Baseball Vision Training

As a baseball player we teach and train every muscle in the body.  We are always exercising and working on our strength, mobility, flexibility, range of motion, and even our minds.  But we always overlook the most important one, our eyes and vision.  To be successful in any sport you must be able to see and process what you are seeing quickly.  Hitting happens in under 400 milliseconds but you need to process the pitch within 75-100 milliseconds.  Have you ever thought about what goes into that process?   Check out this link and you will see what needs to happen for you to see and recognize a pitch.

https://projects.seattletimes.com/2017/mariners-preview/science/

The good news is that we can improve our vision and train it just like we train other parts of our body.  Here is a list of training exercises that I have been doing after working with a sports vision therapist.

 

 

Hart Chart

  • Cost – Free
  • What is needed:
    • Small letter chart
    • Large letter chart
    • Optional – Eye patch

What is the hart chart and how does it work?   Accommodation is the focusing of the lens in your eye.  If your vision gets blurry up close, accommodation is not working.  Your eyes strain and you may bet headaches as well.  The good news is that you can exercise and strengthen to improve.   The way we do this is by printing off a small letter – near chart and a large letter – far chart.  You go back and forth reading each line of the chart.  Near, far, near, far, etc.…  You do this while covering one eye with either your hand or a purchased eye patch.  Here are the instructions:

http://semovisioncare.com/Pt%20Forms/Pt%20education/Hart%20Chart.pdf

 

Also read this and watch the video:

https://otrobert.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/the-hart-chart/

 

If you do this 1-2 times a day, you will quickly feel and experience results.  It would be idea to do a session in the morning and at night.

Here is an Amazon link to an eye patch:

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Eye-Patch-Maintenance-Eyeshades/dp/B07CXPCNXF/ref=sr_1_21?keywords=eye+patch&qid=1557445152&s=hi&sr=1-21

 

 

Flippers Vision Therapy

  • Cost – $15-30 per flipper
  • What is needed:
    • +/- 2 flipper to start
    • Additional +/- 1.5-3.0 flippers if needed
    • Small letter chart from the Hart Chart above

How do you use flippers?  Flippers are a great tool to add into your vision training.  They work on helping your eyes focus near and far quickly.  The idea is to simulate distances with a + or – magnification in the flipper.   This video explains how to use the flipper:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=86&v=UXtYvTL4Y5Y

 

If you do this for 3-5 minutes a day and ramp up to maybe 10 in a month, you will notice an improvement in how quickly your eyes can work on focusing.

 

Here is an Amazon link to purchase flippers.  I suggest the +/- 2 to start with.  These are cheap but work well.  They do ship from China, so it takes a while for shipping.

https://www.amazon.com/SUNWIN-Optical-Flipper-Optometry-Plastic/dp/B01JLKSQRS

 

 

Brock String

  • Cost – $10
  • What is needed:
    • Purchase a Brock String

This one is going to be hard for me to explain how it works and what it does.  But it’s basically a long 10’ strings with 3-5 beads on it.  You space the beads out and then hold the string up between your eyes.  Then you look down the string and try to focus on each bead individually.  When that happens, you see 1 bead, but the other beads look like there are 2.  Its best to just show you the instructions with pictures:

https://www.good-lite.com/cw3/Assets/documents/911115_BrockStringInstructions.pdf

and

https://www.bouldervt.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/478/2016/05/Brock-String.pdf

 

This will help train depth perception and focus.  Its hard for your eyes to process 1 bead at first but with some training it becomes easier.  The one PDF above shows other drills that can be done using the same string.

Here is the link to purchase on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Foot-Brock-String-Convergence-Performance/dp/B01MEFCDD1/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=brock+string&qid=1557445432&s=hi&sr=8-1

 

 

Senaptec Strobe Glasses

  • Cost $349
  • What is needed:
    • Senaptec Glasses

Senaptec took over the old Nike strobe training glasses.  They state that they train the connection between an individual’s eyes, brain, and body.  They are basically strobe lights in the lens of the glasses that cut down the frames you see and it makes you react quicker and process information faster.

Here is the link to Senaptec where you can read and learn more:

https://senaptec.com/senaptecstrobe/

 

 

Conclusion

I personally do every drill listed; I even have the glasses. None are easy but every drill does work and strengthens your vision.  Its easy to slack on vision training and I know that 98% probably don’t even think about it but when you put in the effort of 10 minutes a day, results will come.  Sorry that I couldn’t explain each drill well, but it is very complicated.  You have to try it to experience the impact.  I would tell everyone reading this to start with the Hart Chart and download/print a free chart online and give it a try.  It won’t cost you anything.

Robinson Cano and Optimal Outcomes Based On Statcast Data

*Reading this on mobile may cut off the charts.  There is a lot of data and it is too wide.  If you want to read it all please use a tablet but a computer is best.  Sorry. 

I wanted to dive deeper into an actual hitters in game bat speed and see if the ratios and outcomes correlate.  I do want to note that I changed the OPT BAT/EXIT ratio to an easy SMASH which is Smash factor.  This is a title change only so when comparing my old data to new, these are interchangeable.

I picked Robinson Cano.  I was going to do a different analysis on him but I was more interested in applying this theory.  I wanted to look at his best or optimal exit velo outcomes.  I decided to pick all fly balls (to account for spin.  You can have a line drive and a fly ball both at the same launch angle, or at least statcast shows this.  I assume its due to height of the hit ball as well and not launch alone) that were hit in a 21-30 degree launch.  In my experience, these are balls that are usually squared up and are the ideal launch angle.  These averaged 25 degrees.

 

Data Explanation

Lets look at the data (left to right)

  • Pitch Type – Self explanatory
  • Release Speed – Self explanatory
  • BB Type – Self explanatory
  • Hit Distance – Self explanatory
  • Launch Speed – Exit Velo
  • Launch Angle – Self explanatory
  • 1.2 0.2 Exp – This is the expected exit velo based on pitch speed and bat speed while making optimal contact. This is a sliding scale and we adjust bat speed to match exit velos.
  • Opt Smash – This is the optimal smash factor or the optimal ratio of 1.2 0.2 Exp divided by Bat Speed.
  • Bat Speed – The assumed bat speed to create the actual exit velo based on pitch speed.
  • Act Smash – This gets into a different concept of calculating bat speed.  If we assume that bat speed stays constant each swing, then the only variable would be quality of contact.  It would range from optimal to poor.  1.45 or more would be optimal.  1.40 – 1.45 would be good.  Remember that the smash factor changes as pitch and bat speed changes.  It is not a constant number.
  • Bat Speed Ass – Bat Speed Assumed is taking the average bat speed of the optimal swing/contact outcomes and using that static number.  This assumes that bat speed is constant in every swing and only quality of contact is changing.

