Research Finds That Pitch Recognition Skill Is Linked With Season Walk Percentage

“Yeah, but will it transfer out to the field?” It is the most asked question about any type of sports training. Tools, techniques and technologies all seem logical in their theory and approach but the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. It’s no different in baseball. Coaches, parents and most of all players would like some empirical evidence that there is a transfer of learning from drills to statistical performance at the plate.

That’s why we were excited to see the results of a recent study, the first of two by Dr. Sean Müller and Dr. Peter Fadde, Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer at gameSense Sports, that found a significant link between the visual anticipation skills of hitters, also known as pitch recognition, and their actual statistical performance during a season.

Study Confirms That First Third Of Ball Flight Is Key For Baseball Hitters

A baseball hitter relies more on pitch information during the first third of ball flight than the final third. Nothing new there as coaches have been teaching pitch recognition that way for years. But sometimes a well-designed academic study comes along to confirm what may be obvious. That’s exactly what a group of Japanese sports scientists did earlier this year when they incorporated occlusion glasses, a pitching machine and a group of college baseball players.

In-Game Pitcher Video Is Effective For Pitch Recognition Training

When teaching a new motor skill or game tactic, coaches rely on their athletes being able to take what they learned in practice and apply it during a game despite multiple changes in the environment, emotions and minute by minute situations.

For baseball hitting instructors, this is especially true when teaching pitch recognition and plate discipline. Facing the same pitchers in batting practice every day doesn’t provide the breadth of delivery mechanisms and early ball flight cues that players will see from multiple pitchers during an entire season

Game Fatigue Can Hurt Cognitive Skills of Baseball Hitters

For most baseball players, live batting practice (BP) provides the best time to work on pitch recognition, timing and swing mechanics. Typical pre-game BP sessions offer a couple dozen swings facing medium-speed pitches with the goal of warming up muscles and focusing vision to the ballpark lighting and background. During rare in-season team practices, hitting and fielding are often isolated training activities, except for the occasional scrimmage

A Pitcher's Facial Emotions Can Help A Hitter's Pitch Recognition

Baseball players, like most athletes, are not emotionless robots. The pressure of the moment can affect their performance. Think of the pitcher-batter duels, where one team is one swing away from victory or defeat. The well-trained brain of the pitcher knows what to throw and the experienced batter knows what to expect.

Yet, athletes can’t always mask the stress they’re feeling, giving away possible cues to their opponent. Staring back at the pitcher, a hitter might be able to subconsciously detect fear or uncertainty which may help him predict the type, speed and location of the next pitch. That interaction is what Dr. Arik Cheshin of the University of Haifa wanted to understand.

Pitch Recognition Training Dramatically Improves Runs Per For Southeast Missouri State Baseball

 Coach Steve Bieser (AP Photo/Rogellio V. Solis)

Coach Steve Bieser (AP Photo/Rogellio V. Solis)

Peter Fadde Ph.D., Chief Science Officer at gameSense Sports, has been on the front lines of pitch recognition science for over 20 years. Over the last three years, his hands-on coaching has helped the Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) baseball team to dramatically improve their offensive stats.

In 2013, SEMO averaged 5.7 runs per game. That ranked #108 nationally among 295 D1 programs. In 2014, the first year using Dr. Fadde’s system, the Redhawks improved to an average 7.9 runs per game, which ranked #8 in the country. In 2015, 8.0 runs per game, good for #3 in the nation. This year, 7.9 runs per game, again ranked #8.

“We had two goals,” Fadde said in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article. “We wanted to stay true to the scientific principles, and that’s the occlusion method. The other part was we really needed it to fit with what they do with the players — not some new exotic thing.”

Steve Bieser, recently named head coach at the University of Missouri talks about the program that he, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and Dr. Fadde initiated at SEMO, "“People look at pitch recognition and think it’s about being passive, the ‘Moneyball’ stuff with Billy Beane, (about) seeing more pitches.”
“It’s nothing about seeing more pitches. It’s about seeing the pitch that you can handle and being ready for that pitch, whether that at-bat lasts one pitch long or seven pitches long.”

Coach Lawson, now with the Tri-City Valleycats, Class A in Troy, N.Y., was able to work video-based pitch recognition drills into their current instruction. 

"We created a program to fit into what we were already doing,” Lawson said in the same STL Post-Dispatch article. “Guys already hit off the tee. They already would stand in and track pitches during bullpens. They already watched video. We were trying to add little bits and pieces of pitch recognition to their normal daily routines. We were able to do it and be quite successful with it. It gave us a huge competitive advantage at SEMO.”

Read the full articles here:
Bieser brings fresh ideas to Mizzou baseball
Pitch recognition program helped change SEMO baseball

Learning How Focus As A Hitter In Baseball

Learning how to focus, or what others might call concentration or paying attention is a critical mental skill set for baseball players.  When you are focused or “in the moment”, the game seems to slow down.  Sport psychologists often call this “being in the zone” or in a “flow state”.  On the other hand when you are not in the zone, the game feels like it is speeding up and you cannot keep up with the pace. 

VR in sports

Perception & Action Podcast: Dr. Rob Gray interviews gameSports Dr. Fadde about Perception-Action Coupling, Part vs. Whole Training, and VR in sports.

A discussion with gameSense Sports Peter Fadde from Southern Illinois University. The discussion touches on several topics related to training including perception-action coupling, part vs whole training and sport specificity. The discussion also does a deep dive into VR use in sports, attempting to tackle the question: how real does virtual reality need to be?     

Listen to the podcast:

http://perceptionactionpodcast.libsyn.com

Instructional Design for Accelerated Macrocognitive Expertise in the Baseball Workplace

The goal of accelerating expertise can leave researchers and trainers in human factors, naturalistic decision making, sport science, and expertise studies concerned about seemingly insufficient application of expert performance theories, findings and methods for training macrocognitive aspects of human performance. Video-occlusion methods perfected by sports expertise researchers have great instructional utility, in some cases offering an effective and inexpensive alternative to high-fidelity simulation. A key problem for instructional designers seems to be that expertise research done in laboratory and field settings doesn’t get adequately translated into workplace training. Therefore, this article presents a framework for better linkage of expertise research/training across laboratory, field, and workplace settings. It also uses a case study to trace the development and implementation of a macrocognitive training program in the very challenging workplace of the baseball batters’ box. This training, whic

Presentation at MIT/Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

gameSense Sports Dr. Peter Fadde:  "Game Changer or Digital Doorstop? Virtual Reality for Sports Training"

In this Competitive Advantage talk Dr. Fadde gives the low down on the "latest greatest" sports training technology. From the MIT-SSAC program:

In this session you are the NFL General Manager or Power Five Athletic Director pressed by coaches to take the “must have” leap into Virtual Reality. And you will get “the talk” about realities of VR that they never will -- but should. You may make the leap, or you may not. But, unlike many GMs and ADs, you will decide based on cost/benefit analysis of competitive advantage and not “Wow!” factor.