As a matter of routine at the K-Zone Academy, we measure the performance of our players. At all times the players know where they stand. They are acutely aware of their current performance. One of the ways we do this is with our HitTrax simulation system.
The HitTrax is a system developed by InMotion Systems to track the speed and direction of the baseball, both from the pitcher and once it’s hit by the batter. It uses high speed cameras to triangulate the location of the baseball and accurately determine the speed and direction it’s moving.
We have used this system for 2 years now, collecting data, tracking players performance, validating training methods, etc. We are continually learning how to better measure, teach and instruct our players.
Here is a recent case study. Andrew didn’t make his high school team this spring. As you will see from the initial measurements we took, it’s clear why.
Here is a review of Andrew’s current session. In 15 at bats, 100% of his hits were ground balls. His peak batted ball speed was 77mph with an average of 63.5mph. 77mph is not bad for a high school freshman, but the average of 63.5mph is below average. The fact that Andrew hit everything into the ground is an obvious concern and an area that required immediate attention. What is less obvious in the charts below is that Andrew swung at 4 of the 9 balls he saw; that’s a chase percentage of 44.4%. Another area we want to address now.
Armed with this information, we put together a plan for Andrew and he got to work. In less than one month, here are Andrew’s improvements. His maximum batted ball speed ticked up to 78.2mph in this session (his new peak is 82.5mph) but his average jumped to 73.4mph, a 10mph improvement! You can also see a very different distribution of his hits on the spray chart. Almost everything he hit is in the outfield and his line drive percentage is 55% up from ZERO! Andrew is hitting the ball harder, more consistently and with a better launch angle (meaning more line drives).
Andrew only swung at one ball out of the strike zone and he even hit that ball well. He also hit his first double.
How did Andrew make such a significant improvement in less than one month? It was through a combination of exercises and training specifically designed to address his issues.
For his early pitch recognition issues, we use a method utilizing a device known as the V-Flex. With the V-Flex, we are training the hitter’s brain to identify and swing at strikes and identify and not swing at balls. We’ve been using this for almost 3 years now with tremendous success in helping our hitters become more disciplined at the plate and smash balls in the strike zone. This was/is part of Andrew’s regular hitting training routine.
Another major contributor to Andrew’s improvements is the HitTrax system and how we use it in our training. We have developed a proprietary method for measuring the quality of every hit. With this measurement, we can better direct the players training and the adjustments he needs to make. Better, more objective, immediate, appropriate feedback equals better results. That’s what our Quality Hit training mode does. For example, Andrew’s first session, where he hit all ground balls, his score was 142 points with his best hit yielding 40 points. In his latest session, he scored 455 points with 6 hits scoring 43 points or more. In that session, Andrew set 3 personal records: most quality hit points for a hit of 67 points, most total quality hit points for a session of 455 and most line drives in a session with 6.
This type of improvement is not unusual for us to see. Players like Andrew train in an environment that provides them immediate, objective, constructive feedback. Their key performance characteristics are tracked so that they know the very moment they set a record and can celebrate it immediately. This is a self-motivating and fun. Two key ingredients to long term success.
Another thought or question arises from Andrew’s past month of work. If he had done this the month before the tryouts, would he have made the team? There is no way of knowing, but his chances would have been dramatically improved. However, Andrew is learning the lessons of hard work, deliberate practice and what it takes to improve your baseball skills. He’s also taking comfort confidently knowing that nobody that made the team has made the amount of progress that he has made in the last month.