 

Cano Fly Balls 21-30 degrees

Bat Speed Changes Contact Changes
pitch_type release_speed bb_type hit_distance_sc launch_speed launch_angle 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Smash Bat Speed Act Smash Bat Speed Ass
FS 87 fly_ball 403 107.9 21 107.4 1.432 75 1.56565144 68.917
CH 79 fly_ball 348 96.2 21 96.2 1.4358 67 1.395882 68.917
FF 93.6 fly_ball 413 101.9 23 101.52 1.4713 69 1.47859019 68.917
CH 88.9 fly_ball 404 108.1 23 107.78 1.4371 75 1.56855348 68.917
CH 84.8 fly_ball 372 100.6 23 100.96 1.4423 70 1.45972692 68.917
FC 90.3 fly_ball 371 99.2 25 99.66 1.4656 68 1.43941263 68.917
FF 91.3 fly_ball 413 107.1 25 107.06 1.4468 74 1.55404327 68.917
FF 92.7 fly_ball 339 94.1 26 94.14 1.4943 63 1.36541057 68.917
FF 92.8 fly_ball 405 102.3 27 102.56 1.4651 70 1.48439427 68.917
FF 96.4 fly_ball 343 91.4 30 92.48 1.5161 61 1.326233 68.917
FT 90.8 fly_ball 379 100.6 30 99.76 1.4671 68 1.45972692 68.917
CU 73.8 fly_ball 368 95.8 30 95.16 1.4203 67 1.39007792 68.917
AVERAGES 88.450 379.833 100.433 25.333 100.390 1.458 68.917 1.457 68.917

 

This data shows that Cano has an average bat speed of 68.917 mph and an optimal smash of 1.458.  It is assuming that if he sees an average pitch speed of 88.45 mph, swings his average bat speed of 68.917 mph, makes optimal smash factor contact of 1.458, his expected exit velo would be 100.39.

There are 3 ways of looking at this data.  We must assume that these results in the 21-30 degree range were optimal contact.

  1. We adjust the bat speed to create optimal exit velo.  These calculations are in the Bat Speed Changes columns.
  2. We adjust smash factors or quality of contact to change exit velo.  This assumes that we use a constant bat speed of 68.917.  These calculations are in the Contact Changes column.
  3. In reality is a mix of both.  Cano’s bat speed changes based on pitch type, location, count, and he makes different quality of contact to produce different smash factors.

Lets look at other data from Cano…

 

Cano Fly Balls above 30 degrees

We want to compare optimal contact fly balls to fly balls that were not.

Bat Speed Changes Contact Changes
pitch_type release_speed bb_type hit_distance_sc launch_speed launch_angle 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Smash Bat Speed Act Smash Bat Speed Ass
FF 92.8 fly_ball 344 93.9 31 94.16 1.4946 63 1.36250852 68.917
FT 90.4 fly_ball 345 93.2 31 92.48 1.4916 62 1.35235138 68.917
CH 83.5 fly_ball 310 86.8 31 85.1 1.493 57 1.25948605 68.917
FT 95.7 fly_ball 305 88 31 88.74 1.53 58 1.2768983 68.917
FF 90.9 fly_ball 385 103.7 32 103.38 1.4561 71 1.50470856 68.917
FC 94.1 fly_ball 249 72 34 72.82 1.6182 45 1.04473497 68.917
SL 88.2 fly_ball 348 98.4 34 98.04 1.4633 67 1.42780446 68.917
FT 99.4 fly_ball 334 94.2 35 94.28 1.5206 62 1.36686159 68.917
FT 92.1 fly_ball 305 87.5 35 86.82 1.5232 57 1.26964319 68.917
FF 95.7 fly_ball 312 91.9 40 92.34 1.5138 61 1.33348811 68.917
FF 92.3 fly_ball 230 75.5 46 74.86 1.5928 47 1.0955207 68.917
CH 85.7 fly_ball 289 92.1 47 91.54 1.4765 62 1.33639015 68.917
CH 87 fly_ball 263 81.4 47 81 1.5283 53 1.18113093 68.917
FC 91.4 fly_ball 259 84.9 47 84.28 1.5324 55 1.23191665 68.917
FF 89.1 fly_ball 233 86.4 54 86.22 1.5126 57 1.25368197 68.917
AVERAGES 91.220 300.733 88.660 38.333 88.404 1.516 58.467 1.286 68.917

 

This data shows that his actual exit velos are down to 88.66 vs 100.43 mph.  Average launch angle is up to 38 from 25 degrees.  Lets look at the 3 ways to look at the data again.

  1. We adjust the bat speed to create optimal exit velo.  These calculations are in the Bat Speed Changes columns.  This would show that instead of having a range of 68-75 mph and average of 68.917 mph in the optimal exit velo chart he now has an average 58.467 bat speed and a range of 45-71 mph.  This is probable but not likely.  It is probable because he may have been fooled, check swing, got jammed and had to slow his bat speed down to make contact.
  2. We adjust smash factors or quality of contact to change exit velo.  This assumes that we use a constant bat speed of 68.917.  These calculations are in the Contact Changes column.  These show something that is more likely.  Cano’s bat speed is closer to his average and he just made bad contact.  We go from a smash of 1.457 in optimal to 1.286 in this chart.  This would probably rank very low in smash factors.
  3. We assume that he had a lower bat speed and made worse contact.  This is probably what is going on but hard to know without actual in game bat speed data from a bat sensor.  We take something in the middle of 1 and 2.

 

What about line drives? 

I know we will have some people claiming that fly balls might not be optimal contact and that line drives have the highest expected batting and on base averages.  Lets look at those.

Bat Speed Changes Contact Changes
pitch_type release_speed bb_type hit_distance_sc launch_speed launch_angle 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Smash Bat Speed Act Smash Bat Speed Ass
FT 92.7 line_drive 169 104 6 103.74 1.4611 71 1.56955072 66.261
CU 82.6 line_drive 145 102.3 7 101.72 1.4327 71 1.5438946 66.261
FT 93.7 line_drive 158 105.2 7 105.14 1.4603 72 1.58766092 66.261
FC 89 line_drive 185 95 8 94.6 1.4781 64 1.43372421 66.261
SI 89.9 line_drive 197 103.3 9 103.18 1.4532 71 1.55898643 66.261
FC 88.9 line_drive 221 104.2 9 102.98 1.4504 71 1.57256908 66.261
SI 95.5 line_drive 178 90.9 9 89.9 1.5237 59 1.37184769 66.261
FF 96.6 line_drive 242 105.9 10 105.72 1.4683 72 1.5982252 66.261
FF 89.7 line_drive 222 98.5 10 98.34 1.4678 67 1.48654563 66.261
FF 95.7 line_drive 228 102 11 101.94 1.4774 69 1.53936705 66.261
CU 81.4 line_drive 181 96.6 11 96.68 1.443 67 1.45787115 66.261
FF 89.1 line_drive 258 106.1 11 106.62 1.4408 74 1.60124357 66.261
FF 96.3 line_drive 289 104.6 12 104.46 1.4713 71 1.57860582 66.261
SL 85.4 line_drive 282 102.6 12 102.28 1.4406 71 1.54842215 66.261
CU 80.4 line_drive 252 91.2 12 91.68 1.4552 63 1.37637524 66.261
FF 95.8 line_drive 160 76 12 76.76 1.5992 48 1.14697937 66.261
FT 89.2 line_drive 265 97.9 13 97.04 1.4703 66 1.47749053 66.261
SI 95.5 line_drive 170 76.1 13 76.7 1.5979 48 1.14848855 66.261
FT 89.6 line_drive 289 99.4 14 99.52 1.4635 68 1.50012828 66.261
FF 92.1 line_drive 226 89.9 14 90.42 1.507 60 1.35675586 66.261
SL 87.9 line_drive 269 94.1 14 94.38 1.4747 64 1.42014156 66.261
SL 77.2 line_drive 275 93.5 15 93.44 1.4375 65 1.41108646 66.261
SI 90.3 line_drive 311 104.9 15 104.46 1.4508 72 1.58313337 66.261
AVERAGES 89.761 224.870 97.574 11.043 97.465 1.475 66.261 1.473 66.261

 

Here are line drives up to 15 degrees.  I would say that these are the best quality contact line drives a hitter can have.  The ones under 10 degrees are probably lined to infielders or one hop an infielder but are still classified as a solid hit line drive.

