the strength and conditioning coach for Kunlun Red Star and Team China. In women’s hockey, if you aren’t receiving a stipend from a national team, it is next to impossible to make a living playing the sport that you love. But in China, Llanes has been able to do just that.

In her first season playing for a Chinese team in 2017-18, Llanes was tasked with doing the heavy lifting as a depth center while getting her teammates to give up fried food and start drinking water instead of soft drinks. Her second stint in the CWHL greatly resembled her first — but she was playing behind Kelli Stack and Zoe Hickel instead of Decker and Knight. She finished that first season with five goals and nine total primary points and fell just short of winning her second Clarkson Cup.


Healthy again, a philosophical Galen Rupp says he is ready for the Olympic Marathon Trials, Ken Goe from

… Doctors determined the problem was a bony protrusion on his heel that was causing the Achilles tendon to fray. It required surgery that kept him out of action for months.

Rupp’s left leg still wasn’t right when he returned to competition a year later for last fall’s Chicago Marathon. He was forced off the course late in the race with a calf strain.

“I told myself, ‘This is going to hurt like crazy. You’re just going to have to suck it up and get through it,’” Rupp says of his pre-race mindset. “Unfortunately, my body didn’t allow me to do that.”


Brian Schmetzer challenges entire Seattle Sounders organization ahead of Concacaf Champions League, Ari Liljenwall from

… After reaching a second consecutive MLS Cup final in 2017, the Sounders exited the 2018 CCL in the second round and limped out of the gate in the league. They required a furious midseason turnaround to make the playoffs, a fate Schmetzer says he’s intent on avoiding in 2020.

“I tried to do it organizationally,” Schmetzer told reporters on a Wednesday conference call from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. “I’ve challenged all the equipment staff, sports science, medical, coaching staff, myself — I challenged myself first — the players have heard the message. We won’t know, really, until we get out there the first couple games early on in the year just exactly if that message was well received or whether we need to say it a little firmer, a little bit harder.


NFL Draft prospects Mekhi Becton, Josh Jones training at MJP

Fort Worth Star Telegram, Drew Davison from

There’s one reason Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Houston’s Josh Jones decided to prepare for the NFL Scouting Combine at Michael Johnson Performance.

No, it’s not because of the Olympic great who founded the facility. Both were drawn to MJP because of the facility’s relationship with offensive line guru Duke Manyweather.

“Being able to train with Duke? I had to come here,” said Becton, who is a Top-10 talent.


Not ‘just a bunch of meathead workouts’: Players descend upon Arizona to prepare for NFL combine

Arizona PBS, Cronkite News, Christopher Gleason from

The NFL scouting combine is known to be all about numbers and measurables. How high can you jump? How fast can you run? What’s your 40 time, and can you maneuver through a collection of cones?

Most important: How will all your numbers stack up against your peers?

Those answers are often found at the NFL’s annual scouting combine that starts Sunday in Indianapolis. To help make their case, a collection of college football players have descended upon the Valley for combine-specific training.


Players prepare for NFL Scouting Combine in training camp

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Heidi Fang from

Prior to the 2020 NFL Combine, which starts on Feb. 23 in Indianapolis, several football players allowed the Review-Journal access to document what they go through in preparation for the scouting combine during their intense eight-week training camp [video, 6:10]


CF speaks to Jordi Cruyff about data, injury prevention and Getafe as early adopters

Covering Futbol, Dermot Corrigan from

CF is very much looking forward to covering Getafe versus Ajax in the Europa League last 32 first leg at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez tonight [Thursday].

It has been quite a ride for Getafe since Jose Bordalas took over three and half years ago, and both club and coach are getting a lot of well merited publicity for the super impressive and methodical work put in.

Among the more surreal of the stories about how Getafe manage to punch so far above their weight was El Mundo reporting last May that the club’s fitness staff were using software developed by the Israeli special forces to ensure that Jorge Molina and Damian Suarez were in top condition.


Why the Phillies decided to shake up their athletic training staff after last season

Philadelphia Inquirer, Scott Lauber from

Five years ago, when the Phillies undertook a massive, down-to-the-studs rebuilding project, they overhauled some departments and created others that had been either neglected for years or ignored entirely. The result was a fundamental change to the organization’s overall infrastructure.

