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Effect of Recognition/Release and Movement of the Eyes in Baseball

December 24, 2008
Author: Dr. Howard L. Bailey, OMS
Publication Date: January 1, 2005

Dr. Howard L. Bailey, OMS
Frozen Ropes Vision Training Partner
Frozen Ropes Scope and Rope Vision Training Program Licensor

Regardless of how you stand, grip the bat or hold your tongue, you have about one half of a second to decide to swing or not to swing, whether you can see the ball or not.

In college, the ball travels an average of 82 miles per hour. That is 164 feet per second. In professional ball it can be 90+ mph. At 60' 6", the ball has .504 of a second "traveling" time. This is not all decision making time as you will see. All of the fundamentals you know to cut down on unnecessary movements such as hitches, over striding and refocusing on release area doesn't add to decision time. These actions results in lack of readiness or unnecessary pre-movements. Fundamentals will help in bat control and allow for a more controlled swing, but everything in hitting is predicated within the time frame of the pitch.

Research in recording eye movements has shown that all hitters have the ability to move the eyes at a speed well over the speed of any pitch that can be thrown. That doesn't mean he has the ocular control at that speed. The average saccadic movement (eye movement) in an 86 arc, the average number of degrees the eye turns in following a ball from the pitchers hand to in front of home plate, can travel 120 milliseconds or 344 mph. While the task is complicated by the fact that the recognition time, or eye release, is so poor that hitters are unable to start the eye movement to follow the ball and have adequate eye control to track the ball at the speed it is traveling. The recognition/release time is the time it takes to recognize the visual cue and then move his eyes in an effort to catch up with the ball.

We have found that better hitters are those with shorter, or faster recognition times and with better ocular control. One hitter brought to mind is Tony Gwynn, a player we trained when he was at San Diego State University. Needless to say, he has outstanding ocular control. Jim Dietz, Head Coach at San Diego State, said I told him that this kid was going to be a great hitter, just by examining his eye graphs.

Your weak hitters have longer recognition times and less visual control. "Never throw a "change-up" to a weak hitter"! Why? It is the only pitch he sees, or has time to follow. You just blow it by him. They may not lack bat control, but we know they lack ocular control.

As you can see, TIME is all you have in making decisions. The more time you have, the more accurate your decision and a more controlled and accurate swing will result. The area of recognition/release time is trainable, along with improving the accuracy during the time leading up to the swing.

Hitting is not the only area that can benefit from improved visual skills. Fielders for example can arrive at the point of contact sooner just by reducing his recognition time. How many times have your players just missed catching a ball by inches? Remember the great players who were not fleet or foot, but seemed to be in front of the balls hit to them. They got a jump on the ball, or to put it another way, they had fast recognition/release skills. The body goes into motion only AFTER a visual cue. If a fielder has 11.5 speed in the 100, he would gain 27" traveling 30' by reducing his recognition/release time by 25%. Imagine how this training would benefit base stealing, running down fly balls or any action that requires a move to a spot to complete a play!