HitTrax has been a great tool at our facility. Recently, Diamond Kinetics was integrated with HitTrax which means all of the batted ball data is being combined with the bat movement data. (Without me doing it manually so this saves me a TON of time.) Very exciting stuff if you want to learn how to hit the ball harder.
My first test was to try to scratch the surface on the question of whether or not you should be swinging a heavier bat. This was asked to me recently and instead of just answering with some cliche about some old coach saying yes or some old coach saying no, I decided I wanted to research it. (Don Baylor often gets credit for going heavy. Ted Williams is the common name for going light.)
So here’s what I tested. I wanted to know if hitters were hitting the ball harder, farther, with more accuracy and more effectively. Harder is easy – look at exit velocity numbers. Farther is easy too as we can see the total hit distance.
Accuracy is a number merged between the Attack Angle (AA) of the swing and the Launch Angle (LA) of the ball. Combined we can get a number for how accurate the hitter was in terms of accuracy in a number I call Vertical Accuracy (VA). A negative number represents missing under the ball and a positive number is missing over.
Hitting the ball “more effectively” is kind of a merge of multiple numbers. First, we’ll look at batted ball trajectories (line drive vs ground ball vs fly ball), then we’ll look at Smash Factor which is just the ball exit speed divided by the bat speed. The takes into account some timing and barrel accuracy and helps us understand the hitter’s accuracy more.
I tested a handful of hitters and want to share some common finding among some hitters. With the heavier bats:
With the heavier bats:
- Bat Speed Dropped – obvious (heavier = slower)
- Exit Speed Dropped – some thinking would say the heavier bat would create greater force, but that isn’t what we found
- Smash Factor Increased – So the bat speed was more efficient, it just didn’t create faster exit speeds
- Hitters Missed Under the Ball More – this caused launch angles to increase
- Attacked angles decreased – This one surprised me some but it makes sense. Heavier barrel staying down instead of working up.
- Total Hit Distances Dropped – both average distances and peak distances we down
- Line Drive % Dropped – less grounders, more fly balls
Some Important Considerations
- If you are thinking about going to a heavier bat, you need to consider how that is impacting HOW you hit the ball. It is very important to hit the ball hard and common thinking says the heavier bat will help this. So far, that isn’t what the numbers are telling us. This is something we’ll be tracking over time so there are still a lot of answers to be found.
- An interesting thought… can you “hack” your accuracy with the bat’s weight? If you are missing over, should you swing a heavier bat? (And vice versa?) I think skill should be developed as the premium instead of trying to hack, but there are some pitchers you face that have crazy sink so missing low wouldn’t be a bad thing. Switching bats up to adjust for a pitcher does happen with pro hitters, but remember that those guys have a “normal” to adjust from. Youth hitters shouldn’t start swapping bats out in place of becoming a more skilled hitter!
- A big-picture basic thought here is you need to get stronger. The BBCOR bat regulations require a drop 3 bat in high school and college so we need to be able to handle at least that for those age groups. But getting stronger and increasing your bat speed isn’t going to hurt.
- If you have access to a radar gun and a swing tracker, you can do some simple testing to see if you are actually hitting the ball harder. Some metal bats can make it feel like the ball just jumping but the numbers tell the real story.
- A final thought… A lot of this information also transfers to switching bats in general. The weight distribution, grip size or length are all things that can affect your accuracy (and things I’ll be testing.)
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