The use of technology in baseball has rapidly increased over the past couple years. In today's game, players and coaches have access to high-tech analytic technology such as Trackman, Statcast and FlightScope, to name a few. Pitchers are using Edgertronic High Speed cameras to see how the ball releases off their hand to enhance pitch manipulation and Rapsodo for further ball flight information such as spin rate and spin axis.
With a majority of this industry focused on pitching, hitting technology was beginning to fall behind. But thanks to ball flight analysis from HitTrax and Rapsodo, along with swing analysis from bat sensors like Blast Motion, the days of various hitting coaches telling a player something uniquely different about what may be wrong with their swing are dwindling as these technologies provide concrete, quantifiable data. At Rawlings, we currently use Blast Motion to assist in the development of our hitters.
Blast Motion is a bat sensor that outputs information about a player's swing, including bat speed, attack angle and on-plane percentage; however, it does not give ball flight information such as exit velocity or launch angle. Compared to ball flight technologies such as HitTrax and Rapsodo, purchasing a Blast Motion sensor with a subscription is not as steep of an investment, yet it still provides useful resources and easily digestible data through Blast Connect. Blast Connect is a subscription service that allows a user to view and store data metrics, even across multiple sensors.
This is Rawlings' first attempt at utilizing swing data analysis software, and we have one Blast Motion sensor with Blast Connect that we are using with our 14u team. Although bat sizes vary among the players, the sensor stays on one bat for the entire practice in order to make efficient use of our time.
In order to collect as much data as we can this winter, each player has been taking 2-3 rounds of batting practice twice a week with the Blast Sensor. We very quickly found out that swings off the tee did not reflect game situations, and batting practice progressed to underhand front toss, and further to overhand sessions. Ideally, we would have started data collection at the beginning of the fall when our players first joined the team to get a true baseline data set, but the sensor was not purchased until December, several months after we began working with our players. It then took about a month of experimentation with the sensor to better understand what information we were collecting and to set up our current procedure for data collection, storage and communication. Since the implementation of Blast Motion, we have been transparent with our players about how this is an evolving process for the Rawlings' hitting development.
Blast Connect can easily export hitting data into an Excel file; however, this data is a list of swings with no markers for who was swinging since it's intended purpose was for a single player. This is where creating individual sessions in the App for each player's round is useful. For example, Player A starts off with a round of 5 swings. Before Player B starts their round, a coach or player quickly ends Player A's round and starts a new session titled Player B. In the end, the coach will know how many swings were in each round and who took those swings. From this information, we can easily work backwards in the exported file to group rounds by players, as seen below.
The raw data collected is transferred over to an individual player's Google Folder within the team's Google Drive as shown below. These folders can be shared with players, parents and/or other coaches and contain a spreadsheet with the data, basic statistical analyses, and player progress reports. By openly sharing the information collected, players and coaches can now be held accountable for player development. If the scores aren't improving, coaches must reassess their techniques and practices.
In a player's spreadsheet, a new tab is created for every session, which contains averages for all of the swing metrics, standard deviations, minimum and maximum scores, and any outliers. We can then create a summarized table with each session's averages to easily track how a player is doing over the course of a season.
It is our goal that sharing our process for using Blast Motion will encourage coaches to integrate technology to better their players. In our next post, we will dive further into what data is collected and how we can apply this information.