How to Evaluate Hitters
Establish a Hitters Assessment Process
Baseball and Fastpitch Softball
This How to Evaluate Hitters article is excerpted from The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide (click for a description of our new drills book).
For recommendations on how and when to use various training methods (dry, heavy bag, pylos, tee, toss, live, machine, etc.) and to shop for practical and durable training equipment, click on the link Hitting Training Methods and Aids.
Benefits of a Regularly Scheduled Hitters Assessment Process
- Athletes improve upon whatever is measured and tracked.
- Success and progress are incredibly motivating, especially when it is objective and public.
If the coach is consistent with monthly assessment, the hitter becomes more motivated to practice purposefully. For example, after four weeks, when an athlete sees that they have gained three mph of exit velocity, it validates their hard work, and they know that the training works.
- Points to areas of future improvement.
- Adds excitement and competition to hitting practice.
Hitters know the assessment process is short, with no do-overs, so there is performance pressure. If they don’t have a good test, it’s OK – the hitter works even harder the next month. Besides, it’s the running average of analytics over the season, which is most critical.
How to Use Analytics to Evaluate Hitters
Swing analytics is a diagnostic tool and a progress report for continual improvement. It starts by setting desired ranges for each data point, measuring the baseline numbers for each hitter, and then working on specific hitting keys to achieving optimal performance.
The foundation of an effective assessment system is the player and coach working together to share feedback and execute a development plan customized to accelerate the player’s development. When both players and coaches track progress over time, skill development is most rapid.
How to Evaluate Hitters – What to Include in the Hitters Assessment Process
Assuming a coach has access to a bat and ball speed radar, bat sensor, and a batting cage with launch-angle markers, many meaningful metrics can be tracked and communicated to players.
Retest every month to create accountability. Have a testing station and establish an efficient process to move hitters through without taking up an entire practice. Keep the retest more straightforward for youth hitters. Since bat speed and exit velocity have strong correlations to each other and hitting performance, start with those two metrics. Along with QAB%, these are predictors of future success.
During high school, Building Rome Series recommends measuring and tracking the following analytics for players serious about playing in college:
- Average and peak overall bat speed (click for how to measure overall bat speed).
- Average and peak early bat speed (click for how to measure early bat speed).
- Average time to contact (click for how to measure time to contact).
- Forward movement distance during approach (click for how to measure approach distance).
- Subsets of Quality At-Bats (for how to measure quality at-bats and drills to increase QAB%, see The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide).
- Average and peak exit velocity (click for how to measure exit velocity).
- Average attack angle (click for how to measure attack angle).
- Average launch angle (click for how to measure attack angle).
- Slow-motion videos of the hitter’s baseline swing over time.
Above all, retesting won’t get done if it is not extremely streamlined – time is too limited. Retest each player once a month. Put one coach in charge of the process. Each week one-quarter of the team rotates individually through the assessment station. Players understand the retest moves along rapidly.
Here is a process for retesting (3 hitters per hour). For middle schoolers, limit the retest to Steps 1, 2, 3, and 6.
Step 1 – Five dry swings to measure overall bat speed. Record peak and average overall bat speed.
Step 2 – Five dry swings into a static hitting bag to measure early bat speed. Record peak, average, and the hitting zone tested (inside, outside, low, high). Vary the location for each monthly assessment.
Step 3 – Use a batting tee—five swings measuring ball exit speed for one location (inside, outside, high, low). Record peak, average, and the hitting zone tested (inside, outside, low, high). Vary the location for each monthly assessment.
Step 4 – Use a batting tee. Measure forward movement distance during the approach.
Step 5 – Rotate the player into the batting cage, preferably with a machine (to save time). Measure attack angle and time to contact (requires bat sensor) and launch angle (cage markers) for five hard-hit balls. Record the average attack, and launch angles, and the hitting zone tested. Vary the location for each monthly assessment.
Step 6 – To save time, the assessment coach records a video of the hitter swinging while executing Step 5.
Step 7 – Return to the assessment station to free up the batting cage. Together, the coach and hitter complete Drill X – Compile Fit to Player Goals.
How to Evaluate Hitters – Compile Customized Goals to Fit the Player
The coach and player review and discuss:
- The slow-motion video from the assessment compared to the previous.
- The analytics from the assessment.
- Each element in the hitter’s QAB% (for how to measure quality at-bats and drills to increase the number of QABs, see The Ultimate Hitting Training Guide).
- Progress towards current goals.
- Formation of new goals.
- Appropriate drills for practice and homework.
Use a spreadsheet to track each hitter’s accomplishments and priorities (click the link to download our Fundamental Matrix). Limit goal setting to two to three goals customized for the specific hitter. Include how the attainment of each goal will be objectively measured.
Other Swing Analytics Articles You May Find Useful
Click the links below for further free swing analytic articles:
Building Rome Series Books: Building the High-Level Swing Series
Click Building the High-Level Swing Series to learn more about our new two-book hitting series containing a detailed and comprehensive description of 100 hitting fundamentals and 140 step-by-step drills that efficiently construct the batting swing from the ground up.
In the Building Rome Series of books, the construction of skills are in functional order, providing a “roadmap” to becoming a great hitter.
All baseball and fastpitch softball players can “climb the Roman Coliseum steps” to become powerful and productive hitters.
Enjoy the quest!