Average line drive exit velo is 95.574.  To get the bat speed assuming optimal smash his bat speed averages 66.261 mph.  This is slightly lower than the 68.917 mph in his fly balls.  This does make sense though and I have seen hitters have faster bat speeds the higher they hit the ball.

Everything checks out in this chart.  Lets look at non optimal outcomes of line drives.

Bat Speed Changes Contact Changes
pitch_type release_speed bb_type hit_distance_sc launch_speed launch_angle 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Smash Bat Speed Act Smash Bat Speed Ass
SI 91.8 line_drive 245 85 16 85.56 1.5279 56 1.28280587 66.261
SI 89 line_drive 217 68.2 16 68.2 1.6238 42 1.02926307 66.261
FT 95.6 line_drive 290 99.2 16 99.52 1.4854 67 1.49710991 66.261
KC 79.9 line_drive 223 82 17 81.98 1.4905 55 1.23753037 66.261
FF 96.5 line_drive 311 91.5 17 91.3 1.5217 60 1.38090279 66.261
SI 91.2 line_drive 251 87.7 17 87.84 1.5145 58 1.32355383 66.261
FF 93.7 line_drive 332 96.9 19 96.74 1.4883 65 1.4623987 66.261
FF 89 line_drive 326 94.3 19 94.6 1.4781 64 1.42315993 66.261
FF 92 line_drive 305 93.2 20 92.8 1.4968 62 1.40655891 66.261
FF 97.9 line_drive 154 64.8 20 65.18 1.7153 38 0.97795083 66.261
SL 86.3 line_drive 398 102.5 20 102.46 1.4431 71 1.54691297 66.261
SL 88.4 line_drive 268 82.1 21 82.48 1.5274 54 1.23903956 66.261
CH 85.3 line_drive 334 97 22 97.46 1.4546 67 1.46390788 66.261
FF 92.8 line_drive 380 100.9 22 100.16 1.4729 68 1.52276603 66.261
FF 96.9 line_drive 309 94.4 22 94.98 1.5076 63 1.42466911 66.261
SL 88.7 line_drive 284 80.6 23 80.14 1.5412 52 1.2164018 66.261
FT 97.3 line_drive 328 92.9 24 92.66 1.519 61 1.40203136 66.261
SI 91.8 line_drive 297 89.1 25 89.16 1.5112 59 1.34468239 66.261
AVERAGES 91.339 291.778 89.017 19.778 89.068 1.518 59.000 1.343 66.261

 

Here we see that exit velo drops to 89.017.  This drop is comparable to the drop of optimal – non optimal in fly balls, it seems consistent.   Look at Bat Speed Changes vs Contact Changes.

  • Bat Speed Changes assumes that his bat speed averaged 59 mph and ranged from 38-68 mph.  Possible but not likely.  If we do assume bat speed changes then smash would stay optimal.  But this isn’t happening.
  • Contact Changes assumes that he swung at all his line drives at his line drive average of 66.261 mph but only the quality of contact or smash factor changed.  It dropped from 1.518 to 1.343.   This change is comparable to the fly ball smash factor change as well.
  • The reality again is that it is somewhere in the middle of both.

 

Conclusion

What have we learned?  This is actually really interesting data and it lines up and makes sense.  We learned that Cano can probably have a bat speed max of 75 mph but averages 68.917 mph on fly balls and 66.261 on line drives.  We also learned that his optimal quality of contact or smash factor for fly balls is 1.458 and 1.475 for line drives.  His bad smash factor for fly balls is 1.286 and line drives is 1.343.  Knowing this data we can start to predict optimal outcomes for each swing a hitter takes.  We know the pitch speed, we have an optimal average swing speed, and we have a range of optimal smash factors.  When these are calculated we can assume that for a 95 mph fast ball, cano will have an average bat speed of 68.917, and a smash of 1.458 which would equal an exit velo of 101.7 mph.

I would like to eventually find a way to not look at barrels as the best outcome but look at individual player smash factors and exit velo to determine if his hit was an A+ grade.  This is because a barrel is a blanket equation but Dee Gordon wont get many, if any.  But he can still make A+ contact and should be credited for that.

Statcast Data From the 2018 Home Run Derby – Calculating Bat Speed

*Reading this on mobile may cut off the charts.  There is a lot of data and it is too wide.  If you want to read it all please use a tablet but a computer is best.  Sorry.

To build on my last couple posts and dive deeper into statcast data and calculating optimal contact and bat speeds I pulled data from Baseball Savant.

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/hr_derby

I picked random rounds and Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Alex Bregman to see if the assumptions line up to batting practice pitch speed (assuming 60 mph) and where the hitter is going all out to swing hard at grooved pitches.

  • 1.2 0.2 Exp = Is what the optimal exit velo should be based on bat speed and pitch speed.  = 1.2 x bat speed + 0.2 x pitch speed
  • Opt Bat/Exit = Optimal ratios

Data

Batter Round Exit Velo Distance Launch Pitch Speed Bat Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
Alex Bregman 1 103 422 23 60 76 103.2 1.358
Alex Bregman 1 100 401 27 60 73 99.6 1.364
Alex Bregman 1 98 399 28 60 72 98.4 1.367
Alex Bregman 1 100 385 24 60 73 99.6 1.364
Alex Bregman 1 95 386 33 60 69 94.8 1.374
Alex Bregman 1 100 416 25 60 73 99.6 1.364
Alex Bregman 1 99 404 30 60 73 99.6 1.364
Alex Bregman 1 98 390 33 60 72 98.4 1.367
Alex Bregman 1 98 377 35 60 72 98.4 1.367
Alex Bregman 1 102 413 27 60 75 102 1.360
Alex Bregman 1 100 409 23 60 73 99.6 1.364
Alex Bregman 1 98 404 31 60 72 98.4 1.367
Alex Bregman 1 98 406 29 60 72 98.4 1.367
99.154 400.923 28.308 60.000 72.692 99.231 1.365

 

Batter Round Exit Velo Distance Launch Pitch Speed Bat Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
Bryce Harper 3 109 434 30 60 81 109.2 1.348
Bryce Harper 3 101 386 35 60 74 100.8 1.362
Bryce Harper 3 111 478 30 60 82 110.4 1.346
Bryce Harper 3 106 444 32 60 78 105.6 1.354
Bryce Harper 3 112 452 25 60 83 111.6 1.345
Bryce Harper 3 109 429 34 60 81 109.2 1.348
Bryce Harper 3 105 408 39 60 78 105.6 1.354
Bryce Harper 3 110 438 36 60 81 109.2 1.348
Bryce Harper 3 108 450 33 60 80 108 1.350
Bryce Harper 3 109 426 30 60 81 109.2 1.348
Bryce Harper 3 109 453 31 60 81 109.2 1.348
Bryce Harper 3 112 473 31 60 83 111.6 1.345
Bryce Harper 3 109 436 26 60 81 109.2 1.348
Bryce Harper 3 108 408 39 60 80 108 1.350
Bryce Harper 3 104 362 25 60 77 104.4 1.356
Bryce Harper 3 97 382 38 60 71 97.2 1.369
Bryce Harper 3 105 439 36 60 78 105.6 1.354
Bryce Harper 3 105 427 34 60 78 105.6 1.354
107.167 429.167 32.444 60.000 79.333 107.200 1.351

