Bridging The Gap From Academia To The Baseball Diamond

PITTSBURGH (2 min read) – Research demonstrates the importance of perceptual-cognitive skills, such as pattern matching, anticipation, and decision making in sports.

Although there is a growing body of research demonstrating the trainability of perceptual-cognitive skills in sport and their transfer to the field, few researchers have attempted to translate this research into accessible and useful training tools for everyday coaches and athletes

In this research, an evaluation of one such tool in an applied setting was administered – a review of the experience of baseball players who were given access to a video-scenario-based training technology designed to improve pitch recognition and pitch location assessment training.

Using a naturalistic approach, a collegiate baseball team was equipped with Axon Sports’ simulation tool for training perceptual cognitive skill.

Players and coaches were permitted to use this tool at their own discretion. As an assessment of this tool’s validity, the batting statistics of the collegiate team was compared from 2012 – prior to the implementation of this training – to the 2013 season, when the team had access to training.

Significant improvements in batting statistics were observed at the end of the 2013 season (during which Axon training was undertaken) relative to the 2012 season. 

The number of home runs (HR) was significantly greater in 2013, and the observed effect was large. Likewise, the number of runs scored and slugging percentage were both significantly greater in 2013 and the observed effects were moderate-large.

The effect on walks approached significance in the hypothesized direction and a moderate-large sized effect was observed.

Lastly, the effect on on-base percentage approached significance in the hypothesized direction, and a moderate-large effect size was observed. Batting average (BA) was not statistically different across the two seasons, though a small-moderate effect was still observed in the hypothesized direction.

Home runs, runs scored, and slugging percentage were statistically greater in 2013 compared to 2012.

This improved level of performance  suggests that the 2013 batters were able to generate better contact with the ball, presumably as the result of a better ability to recognize and locate the pitches they faced.

Below is a table indicating the quantified statistical improvements in each recorded category, relative to the study.

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– This post is based off a 2015 study of published research entitled, “Time to start training: A review of cognitive research in sport and bridging the gap from academia to the field” – the full study can be found here).