But one area remained mostly untouched: the training staff.


Twins’ Andrea Hayden breaks barriers as first female MLB strength and conditioning coach

YouTube, KARE 11 from

Andrea Hayden is the Minnesota Twins’ new full-time strength and conditioning coach – and the first woman in that role in all of Major League Baseball. Andy McDonnell catches up with her at the Twins’ spring training in Florida. [video, 1:41]


Magnet-controlled bioelectronic implant could relieve pain

Rice University, News & Media Relations from

A team of Rice University engineers has introduced the first neural implant that can be both programmed and charged remotely with a magnetic field.
Rice University introduced the first neural implant that can be programmed and charged remotely with a magnetic field at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference.

Their breakthrough may make possible imbedded devices like a spinal cord-stimulating unit with a battery-powered magnetic transmitter on a wearable belt.


Sometimes it’s good to be thin-skinned

Medium, Purdue College of Engineering from

Being thin-skinned — too sensitive, too quick to react — is a self-defeating strategy in life. But smart thin films — electronic circuits on a sticker that act as sensors and can be affixed to objects — is another version of thin-skinned altogether. They give you the desirable ability to be hypersensitive and react swiftly, transforming inanimate objects into smart devices that can sense and report real-time information about their environment and condition.

Dubbed “sticktronics,” smart thin films are just like a sticker, only with embedded high-performance electronics and sensors that “smarten up” anything to which you paste them. Sticktronics let you endow objects with a variety of desired functionality — such as the ability to sense chemical changes, temperature, humidity, as well as to harness solar energy.


[1907.06327] FastV2C-HandNet: Fast Voxel to Coordinate Hand Pose Estimation with 3D Convolutional Neural Networks

Computer Science > Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition; Rohan Lekhwani, Bhupendra Singh from

Hand pose estimation from monocular depth images has been an important and challenging problem in the Computer Vision community. In this paper, we present a novel approach to estimate 3D hand joint locations from 2D depth images. Unlike most of the previous methods, our model captures the 3D spatial information from a depth image thereby giving it a greater understanding of the input. We voxelize the input depth map to capture the 3D features of the input and perform 3D data augmentations to make our network robust to real-world images. Our network is trained in an end-to-end manner which reduces time and space complexity significantly when compared to other methods. Through extensive experiments, we show that our model outperforms state-of-the-art methods with respect to the time it takes to train and predict 3D hand joint locations. This makes our method more suitable for real-world hand pose estimation scenarios.


Inside the Miracle on Ice: How Team USA defied the numbers to beat the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics

ESPN, Chris Peters from

… So on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the game, we took a closer look. Using modern game-tracking and evaluation metrics, we crunched the numbers behind the Americans’ daunting matchup and how they somehow managed to come out on top. In short, we went all modern on the Miracle on Ice. Here’s what we found in our comprehensive breakdown of the 4-3 victory, from the lopsided puck possession to some incredible goaltending to coach Herb Brooks’ bold strategy.

An even bigger miracle than we thought


The NFL combine: an ethically dubious meat market wrapped in junk science

The Guardian, Oliver Connolly from

… When the combine was first introduced, it was a way for teams to meet prospects, get accurate height and weight measurements and, often, to see players perform football drills for the very first time. Especially during a period when college footage was often grainy and awful.

Those days are gone. NFL franchises are multibillion dollar operations. Every decision requires extensive analysis. The players, in teams’ eyes, are assets. They hire private investigation firms to run extensive background checks on potential picks these days. And spotting an a scout on a college campus has become just as standard as seeing a professor – the lines between college football as a standalone competition and as the NFL’s minor league have never been so blurred.

The combine is a chance for a team to grab a bunch of extra data points in quick fashion, they say. To gather the easy things – height, weight, speed – and the intangible stuff: the psychological evaluations, medical records, and football intelligence. It’s a giant exercise in ass-covering junk science, in collecting reams of information that have little to no relevance in predicting football performance.


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