 

Batter Round Exit Velo Distance Launch Pitch Speed Bat Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
Kyle Schwarber 3 108 446 24 60 80 108 1.350
Kyle Schwarber 3 105 422 32 60 78 105.6 1.354
Kyle Schwarber 3 109 446 26 60 81 109.2 1.348
Kyle Schwarber 3 110 442 26 60 82 110.4 1.346
Kyle Schwarber 3 110 446 30 60 82 110.4 1.346
Kyle Schwarber 3 109 430 25 60 81 109.2 1.348
Kyle Schwarber 3 105 433 30 60 78 105.6 1.354
Kyle Schwarber 3 107 442 29 60 79 106.8 1.352
Kyle Schwarber 3 111 435 22 60 83 111.6 1.345
Kyle Schwarber 3 105 413 34 60 78 105.6 1.354
Kyle Schwarber 3 112 393 18 60 83 111.6 1.345
Kyle Schwarber 3 109 430 23 60 81 109.2 1.348
Kyle Schwarber 3 104 416 34 60 77 104.4 1.356
Kyle Schwarber 3 107 441 27 60 79 106.8 1.352
Kyle Schwarber 3 98 397 26 60 72 98.4 1.367
Kyle Schwarber 3 104 435 27 60 77 104.4 1.356
Kyle Schwarber 3 104 428 33 60 77 104.4 1.356
Kyle Schwarber 3 110 453 26 60 82 110.4 1.346
107.056 430.444 27.333 60.000 79.444 107.333 1.351

 

We are assuming perfect contact on these home runs.  We see that an Opt Bat/Exit or smash factor ratio of 1.35-1.365 on pitches 60 mph is accurate.  Remember that as the pitch speed goes up, ratios go up keeping bat speed constant.

We can also see that as bat speed increases, Opt Bat/Exit or smash factor decrease slightly.  Higher bat speeds are less efficient but higher pitch speeds also create higher ratios.

Here is that chart:

Bat Speed Pitch Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
62 40 82.4 1.329
65 40 86 1.323
68 40 89.6 1.318
72 40 94.4 1.311
76 40 99.2 1.305
62 70 88.4 1.426
65 70 92 1.415
68 70 95.6 1.406
72 70 100.4 1.394
76 70 105.2 1.384
62 80 90.4 1.458
65 80 94 1.446
68 80 97.6 1.435
72 80 102.4 1.422
76 80 107.2 1.411
62 90 92.4 1.490
65 90 96 1.477
68 90 99.6 1.465
72 90 104.4 1.450
76 90 109.2 1.437
62 95 93.4 1.506
65 95 97 1.492
68 95 100.6 1.479
72 95 105.4 1.464
76 95 110.2 1.450

 

Results

As expected, Alex Bregman has a lower bat speed than Harper or Schwarber.  Harper and Schwarber are basically identical.  This lines up with in game performance as well.

Exit Velo Distance Launch Pitch Speed Bat Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
Bryce Harper 107.167 429.167 32.444 60.000 79.333 107.200 1.351
Kyle Schwarber 107.056 430.444 27.333 60.000 79.444 107.333 1.351
Alex Bregman 99.154 400.923 28.308 60.000 72.692 99.231 1.365

 

Conclusion

So far everything is checking out.  These hitters are swinging as hard as they can in the home run derby and assuming a pitch speed of 60 mph its easy to look at the results.  These numbers coincide with in game performance as well.  Remember that in a game, hitters rarely swing as hard as they can.

We can actually dig into Harpers performance and see if his swing slowed down into later rounds.  That’s for another time…

Calculating MLB Hitters Bat Speed From Statcast Data

*Reading this on mobile may cut off the charts.  There is a lot of data and it is too wide.  If you want to read it all please use a tablet but a computer is best.  Sorry.

Lets take what I discussed in my last post and apply it to the top MLB players.  I looked at the top 5 hitters from 2018 in barrels.  Then we will look at their average exit velo and compare it to optimal expected velo and find the data point that matches.  I want to point out that this is not an exact and I am probably wrong.  But its worth looking into and analyzing.  I am sure we are close but there are variables that can’t be accounted for.  We are just looking at averages and more specifically, average line drives and fly balls.

  • We don’t know pitch speed but we can take the MLB average fastball at 92.8 mph.
  • We don’t know the pitch
  • We don’t know hit direction

If you need things defined, please read my previous post  http://caphitting.juxt.media/baseball-bat-ball-collision-using-blast-diamond-kinetics-and-hit-trax-how-can-we-use-data-for-bat-fittings/

  • 1.2 0.2 Exp = Is what the optimal exit velo should be based on bat speed and pitch speed.  = 1.2 x bat speed + 0.2 x pitch speed
  • Opt Bat/Exit = Optimal ratios

Players Data

Max Exit Avg Exit FB LD Avg GB Avg
Joey Gallo 117.50 93.9 99.8 85.200
Khris Davis 112.80 92.4 97.1 87.500
JD Martinez 116.70 93 96.7 89.200
Mookie Betts 110.60 92.3 95.9 88.800
Ryan Zimmerman 110.80 92.6 97.8 89.000

 

Optimal Reference Chart – Based on MLB avg fastball

Bat Speed Pitch Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
62 92.8 92.96 1.499
65 92.8 96.56 1.486
68 92.8 100.16 1.473
72 92.8 104.96 1.458
76 92.8 109.76 1.444
79 92.8 113.36 1.435
82 92.8 116.96 1.426
85 92.8 120.56 1.418

 

The average FB LD exit velo for the above 5 hitters is 97.46 MPH.  To match that to an optimal expected velo we find that the average bat speed is around 66 mph which is 97.79 mph and a 1.481 ratio (66 mph bat speed is not in the above chart).

Can we trust this data? 

I think its close.  I have worked with an MLB hitter who has a bat speed in the 80s off a tee and it drops to the upper 70s for flips.  When facing a machine at 70 mph from 45′ his bat speed was in the 73-77 mph range.  He could get into the upper 70s and then 80s if he went after it but he said he wouldn’t ever swing that hard in a game.  This still looked like a controlled swing though.

So if we take the above MLB hitter that has power and know that on a 70 mph machine he can swing in the 73-77 mph range then if we assume a 92.8 mph pitch coming in without it being grooved over the plate like a machine does could be in the upper 60s range.  I don’t think that’s a far stretch to assume.  I do think its possible that hitters in certain counts or sitting on certain pitches can unleash a 75-80 mph bat speed and crush a pitch.  This is where the 110 + mph home runs happen.  Perfect contact on a fast bat speed in the right location.  Those numbers actually agree with my findings as well.

