Why College and Travel Teams now Test Hitters’ Pitch Recognition

The gS SRTTM

By Dr. Peter Fadde, Chief Science Officer, gameSense Sports

A hitter’s statistics betray the symptoms of poor pitch recognition: strikeouts, low on-base percentage, and even groundouts (afterall, weakly putting the ball into play is a win for the pitcher, not the hitter!). There are also some hitters that appear asymptomatic. Their stats can be described as “just fine” … for now. These hitters may have good vision, good eye-hand coordination, sound swing mechanics, and an aggressive approach in their hitting arsenal. But if they don’t have good pitch recognition they will eventually run into pitchers that expose their deficiencies.

Athletes who ignore the symptoms of poor pitch recognition jeopardize their chances of high-level hitting success. College coaches know this, and many are starting to insist that players have their pitch recognition tested before being considered for their programs.

Fortunately, there is a reliable and valid pitch recognition test available for baseball and softball hitters. It is called the Standardized Recognition Test, or SRT. The SRT uses the video-occlusion method that sports scientists have used for 40 years to research seemingly-impossible sports skills such as: blocking penalty shots, returning 130 mile-per-hour tennis serves, and split-second hitting decisions in baseball, softball, and cricket. 

In a video-occlusion test, the athlete watches video of a pitcher from the point-of-view of a batter. The pitcher winds up and throws; the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand, and then the video cuts to black. The athlete needs to choose what type of pitch it was: Fastball? Curve? Rise? Slider? Wicked Googly? Pitch zone recognition is also tested:  Ball or Strike? Time of ball flight that the athlete gets to see varies: sometimes they see about one-third of ball flight, sometimes less, and sometimes the video cuts to black right at release of the
pitch. Decades of research prove that expert hitters can “read” pitches better and earlier, thereby having more time to decide if and where to swing. 

The SRT- developed by gameSense Sports – has three scores: Pitch Type, Pitch Location:Ball/Strike, and PR (or Pitch Recognition)  score. Hitters that are especially good at Pitch Type often have high stats in Slugging Percentage; They see the ball early and adjust their swing. Hitters with high Ball/Strike scores have a good eye for the zone. Hitters with a high overall PR Score often occupy the three-hole in the batting lineup when they are also strong hitters (strong mechanics, vision, confidence, approach, etc.)

It is important to remember that the SRT does not test hitting ability. Some players with high PR Scores still struggle at the plate due to other factors such as poor hitting mechanics, strength, vision, confidence, or approach. What SRT does test is how well an athlete can read pitches, which becomes of higher importance as the athlete progress into more elite levels of play.  

Over 700 minor league players and hundreds of college players – including players in the Cape Cod Baseball League – have taken the
gameSense SRT for Pro/College baseball. The college softball SRT is breaking into prominence and now required by several teams, notably in the formidable SEC. And gameSense now has SRTs for High School/Travel baseball and softball.  Teams use SRT scores in recruiting, coaches and instructors use SRT scores to reveal pitch recognition strengths and weaknesses, and players use SRT scores to see how much they have improved when they train their pitch recognition.

As a science-based test is expected to be, the SRT is trustworthy and valid; It measures what it says it measures. It is reliable. And in order to increase scores, the actual work must be put in first: If an athlete takes an SRT today and again next month, they will score about the same if they have not practiced their pitch recognition.

The best way to improve hitting health and stats are to heed the symptoms of poor pitch recognition and take the test. More  information on the SRT can be found at: https://gamesensesports.com/gs-standardized-recognition-test/.


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