The most important pitch recognition skill that no one talks about is Pitch- Path-Prediction.
What is Pitch Path Prediction?
Essentially - the ability for the hitter to gaze, track and then jump to the predicted point of contact based on the spin, speed, and location recognized at the release point and the first phase of pitch-plane.
For example, the hitter recognizes the spin, speed of a slider and sees that it starts "up in the strike-zone" then quickly jumps to the point of contact within the strike zone keeping in mind the break and spin of the pitch.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but research on "saccading" (quick, simultaneous movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction) has established that this is what's happening on an unconscious level.
In other words, how good a hitter is at swinging at where the ball will be once it hits the strike zone based on the information they collect from the ball at release point will dictate:
- how well they see the ball
- how consistent they are at making hard contact
- and ultimately how superior their pitch recognition skills develop.
Researchers have used "flash drag illusions" to demonstrate how our brains have a natural tendency to predict the motion of moving objects.
In the video below, you can see how your vision naturally attempts to predict the movement of the dots based on the movement in the background.
Keep in mind: The dots stay in the same place the entire time.
When the coach says, "keep your head down and see the ball all the way to the glove", what they really mean is track the ball as long as you can.
Pitch Types & Release Point
Depending on pitch types, the ball will have a different spin and shade as well as motion out of the pitcher's hand.
I've written an in-depth post on how to identify pitches by spin, speed, location, and movement here.
How To Practice & Train Pitch Path Prediction
Here's what we know about good pitch recognition:
- Recognizing spin, speed & location is crucial.
- Hitting the ball where it will in the zone by recognizing pitch type and location in the first third of the pitch plane phase is how you see the ball as well as you possibly can.
This is why we developed the Pitch Path Prediction training in the Applied Vision Baseball Pitch Recognition App.
How It Works
First, with the occlusion method, you're presented with a series of pitch types, speed, and location.
Milliseconds after release point, the pitch recognition video footage SHUTS OFF to black, and you're left with only the strike-zone and three colored circles for you to predict where the ball will end up in the zone.
When you're seeing the ball well, this is the process that you're doing on an unconscious level.
Your optic nerve is gathering data of the baseball out of the pitcher's hand, and then the gaze shifts or jumps to where you predict the contact location will be.
This skill is especially useful with balls that break, sink or drop.
Recognizing pitches that start in the zone but then break out of the zone or pitches that start out of the zone but then break in the zone is how you will avoid swinging at bad pitches and getting locked up and frozen on good ones.
Do you have any pitch recognition related questions?
How good are you at tracking and gazing at various pitch-types?
Let us know in the comment section below.