 

Bryce Harper’s Monster Home Run

Lets apply this to an actual home run by Bryce Harper.  This was on 7/2/2018.  2-0 count and he unleashed on the ball.  I don’t think he held anything back here.  The pitch was 97.6 mph and the exit velo was 112.1.  Lets assume he made optimal contact.

https://www.mlb.com/video/statcast-harpers-439-ft-hr/c-2224391083

Bat Speed Pitch Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
68 97.6 101.12 1.487
72 97.6 105.92 1.471
76 97.6 110.72 1.457
77 97.6 111.92 1.454
78 97.6 113.12 1.450
79 97.6 114.32 1.447
82 97.6 117.92 1.438
85 97.6 121.52 1.430

It looks like he had a bat speed of 77.5 mph.

 

Another Harper Home Run

Pitch 90 and Exit Velo 112.4 = Bat Speed 79 mph

Bat Speed Pitch Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
68 90 99.6 1.465
72 90 104.4 1.450
76 90 109.2 1.437
77 90 110.4 1.434
78 90 111.6 1.431
79 90 112.8 1.428
82 90 116.4 1.420
85 90 120 1.412

 

Another Harper Home Run

Pitch 87 and Exit Velo 108.6 = Bat Speed 76 mph.  This was offspeed, not sure of the pitch but here is where spin matters and pitch matters.  You see how far he hit the ball with only a 108.6 exit velo.  This is where you hear MLB hitters talk about reversing the spin on breaking balls.

Bat Speed Pitch Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
68 87 99 1.456
72 87 103.8 1.442
76 87 108.6 1.429
77 87 109.8 1.426
78 87 111 1.423
79 87 112.2 1.420
82 87 115.8 1.412
85 87 119.4 1.405

 

Aaron Judge – Not every hit is a home run

Pitch 97.  Exit Velo 118.1.  Bat Speed 82 mph.

Bat Speed Pitch Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
68 97 101 1.485
72 97 105.8 1.469
76 97 110.6 1.455
77 97 111.8 1.452
78 97 113 1.449
79 97 114.2 1.446
82 97 117.8 1.437
85 97 121.4 1.428

 

Josh Donaldson

Pitch Speed 93.  Exit Velo 109.5.  Bat Speed 75 mph.

Bat Speed Pitch Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
68 93 100.2 1.474
72 93 105 1.458
76 93 109.8 1.445
77 93 111 1.442
78 93 112.2 1.438
79 93 113.4 1.435
82 93 117 1.427
85 93 120.6 1.419

 

Conclusion

I guess we can go over every home run and play with this but its showing accurate that Bryce Harper has an upper 70s bat speed.  Aaron Judge has a lower 80s bat speed.  Josh Donaldson has a mid 70s bat speed.  If we really wanted to get technical we could look at every home run Harper hit in 2018 and break it down then average everything out.  Where I am more interested is in seeing the quality of contact and instead of us using barrels as best quality we can get more detail and start to look at optimal contact for each player.  Its easier for Judge to barrel at his swing speed vs Donaldson.  But does that mean that Donaldson has more “skill” if he can create the same number of barrels?  Now we can look at actual skill vs raw power.

I’m sure we will break more swings down over the next season.  This is fun.

 

Baseball Bat – Ball Collision Using Blast, Diamond Kinetics, and Hit Trax – How Can We Use Data for Bat Fittings?

About a year ago I started to get interested in bat/ball collision and what perfect impact would look like and how we could tell as baseball players, instructors, and in analyzing data.  I reached out to Dr. Alan Nathan who is considered the leader in the baseball field.  We went back and forth and he settled on basically saying I should dig into this more if I have access to real life data.  So I did…

There is a lot of scientific information and formulas that he and others have spent a lot of time on but it gets very confusing and data overload.  I wanted to dig into this in a real world way with Blast, Diamond Kinetics, and Hit Trax.  I collected data and I had others send me verified data that is trusted.  All the work is on metal bats, bbcor, -3 (we can get into wood bats another time but I found that there isn’t much of a difference).  The goal was to come up with some ratios and metrics that could be used to verify solid contact.  Lets get into the data and remember I am keeping this straight forward and simple.  You can get lost digging into this stuff.

 

Base Information

Calculations used from Dr Nathan and can be dove into here:

http://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/ComparativeBatStudy.pdf

http://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/AJP-Nov2000.pdf

Exit velo = (Bat Speed x 1.2) + (Pitch Speed x 0.2)

So a bat speed from Blast of 61.7 mph and a pitch speed of 68 mph should equal an optimal exit velo of 87.64 mph.  Thats (61.7×1.2)+(68×0.2)= 83.64 or (74.04) + (13.6) = 87.64.  This is ignoring launch angle which is a whole other discussion and factor that changes everything.  We are only worried about pure max exit velo based on bat speed and pitch speed.

What is Smash Factor – Golf

You should probably understand smash factor as well.  Golf again was ahead of baseball.  If you ever did a driver/shaft fitting, you know that the smash factor is one of the most important numbers.  Also keep in mind that a golf ball sits on a tee vs a pitch coming in at 90 mph and in different locations with different movements.  In golf we can discuss absolute optimal numbers.  In baseball these rarely happen and when they do we hit home runs.

Here is a definition and link.

Smash factor is a golf term that might sound intimidating, but to me it is the most important metric for ball striking. It is simply defined as the ball speed divided by clubhead speed. I like to think of it as how efficiently you are hitting the golf ball. For example, if your swing speed was 100mph and your ball speed was 135mph, then your smash factor would be 1.35.

Every player wants to know how to hit a golf ball farther. It is all we read about and hear about from the mainstream golf media. Essentially you have two options:

  1. Swing faster
  2. Increase your strike efficiency

https://www.todaysgolfer.co.uk/equipment/equipment-features/the-science-of-the-smash-factor/

 

Data

The data random bat/ball speeds collected.  All of these were the best contact and best outcomes of a hitters session based on exit velo, not distance.  Although those do line up for some (ideally they always would).  It would  include Blast lining up with Hit Trax on that swing.  We collected:

Bat Speed – Hand Speed – Exit Velo – Launch Angle – Distance – Pitch Speed

Bat Bat Speed Hand Speed Exit Velo Launch Distance Pitch Speed
metal 61.7 21.4 82.9 22 267 68
metal 65.4 19.3 82.1 17 250 33
metal 60.3 18.9 76.9 11 136 39
metal 70.2 24.7 97 19 300 36
metal 73.1 23.1 91.1 20 299 38
metal 68.1 23.1 88.1 10 195 36

 

Data Breakdown

  • Bat/Exit = is basically the smash factor in golf.   This is the ratio that would be the easiest to determine optimal contact.  It is bat speed divided by exit velo.
  • 1.2 0.2 Exp = is just what the optimal exit velo should be based on bat speed and pitch speed.
  • Act – Exp = is Actual exit velo minus expected optimal velo.
  • Opt Bat/Exit = Optimal ratios
Bat Bat Speed Hand Speed Exit Velo Launch Distance Pitch Speed Bat/Exit 1.2 0.2 Exp Act – Exp Opt Bat/Exit
metal 61.7 21.4 82.9 22 267 68 1.34 87.64 -4.74 1.420
metal 65.4 19.3 82.1 17 250 33 1.26 85.08 -2.98 1.301
metal 60.3 18.9 76.9 11 136 39 1.28 80.16 -3.26 1.329
metal 70.2 24.7 97 19 300 36 1.38 91.44 5.56 1.303
metal 73.1 23.1 91.1 20 299 38 1.25 95.32 -4.22 1.304
metal 68.1 23.1 88.1 10 195 36 1.29 88.92 -0.82 1.306

 

Analyzing this data made it clear that the ratio we should be looking at is Bat/Exit and comparing that to Opt Bat/Exit.  The challenge here is that the Opt Bat/Exit changes based on bat speed and pitch speed.  These ratios get bigger as those go up.  Here is a chart to explain.

