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Hitting Assessments & Evaluations: The Complete Story of The Swing

If you aren't assessing you're guessing.


Coaching baseball or softball hitters must start with an assessment, which includes data collection using video and various technology resources. The tools and resources being used by professional organizations and top training facilities across the nation are enabling us to better coach our athletes, because we don't have to guess anymore. Through the use of proper assessment and data collection, we can create actionable plans to make our hitters better.




Why assessments?


Typically, a hitter will hit with a number of coaches and receive a variety of feedback on things they can improve. However, the messages may not always be consistent and the hitter may become confused. Proper hitting assessments eliminate the confusion and provide an objective way to measure a hitter's performance and ability. Players don't just receive a bunch of data and information and then "go figure it out." Coaches who know how to collect data and apply it are able to enhance the growth of a hitter and show proven, measurable performance progress.


Assessments are the foundation for our instruction (training info):


1) Assess the player


-collect swing profiles, batted ball profiles, and video


-Summarize the information and target areas of strengths and weaknesses


-Identify areas for improvement and create a player development plan


2) Start individualized program


-drills and instruction


-track data during training


3) Monitor & Adjust


-tracking what has improved or not improved allows changes to be made in the training plan.


-goals and objectives are adjusted as necessary




How do we do it?


BLAST SENSORS & VIDEO ANALYSIS


Blast motion sensors allow us to collect data and create a swing profile of how each hitter swings the bat. This information is summarized in three major categories: Plane, Connection, and Rotation.


Some of the key areas we look at are: bat speed, vertical bat angle, attack angle, time to contact, and connection at impact.


Looking at the blast data above, this player has below average bat speed for the level of play. The weakest area of swing quality is in the Plane category (on plane %, vertical bat angle, and power). On plane percentage measures the percentage of the swing that is on plane. A hitter that has a high on plane score does not manipulate the barrel with the hands or wrists during the swing, accelerating the barrel early in the swing path and through the pitch.





Another metric of note is connection at impact. Connection at impact measures the relationship of the vertical bat angle to the body at impact. An ideal impact connection would be closer to 90 degrees. This hitter averages a less than 90 degree connection at impact. When we looked at video, 3D images, and on plane efficiency, we noticed the hitter did not demonstrate good vertical bat angle and inefficiently uses the body to get to different pitch locations.



RAPSODO


Rapsodo hitting technology allows us to create a batted ball profile. How does the ball come off the bat? Every batted ball is tracked and a detailed report is created for each hitter.





Launch Angle - is the measured trajectory of a batted ball of the bat. Rapsodo measures hit types into the following categories based on launch angle:


Ground Balls: 6 degrees or less launch angle

Low Line Drives: 6 - 15 degrees launch angle

High Line Drives: 15 - 24 degrees launch angle

Fly Balls: 24 - 50 degrees launch angle

Pop Ups: 51 or more degrees launch angle


When we look at launch angle we want to examine: launch angle by pitch location and/or field, hard hit launch angle, and average launch angle.



Looking at this hitter, we can see that the overall average launch angle is 1 degree. This means the hitter is hitting mostly ground balls. The Hard Hit Ball Launch Angle (HHBLA) is also only 7 degrees. This means the hitter's best hit balls of the round were hit as a low line drive that bounces before reaching the outfield grass. This can tell us a lot about the hitter's attack angle (the direction the bat is moving at impact with the pitch) and the hitter's vertical bat angle. A lot of times, hitters with low average launch angles have a flat horizontal bat angle and/or a below average attack angle. This leads to the hardest hit balls going directly into the ground - less than optimal.



Launch angle by field and pitch location shows this right handed hitter struggled to hit pitches hard in the air to the pull side. This is not surprising. Most hitters struggle to pull the ball in the air with good exit velocity.


An area of focus for this hitter would be to increase hard hit balls into the 10-30 degree range for optimal ball flight and more offensive production.


Exit Velocity - is the measurement in miles per hour of how hard the ball is hit off the bat.


We look at average exit velocity and max exit velocity. Max exit velocity shows a hitter's power potential while average exit velocity shows a hitter's ability to consistently barrel the baseball.


We also look at hard hit % (the percentage of batted balls hit at 90% or better than a hitter's max exit velocity).


Ropes are hard hit balls at 10-20 degrees of launch angle. These are ideal hits for high batting average.


Bombs are hard hit balls at 20 degrees or greater launch angle. These are ideal hits for high slugging percentage.


We can breakdown exit velocity by field and location in the strike zone just like launch angle.

We can also examine the relationship between launch angle and exit velocity.

Ideally, we want to see hitters maximize their hardest hit balls (exit velocity x-axis) in the 10-30 degree launch angle range (y-axis). This hitter consistently hits his hardest hit balls between -10 to 10 degrees.


4D Motion Capture


4D Motion is a revolutionary wireless 3D Full Body & Bat Motion Capture system. The software provides a professional 3D bio-mechanical motion capture of a player's swing and body movements providing a detailed visual and graph representation of how a player positions their body and swings the bat.


Using 4d motion allows us to visually see and record data on the proper sequence of the body during the swing. Ideally we want to see hitters moving in the following order: 1) hips 2) chest 3) arm 4) bat. The hitter below has a less than optimal swing sequence. The hips lead the way but the arms dominate the swing. The hitter doesn't create good torso rotation.



We can also examine swing plane and bat path using 4d motion.



Poor swing plane and bat path
Optimal swing plane and bat path

Hitters who have optimal movements obviously give themselves the best chance to hit the ball hard and find success!


Training Hitters


Using all of the mentioned tools and resources allows us to tell a hitter the complete story of their swing. We help them identify areas of improvement and objective goals to reach during future training. Hitters have ownership of their career as well as their development process. They can actually focus on getting better versus stepping into a cage and simply taking reps with no plan or purpose. Some hitters want to know the details of the data and other hitters simply want a summary of what they need to do to get better.


One thing that is of importance is how much time the hitter is willing to invest into their craft. Improving swing quality and batted ball profiles are not microwave results. It takes intentional deliberate practice repeated over time. Hitters who only work on their deficiencies once a week see a slower rate of return compared to hitters who train consistently and do their "homework." Hitting more often should not be confused with hitting right more often. Don't mistake activity with productivity!


Hope this helps!


See you on the diamond!



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