July 29, 2014
Statistics have always been part of the foundation of baseball. From the time the first player stepped into the batters box, players and fans alike have been tracking performance using traditional statistics such as batting average (AVG), runs batted in (RBI) and earned run average (ERA). More recently, the introduction of sabermetrics has redefined how a player is valued, with on-base plus slugging (OPS) and wins above replacement (WAR) becoming key metrics used for constructing a team.
While the emergence of sabermetrics changed the manner in which the game is analyzed and even played, recent advancements in technology continue to push the envelope in terms of how players are evaluated. Analyzing how a player performs in game situations is standard. Understanding how a player performs before stepping onto the field, however, can have a dramatic impact on a player’s performance between the lines.
The latest technological innovation to improve player training is the HitTrax Data Capture & Simulation System. HitTrax is the first-of-its-kind training aid that delivers real-time performance metrics that are used to assess a player’s skills and monitor their progress over time.
Used in a typical batting cage environment, HitTrax measures ball movement data upon impact with the bat and, in real time, provides immediate feedback by displaying the flight of the ball in a simulated stadium environment.
The breakthrough, however, is that the data captured by the system translates into hard, objective metrics that identifies a player’s strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, detailed spray charts, hot zones, launch angle and exit ball velocity analysis offer newly-defined methods of dissecting a player’s swing within the training environment.
With this information in hand, subjective analysis is now replaced with a real-time visual representation of the hit along with immediate feedback of key performance metrics. This benefit cannot be understated given that in today’s visual world, seeing a simulation of the hit and its supporting data can provide a competitive– and psychological – edge.
“The problem with traditional baseball metrics is that they’re only an indicator of how a player is statistically performing on the field which, in many cases, can be too late,” said Michael Donfrancesco, owner and manager of InMotion Systems, the developer of the HitTrax system. “HitTrax offers a comprehensive assessment of a player’s strengths and weaknesses throughout their training regimen, providing the insight they need to make adjustments in the cage and ultimately leading to improved performance once they step on the field.
The University of Notre Dame, known for its academic and athletic excellence, was the first university to leverage the HitTrax technology into their baseball program. Through the Joseph T. Mengelson Endowment for Athletics Excellence, they purchased the system because of the tremendous value in the data that the system collects. It provides the baseball program with objective data that otherwise cannot be measured, helping the coaching staff to better instruct their players. Furthermore, not only do coaches use the HitTrax metrics to improve the performance of their own players, they also use it to assess a player’s potential during the recruitment process.
“Notre Dame is consistently at the forefront of leveraging high-performance technology to advance its athletic programs,” said head baseball coach Mik Aoki. “From the moment we saw the HitTrax system, we knew the metrics used would revolutionize how we – and other baseball programs – train its players. There’s no doubt that the statistics captured in the system will soon become commonplace within the baseball community.”
Aoki is proud of the fact that Notre Dame is the first university to use HitTrax, as it reaffirms the university’s commitment to the baseball program and how it develops its players. He and the other coaches have configured the system so that it provides automated baseline assessment reports that not only benchmark the player’s performance as of that day, but also measures progress when additional assessment training programs are conducted.
“We’ve found something here with HitTrax that has completely changed the way we evaluate our players,” continued Aoki. “The players are more engaged and the coaches are armed with actionable insight that they’ve never before had access to. The proof will be to see how our kids perform when they step across the baseline but as far as we’re concerned, we’ve hit a home run with this system.”
--Mike Donfrancesco and Ward Russell, HitTrax Baseball