Bat Speed Pitch Speed 1.2 0.2 Exp Opt Bat/Exit
62 40 82.4 1.329
65 40 86 1.323
68 40 89.6 1.318
72 40 94.4 1.311
76 40 99.2 1.305
62 70 88.4 1.426
65 70 92 1.415
68 70 95.6 1.406
72 70 100.4 1.394
76 70 105.2 1.384
62 80 90.4 1.458
65 80 94 1.446
68 80 97.6 1.435
72 80 102.4 1.422
76 80 107.2 1.411
62 90 92.4 1.490
65 90 96 1.477
68 90 99.6 1.465
72 90 104.4 1.450
76 90 109.2 1.437
62 95 93.4 1.506
65 95 97 1.492
68 95 100.6 1.479
72 95 105.4 1.464
76 95 110.2 1.450

This clearly shows that when speeds increase, optimal contact ratios increase.  We simply cant use the same ratio for tee work as flips as machine pitches.  We also have to factor in the players swing speed.  I imagine we can take thousands of swings and categorize them in contact as A+, A, B, C, D F and then work from there to learn how to equate expected performance based on players average bat speed and pitchers average pitch speed per pitch (we are only discussing fastballs here, curves change these ratios).

What is also interesting is as swing speed increases, Opt Bat/Exit decreases.  A slower bat speed at the same pitch speed should actually be more optimal vs a faster bat speed.  For example:

90 mph pitch.  62 mph bat speed has the ability to hit a ball 92.4 mph which is a 1.490 ratio vs a 76 mph bat speed, 109.2 mph exit, and 1.437 ratio.

Conclusion

So what is an optimal swing and how do we know?  We need both bat speed and exit velo then we look at these formulas to determine where that bat speed should fall and then we calculate the ratio.  Remember, the ratio is simply exit velo divided by bat speed.  But these changes as each speed changes.  At the MLB level, you would like to see a ratio in the 1.425-1.475 range vs 90+ pitching.  Do not use this ratio for BP.  A ratio of 1.3 or more would be ideal for BP.

 

Side Note

I have seen some exit velos that do not correlate with the swing speed. I don’t know why this happens but these don’t translate into real in game results.  This will be a learning experience so what I post today may change when more data is collected.

I also want to test exit velos off tees but I never have. I’d like to gather a bunch of mlb results with blast connected.

Baseball Hitting Drills – Increase Barrel Awareness and Accuracy – Step 1

This question was brought up on social media so I thought I would tackle it here since I have been wanting to do a hitting drill specific post anyways.  I know everyone talks about intent and launch and exit velo but before we even get there we need to make contact.  To make it even more difficult we need to make accurate contact or “square up” the ball.  This is dependent on a lot of things but its important to keep in mind that pitch type, speed, and location determine a lot of what the swing does to make contact.

One thing that drives me CRAZY is when I see post after post online of hitter working and changing their swing off the tee and flips.  Tell me how this will translate into a game?  I worked with a few high school kids who worked on this all off season and the weekend before tryouts they showed up to the cages to hit off a 70 mph machine.  Guess what?  They didn’t square one ball up and actually was late on 90% of them.  So how do you think they did in try out?  Off a tee they looked great but even when a coach did overhand pitching with some speed, they fell apart.  Lets always remember this when we discuss drills.

The Drills…

  • High Tee Drill Middle Up – This is the staple drill for most guys, especially for warming up and being in a routine.
    • Tee setup in the middle of the plate
    • Height should be at or above shoulders (Im 6′ 2″ and it gets to my shoulders)
    • Tee should be between center mass and front foot for location
    • No stride
    • Start with choking up 4-5″ then work to regular grip over time
    • Line drives right up the middle and head high

Let the hitter figure this out on their own at first.  This is hard for guys to conquer.  It can take 3 minutes or 1 week for someone to get this.  If the hitter is struggling we can use swing thoughts like this:

  • Swing above the ball.  Literally try to swing above it and miss it.
  • Swing down.  Feel like you are swinging straight down.
    • If the hitter is popping up you can place a ball on the ground 5′ in front of the tee and tell him to hit the ball at the ball on the ground.  We need to overcompensate here.
  • Just let the ball get in the way of rotation.  Just turn with a high barrel.
  • Work front elbow inside the ball at ball height.

 

  • High Tee Drill Away Up – This just takes the above drill and moves the tee to the outside corner, deeper back, and the hitter will stride.   All the same concepts apply above.

  • One Handed High Tee Middle Up – If you want to make the above drills harder, use one hand.
    • Find out which hand dominate hitters are.  Do all drills with bottom hand and then top hand.
    • This is where barrel control comes into play and hitters really learn what their body is doing.
    • No stride
    • You may want to have them use kids bats like a -10 and choke up a lot.
    • Goal is to hit line drives up the middle.
    • Switch hands.

  • Back to High Tee Middle Up – Now we take full stride swings with the same focus as head high line drives up the middle.  Everything before was controlled and learning how the body needs to move to hit these high tee balls.  Now we go into swing mode and stride.

 

  • Low Tee Inside – You have to mix it up.  Don’t get comfortable with hitting balls in one location.
    • Now the player will need to work in their head how to hit a ball down and in when they just have been working on up and up and away.
    • What happens here is all the swing thoughts they used to hit the high pitch will need to be accounted for on low balls inside.
    • Create good habits and place the tee 8-12″ in front of the plate.  The further out front the better.  Train the mind and body to be early and turn on these balls.  Contact out front.
    • Hit pull side higher line drives but make sure the hitter is driving the ball and not pulling off it.  Also make sure the hitter is getting into the ball.  I like to have the hitter feel that they are punching the ball with their top hand and driving the back shoulder/hip through the ball and finishing over the plate or in front of the plate.

  • Low Tee Inside One Handed – Same as the above drill but with one hand.  Use both hands.   Remember to choke up and use a lighter bat if necessary.

  • Low Tee Away – Make the hitter get to every location.
    • Place the tee on the deep outside corner.  Make sure that the stance and stride are the same and the hitter isn’t changing it to compensate for a different tee location.
    • The goal here is to hit low line drives to the SS or 2nd basemen depending on if they are R/L handed.  These will go oppo.

  • Low Tee Away One Handed – Same as the above drill but with one hand.  Use both hands.   Remember to choke up and use a lighter bat if necessary.

Now that we made it hard, lets do a few other tee drills to get the hitter back to actual swing thoughts and work.

  • Middle Middle Tee – Here we make it a normal mid/mid location and just let the hitter swing as usual.  Hopefully the previous work makes him get into these balls and square them up and hits hard line shots down the middle.  Make sure no roll over or pop ups are happening.  A consistent back/top of the cage is the goal here. We are also trying to build their confidence back up from all the hard locations and one handed stuff.

