Over the last year, I have become more curious about the data movement going on throughout baseball. I have wanted to turn our high school team into a data driven program, but was unsure of how to do it. It can be challenging to collect data consistently and it takes time to analyze and figure out what each data point is telling you. The one thing I wanted to make sure I didn’t do was collect a ton of data and then do nothing with it. Over the last 3 years we have tracked a few things such as: QAB’s (quality at bats), Freebies (HBP, errors, stolen bases, passed balls, etc.), and Stolen base times to name a few, but I want to have some quantitative data that can tell us if something is working, or if we need to revisit it. Therefore, I have set up these 3 tests for this year and would love to hear feedback on what you think and if there is a way I can do these better.
- ) Assess Bat Speed, Exit Velocity, Launch Angle, Attack Angle, Time to Contact every two weeks, Barrel tracking during daily BP
Every two weeks we will take our varsity team and assess these five metrics. We recently purchased Zona Baseballs team hitting program and we want to see if swings are changing throughout the season. We are also going to be challenging out hitters differently this year, trying to create more failure in practice and this will help us see if it is creating better hitters. We do not have a lot money to buy tech in our program so we will be using blast motion sensors to get the bat speed, attack angle, and time to contact metrics. We will be putting Launch Angle Strings up in our cage to assess launch angle (this will be less scientific as it will be measured based on what the tester sees). Exit Velocity will be done with a radar gun, and the caveats for that applies as well. We will also be tracking Barrels during BP and having a daily/weekly Barrel Champ for our team. As you can see, it can be challenging when setting up data in a low budget, team setting, however, you can make an excuse or you can make it happen and our goal is to find out what is working and what isn’t in our program so we can adapt year to year.
2.) Daily Health Screening
Connor Dawson, who recently was hired by the Seattle Mariners, started a daily health screen while an assistant coach at Marshalltown Community College. He was able to get great data on his players about how they were sleeping, their soreness, their academic workload, and their stress level. I will be creating a similar screen to send out to players daily via the boomerang app. I’m excited to see at the high school level the differences in sleep for each athlete and what they say their academic workload is relative to their sleep. It will also be very beneficial to find out what their stress levels are and how we can adapt practice when needed. Lastly, I, with tons of help from Brock Hammit, will be taking the data from every other friday and cross-checking it with our hitting testing to see if there are any correlations between how athletes perform on those tests, with how they are feeling based on sleep, stress, etc.
3.) Do flips, overhand firm front-toss, or high velocity machines prepare you the best for in-game hitting
Our last test during the season we will be splitting our varsity players into 3 fairly even skill level groups to test what game preparation strategy works the best. Our plan is to give each group an even amount of warm up reps. The flips and overhand firm front toss will include plyoballs and 5 swings with each weighted Axe Bat purchased from driveline. The high velocity machine will be the same amount of reps using each of the Axe Bats, but with no plyoballs. After each group has gone through their warm-up they will face a high velocity pitching machine to simulate a game-like environment (still figuring out how high of velocity/what distance to use for this). The goal for this study is to take a day of practice to find out what ways we can help prepare our hitters better for a game-like environment. Last year, we played well in practice, but we didn’t perform in game and we are looking for ways to fail better so we can perform when the lights come on.
I know that may sound like a lot of testing for a high school program, but I believe it can be done in a fairly efficient manner. The hardest one will be testing every two weeks on a friday because we will most likely need to do that after practice. The daily health screen also depends a lot on the athletes filling it out, but we can work to make it a part of our culture. Lastly, the testing on what helps best before games, will just take one practice and the athletes will still be getting a ton of hacks in, so the benefit outweighs the risk.
I don’t want to guess anymore as a coach, I believe now it is so important to take the time to figure out how you can assess your players. The question keeps coming to my mind: ‘If I’m not assessing do I really know if anything I’m doing is working?’