While in southern California on business, I decided to visit the Baseball Winter Meetings that were being held at the Hyatt Hotel in San Diego. Just standing in the hotel lobby was like Disneyland for someone who loves baseball like I do. I observed some of the most famous players and coaches walking around, greeting one another, and sharing stories, just like a high school reunion. This annual event is an opportunity for baseball executives to match wits with one another and to compete for free agent players. Everyone in attendance was carefully monitoring the sports network broadcasts and Twitter feeds to keep up with the latest rumors and news of completed deals. I enjoyed the “baseball buzz” in the lobby and felt like I was a part of Major League Baseball, if only for a few hours.
I also attended the baseball trade show, sponsored by Minor League Baseball. Exhibitors included equipment manufacturers, uniform suppliers, promotional/novelty product distributors, food concession companies, and technology companies that continue to nudge the game of baseball into the new age through devices designed to provide analytical information that will hopefully lead to improved performance on the field. The devices that interested me the most were the ones related to hitting.
Several exhibitors were promoting weighted bats or weighted attachments for bats. They all claimed that swinging bats with added weight in just the right places will increase bat speed. Since I’m all about bat speed, I asked the representatives of these companies how much improvement hitters could expect by using their products. The answers I received were vague and not very satisfying. I do believe swinging a weighted bat as part of a practice regimen can help hitters improve their strength and increase their bat speed, but only marginally. The only way to really improve bat speed is through the power hitting mechanics I have been describing on this site.
One of the companies I was eager to visit at the baseball trade show was Zepp. Over the past year, I have been using their sensor to analyze the swings of my hitters. I recently met with Trevor Stocking, who is a friend and the person responsible for developing Zepp’s baseball app, at The Ballpark in Mount Prospect to learn about the recent enhancements to this slick product. Zepp continues to add helpful features to their app, based on the feedback from coaches and professional hitters.
It is important for me to note that I have no financial interest in Zepp, other than the fact that I purchased a sensor. Like my review of the Swing Speed Radar, I believe the Zepp sensor is a device that will help players, coaches, and hitting instructors identify and correct swing flaws. This is accomplished through video review and the recording and analysis of several key swing metrics.
The Zepp sensor attaches easily to the end of a baseball or softball bat. The sensor is then connected to a mobile device or tablet through Zepp’s app. Here is a picture of the sensor and the attachment that fits any bat.
Once the Zepp sensor and the app are communicating through a Bluetooth connection, the hitter is prompted to begin hitting. The moment the bat moves, the sensor begins recording information. After each swing, several metrics will flash on the screen for instant analysis. The key swing information provided includes, bat speed (at impact), hand speed, time to impact, bat vertical, and attack angle. The app provides both numerical and graphical data for these important metrics. In addition, users are able to watch the swing in animation to view the path of the bat up to the point of impact and through the completion of the swing. Here are pictures of the three primary screens that are available after each swing:
I will briefly describe the swing metrics recorded and why each is important for baseball and softball hitters.
Bat Speed At Impact- Measures the speed of the bat at impact, which is the most important moment of the swing. Bat speed at impact differs from maximum bat speed (although they can be the same) due to the fact that it is measured when and where the bat makes contact with the ball. The Swing Speed Reader I also use measures bat speed at the end of the bat, which is typically higher. Both are important metrics and both are measured with the Zepp sensor.
Hand Speed- Measures how fast the hands are moving throughout the swing. The tutorial in the app describes this metric as the “horsepower” that is generated by the body during the swing.
Time To Impact- Measures the time from when the bat begins to move until it makes impact with the ball. This is an important metric because of the delicate balance between time to impact and bat speed. If the time to impact is fast, but bat speed is slow, then being “quick” in this case is not good. The goal is to optimize both. I wrote about this topic in a previous post. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/12/14/whats-better-a-quicker-bat-or-faster-bat/
Bat Vertical- Measures the angle of the bat as it passes through the strike zone. To consistently hit line drives in the gap and home runs, this metric should be a negative number. If the number is “zero”, the bat is flat, and a positive number means the bat is on a downward plane. Swing angle is an important metric to ensure hitters are driving the ball powerfully in the air. Here is a link to my thoughts on how to achieve the ideal swing angle. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/07/29/stay-on-the-right-path/
Attack Angle- Measures if the path of bat (at impact) is matching the angular path of the incoming pitch. The tutorial in the app describes the average angle of a pitch at between 6% and 14%. Unlike the negative bat vertical number, the attack angle number should be positive. This positive number indicates the bat is staying on correct path and finishes on an upward angle. In this case, a “zero” indicates hitters are finishing flat, and a negative number means the bat is finishing on a downward path. This is an important measurement for my hitters, because finishing the swing properly, without losing bat speed are keys to power hitting. I described the importance of a strong finish in a previous post. https://torque-hitting.com/2013/08/06/finish-strong/
I will leave it up to the Zepp website and app to describe all the additional features and benefits of their hitting sensor. http://www.zepp.com/ Zepp has created a new technology that is helping hitting coaches like me identify areas of improvement for baseball and softball hitters that may not be evident by only reviewing slow-motion video. I now can make faster adjustments to the swings of my hitters to ensure they are achieving maximum bat speed and explosiveness, while still maintaining the optimal bat path.