 

I could continue on here but I am assuming that whoever is reading this is not an MLB player with hours a day 7 days a week to perfect their swing.  But this would be a warm up in one of those days and would be repeated until the player thought they were 90% on every location.  So lets just look at this as step 1, I will adjust my title.

How Do You Perceive Pitch Height?

Pitch recognition is an important part of hitting.  You have to see the ball before you can decide on if you are going to swing.  One important aspect of pitch recognition that is overlooked is how does our brain interpret the data it is receiving?  We think we know where the ball is and where its going to be based on speed, height, and pitch type.  We can even make contact, but going back and looking at what we really think isn’t possible.  I came up with this thought and test to help you at least get a base understanding of “feel vs real” in terms of where you think a pitch is.

 

 

I record almost every swing I take.  90% of the time they get deleted after a quick glance but I started noticing something that was making me question a few things.  When I would take a pitch I usually thought it was high.  But I would go back and see that the pitch was at a hittable height and would probably be called a strike.  I would probably take this pitch and question the umpires strike zone in a game but what if I was wrong?

I had to make this random and I decided to take pitches I thought were high.  While doing this I used my hand to show the camera the height I thought the ball was crossing the plate at.  What I found was that I thought balls were higher than they really were.  The difference in the green line to red line is about 6-7″, a large amount.  I then started thinking about why this was happening.  I have a good sense of the strike zone and good hand-eye coordination so I can make contact with most any pitch.  But why was my brain and eyes seeing something different?  I think it has to do with where you pick the ball up on its path to you and when you decide to swing or not swing.

I can’t really talk to anyone else about what I experience because they aren’t in my head or have my eyes.  This is all individual assessments and you have to be honest with yourself.  But I think I am seeing the ball more towards the pitcher when its higher up.  This is where I am deciding to swing or not swing so my brain only recognizes this height (although the brain subconsciously works and knows how pitches move, drop, spin, to compensate).

 

— I am probably seeing the height at the 3rd from the left and need to decide to swing then.  Where an MLB hitter probably sees and decides at the 2nd from left.  This is evident in video where hitters are still at foot strike and haven’t unloaded the hips or hands but the ball is half way to the plate.

Look at Jose Rameriz.

Christian Walker in slow motion.  Notice that he starts to commit to the swing before his foot lands.  Then at foot strike he can still hold off and take but he confirms he will swing and releases.

And if you don’t believe that the pitch path is dramatically downward, look at this.

From Baseball Savant – Kershaw

Conclusion

If this is true and we find that other hitters see the ball more true at height, this might mean that they decide to swing later and they can gather more information and process it quicker and have a quicker trigger or time to impact.  I assume this is probably the actual skill here and why MLB hitters are so good.  They can wait longer to decide, gather more information, and then their swing is so quick that they are still on time.

Asking a hitter where they think the ball crossed the plate might be a quick test on determining how long they can wait to decide to swing and how quick their swing is.  The closer their guess is to the actual location, the better they are at doing this.

Swingweight Changes and Performance in Golf Clubs and How it Relates to Baseball

This is a continuation on my last post about bat balance points and swingweights.  What nice about this post is that most of the work has been done on the golf side.  Lets look at it.  I found this website and this club fitter experimented with different swingweights and tested with 6 players.  His findings are interesting yet expected.

https://pluggedingolf.com/can-swing-weight-affect-performance-golf-myths-unplugged/

It should be noted that DO to D3 or any change in 3 steps of swingweight is adding or subtracting 6 grams or 0.2 oz.  Each swingweight change (DO being the lightest) is 2 grams or 0.07 oz.  (almost nothing) yet each golfer immediately noticed the change in weight.  Now a bat is shorter and heavier so the addition or subtraction in weight needs to be more.  I found that 3 oz showed a very noticeable change.  The information is in the post link below.

http://caphitting.juxt.media/baseball-bat-swingweight-and-balance-points-why-can-you-swing-a-metal-bat-faster-than-wood/

 

The data:

 

 

This is very interesting because golf will track launch angle, ball speed, spin, carry, attack angle, path, offline, and smash factor.  All of these should look familiar to the baseball guy and statcast.  It should be noted that golf is 10-15 years ahead of baseball in this regard.

Lets break down each player and only look at speeds and contact.  This is because in golf there is more than launch angle and ball speed because spin rate plays into carry but after the ball hits the ground, the less spin, the more roll.  So golfers look at total distance vs baseball looks at total carry.

  • Player 1
    • As weight increases, Club head speed decreases.
    • Ball speed decreases slightly.
    • Smash factor stays consistent (quality of contact where 1.5 is the best)
    • Total distance decreases slightly but control increases.
  • Player 2
    • As weight increases, Club head speed decreases.
    • Ball speed decreases substantially.
    • Smash factor stays consistent.
    • Total distance decreases substantially and control decreases.
  • Player 3
    • As weight increases, Club head speed decreases slightly.
    • Ball speed decreases substantially.
    • Smash factor stays consistent.
    • Total distance decreases slightly and control stays consistent.
  • Player 4
    • As weight increases, Club head speed decreases.
    • Ball speed decreases substantially.
    • Smash factor stays consistent but does increase in the middle swingweights.
    • Total distance decreases substantially and control decreases.
  • Player 5
    • As weight increases, Club head stays consistent.
    • Ball speed increases substantially.
    • Smash factor increases
    • Total distance increases substantially and control increases.
  • Player 6
    • As weight increases, Club head speed decreases slightly.
    • Ball speed stays consistent.
    • Smash factor stays consistent.
    • Total distance stays consistent and control stays consistent.

Conclusion

Player 5 gained the most from increasing swingweight.  This allowed him to hit the ball 25 yards further and more in the center of the fairway.  But no other player saw an increase in distance or control.  The next step to this test would be to then take those players and decrease the swingweights lower than D0 and see if they gain an advantage going lighter.

Why I said that the results were to be expected earlier in this post is because everyone is unique and swing differently.  This means that there is no one magic club or bat for everyone.  A lot more time needs to be put into the idea of bat fitting and we need to look at it like golf club fitters do.

I learned that I can change the swingweight of a baseball bat.  I can notice a difference that makes the bat feel lighter and quicker.  Now I need to get to the point where I can test this and hit balls to get swing speed and exit velo numbers and compare.  We need to know whats best for each hitter.  End loaded, balanced, handle loaded, length, and overall weight.

 

Baseball Bat Swingweight and Balance Points – Why Can You Swing a Metal Bat Faster Than Wood?

I have always been interested in the concept of baseball bat fitting, especially coming from the golf world where club fittings are a large part of the new golf club buying experience.  Not only do you have to deal with different manufactures, but each manufacturer has different club heads that can be set up in hundreds of different combinations with weights.  Then the most important part is the shaft and there are hundreds of shafts to choose from.  Each shaft has different weights, weight distribution, kick points, and flex.  But then the even more serious golfers get into shaft length and tipping shafts which is making a shaft stiffer than it should be on spec because of where you trim it.

Here is a chart on what can change a swingweight.  Remember that a small change in swingweight feels very different.

