LAKELAND, Fla. — Most years, the Tigers have given out the Dwight Lowry Award within their player development department to a coach or instructor, which explains in part why it was once known as Player Development Man of the Year. Dr. Georgia Giblin is the first woman to win the award, but the honor is big for more than that.
Giblin’s work as the Tigers’ director of performance science has helped transform the Tigers organization on and off the field, but nowhere more than in player development. By utilizing technology and science to help players improve and develop, and track their improvement from year to year, Giblin has modernized the Tigers’ system and helped players, coaches and instructors from Lakeland to Detroit and the various stops in between. In that sense, the honor is a recognition of how big of an impact performance science has made in the organization in a relatively short time.
It was a huge leap for an organization that didn’t have a performance science group just a few years ago.
“Initially, I think there’s always challenges when you come into a new organization, in particular with the rate that technology is moving right now. It’s moving very, very fast,” Giblin said Saturday. “It did take a little while just purely trying to get everybody up to speed. There’s a lot of technology and it’s daunting for people, and it’s not been in the game before so people aren’t familiar with it. So there is a bit of an onboarding and a learning process, but I think once we got through that initial process, everyone has been really receptive to it. For me, once you can show value with the trainers, with the coaches, then really they seek it out.”
The impact of Giblin’s work can be seen everywhere around Tigertown. Atop Joker Marchant Stadium are the cameras and sensors that comprise the Hawk-Eye system that tracks motion all over the field. That system is now in place at every ballpark in the Tigers’ farm system, providing data that Giblin’s group can receive remotely.
The indoor cages where players work on their swings include a “smart cage” with force plates measuring weight and pressure, and Trackman sensors measuring movement. The player performance area in Tigertown is full of technology. On Saturday, Giblin and her employees spent the day doing measurements and assessments on players to create a baseline against which to gauge progress during the season.
“Previously we sort of had some technology in Lakeland and some in Detroit,” Giblin said, “and the fact that we can scale it through the organization means that we can track the players from level to level. That’s going to help really aid player development a lot to get a good understanding of how players progress through the system and how they’re developing over the course of years.”
The data Giblin’s group produces is used across departments. For player development, Giblin works with coaches and instructors on plans for individual players based on how they measure, which can be used with everything from swing work to pitch design.
“We’re trying to get baseline assessments on players for hitting and pitching to really understand on a fundamental level how they move so that we can help the coaches create the best plans for them,” Giblin said.
For the team’s medical department, the information helps know what to look for and how to work with players to treat and prevent injuries.
“I work very closely with our strength and conditioning department, with our player training and sports medicine departments, to try to look at the players as a whole and find some of those weaknesses,” Giblin said. “Maybe they have poor ankle mobility, so how is that going to affect their hitting or pitching? Is it going to affect the front side of their hitting? Whatever it may be. So we’ll work closely with the athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches to try to address those off the field so they hopefully don’t become an issue on the field.”
For others in the Tigers’ analytics department, the data represents potential opportunities to improve players.
“I think there’s huge potential for overlap there to look at the outcome and the pitch metrics,” Giblin said, “but also what’s the body doing to get those outcomes and how can we join that together to get the best possible outcome for the player themselves?”
On the most basic level, of course, is the work with players themselves and the realization when they see improvement. That, Giblin said, is more rewarding than a trophy.
“It’s really nice to be able to work with them one on one and get their feedback daily,” Giblin said, “whether it’s just a session in the cage and they can see something and feel something and go, ‘Oh, ok, that makes sense.’ Or whether it’s with the coaches saying, ‘I’ve noticed this out on the field. Can we test it? Can we check it?’ Giving them validation, I think that’s a good source of feedback as well. Different departments, different kind of structures, but it’s obviously nice to get some of that positive feedback.”