I remember reading about Jack Nicklaus counter balancing his golf clubs in the 1970s by using pennies in his grips.  This changed the balance point of the club or the swingweight.  Think of swingweight as the balance of the club.  Swingweight is the relationship between the amount of weight at the bottom two-thirds of the club vs the top one third.  This translates to how a club feels vs how heavy a club is.  Now how does this apply to baseball bats?

The quick answer is I don’t know yet but here is why I am interested, and these are my findings so far…

We all hear of bats being end loaded or balanced.  A 243 or i13 with a large barrel will be end loaded and feel heavier than an M110 or 318.  This is usually because the barrels are smaller and/or because the handles are thicker (counterbalance).  But when you choose your bat, do you even pay attention to this or do you just pick what looks appealing to you and what feels best?  I think 2019 is the year where baseball bat fitting becomes a thing.  A player should also consider length and cupping options.  As a general rule, bat manufactures are confined to density requirements set by the MLB and length to weight ratios of -3.  But nobody ever discusses making bats heavier by counterbalancing them or lowering swingweights like golf clubs.

I personally use wood bats and on a test,  I found that every wood bat had the same general balance point whether it was an end loaded or balanced bat.  But metal bbcor bats have a different balance point that is closer to the knob.  This makes even heavier bats feel lighter.  And to push it further, balanced metal bat models have the balance point shifted a lot closer to the knob.  In the picture below the yellow tape represents the balance point of each bat.  Each bat is 33.5” except for the last balanced one-piece voodoo bat which is 34” (I don’t have many metal bats to compare).

 

Why am I researching this?

One day I tested swing speeds and exit velocities with metal vs wood bats and the findings confused me.  I even reached out to Driveline Baseball to see if they have experienced the same thing or had any answers.  They agree with my thoughts but didn’t know why.  I found that even though the metal bats felt and were heavier and even more end loaded, I swung them faster and I felt quicker to the ball than with the wood bats.  Keep in mind that the metal bats should be -3 but the are actually 33.5/32.8 and 34/32.5 so -0.7 and -1.5 respectively.  A person would assume that a heavier bat would be swung slower, not faster.  So, what is going on here?

Bat Speed Avg Bat Speed Max Hand Speed Avg Hand Speed Max Attack Avg Attack Max Power Avg Power Max
33.5/31 Wood 67.3 70.8 20.4 22.7 15 20 3.05 3.42
33.5/31.5 Wood 67.8 70.5 21.2 21.9 14 19 3.14 3.5
33.5/32.8 Metal 68.5 71.8 21.8 23.3 17 21 3.24 3.61
34/32.5 Metal 69.9 72.3 22.1 23.2 14 20 3.45 3.72

 

I think it has to do with balance points and swingweight.  So how can we change the swingweight on a bat?

  • Cup the end
    • Cupping removes 0.3 to 0.8 oz at the end of the bat.  This moves the balance point closer to the knob vs the barrel.  We will learn that 0.3-0.8 oz isn’t that much in terms of feel for swingweight but for overall weight this decrease helps meet density.
  • Thicker handle
    • Thicker handles work by balancing the bat.  This is a good way to have a bat feel lighter even if its the same weight.  You would have to compare an exact model and weight bat to its match with only a thicker handle.  This will also increase the overall weight of the bat.
  • Smaller or larger barrel
    • Smaller barrels will move the balance point to the knob and larger to the end.
  • Length of barrel
    • A barrel can be long or short.  This depends on the taper of the bat from the knob to the barrel.  Short tapers will have longer barrels and more end loaded bats.
  • Size of knob
    • I haven’t heard much about this but the size of the knob can counterbalance a heavier barrel.  The issue is that you cant make a knob heavy enough to really impact the swingweight (or can you).
  • Use lead tape to test
    • Golfers and tennis players use lead tape to change swingweight and overall weights of their equipment.  Baseball players cant do this but with some testing, maybe we can develop new bat models to better fit certain players.

This leads me to a test I did with adding weight to bats to change the balance point.  I wanted to see how much weight and where the weight needed to be applied to make a difference.

The Victus bat below is a BO23 model.  This is a large and long barrel with a thicker handle and large standard knob.  This creates the largest barreled bat with the most balance that I have used.  The yellow tape and line – marks indicate the balance points of the bat.

From Right to Left

Far Right – This is the standard normal balance point

Middle – This is the new balance point when 1.4 oz is used and placed half way between the knob and the standard balance point.  This was 11″ from the knob.

Left – This is the new balance point when 1.4 oz was added to the knob.

 

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Next we have 1.9 oz with the same locations.

From Right to Left (middle group of tape)

Far Right – This is the standard normal balance point

Middle – This is the new balance point when 1.9 oz is used and placed half way between the knob and the standard balance point.  This is very slightly more towards the knob vs the 1.4 oz weight.

Left – This is the new balance point when 1.9 oz was added to the knob.   This is also very slightly changed towards the knob vs the 1.4 oz weight.

This shows that the difference of 1.4 or 1.9 oz is not that big of a change.


Next we should look at the bottom row of tape in the picture (above, same picture).  This row represents 3.3 oz which is using both weights at the same time.

From Right to Left (we know the standard balance point)

Right – This is the new balance point when 3.3 oz is used.  You can see that it shifts the balance point a lot more and is in between the middle and knob locations on the 1.9 oz weight.

Left – This is the new balance point when 3.3 oz was added to the knob.  This is a large shift and dramatically changes the swingweight and feel of the bat.

 

Conclusion

I haven’t set up a demo to be able to swing and test bat speeds with the weights installed.  I need to figure out how to do this, especially because I will need to add up to 2-3 oz.  What I can say is that the changes in the balance points all made a difference but the last one where 3.3 oz was added to the knob made a 31 oz bat feel like a kids 25 oz bat.  This is happening while you are still increasing the overall weight of the bat from 31 to 34.3 oz.  This makes me very interested to see how this will effect bat speed and exit velo.

Maple vs Ash Wood Bat Performance

I have been curious about ash v maple and its performance.  There have been a limited amount of studies done and maybe one 1 – 2 in a lab but the results didn’t show anything to consider.  I dont have access to a lab but I do have access to Hit Trax, Blast, Diamond Kinetics, and an MLB hitter who is VERY consistent.  The key here is the hitter being consistent and being able to hit a ball with the same swing and same power and same location over and over.

This study is not perfect because its still based on the human element but its something to look at.

  • Bats were weighed and identical models and manufactures
  • Flips were consistent
  • Swings were consistent
  • Each hit was a line drive in the same location
  • I threw out a couple outliers from either bad flips or a bad swing

 

 

What we found is that performance is the same.  The hitter actually went through the minors and early MLB year with ash and likes the feel of ash.  He thinks it feels more like it flexes and whips through the zone.  It may be a mental thing where a hitter would want to use one over the other.  There are some things to consider.

  • Studies have shown that the sweet spot on ash is a little larger (although I heard a very respected bat rep state that this isn’t true).
  • Ash doesn’t sting as much as maple on mishits.  I assume because it flexes.  This is a reason why some guys go to ash early and late in the year when the weather is cold.
  • Ash doesn’t have density requirements.  A player can get a bat that would be LDM-X or LDM in ash and it wouldn’t be an issue.  This is for guys who want larger barrel models like i13 and 243 in -3 ratios.
  • Ash is getting harder to source for manufactures.  Or I should say quality ash.

 

I look forward to looking into this more.